#20: Cottonwood bark

Bird number: 43
Date: February 12, 2012
Wood: Cottonwood Bark (probably Populus deltoides)
Source: Trade

Three species of trees are commonly called cottonwoods. The bark on those trees grows very thick–sometimes six inches or more. Carvers use the bark to make whimsical houses, wood spirits, and other items. I’ve only carved a few things in cottonwood bark (the whimsical house being one of them). I’ve very much enjoyed it.

I struck a deal with an online friend in another state who traded me some sample woods in exchange for a box of mesquite. It was a good deal for both of us, since the woods each received are not available in our areas. It’s unclear to me which of the three species of cottonwoods this particular piece of bark is from.

This bird is slightly narrower than most of the others because I goofed when cutting the blank for it.

Cottonwood bark is very soft. So soft, in fact, that you could carve it with a very dull knife. The result wouldn’t be pretty, though, because the bark tends to crumble and splinter. It takes a very sharp knife and a lot of patience to carve cottonwood bark well. I think I rushed this one a bit. It’s not the best example of my work.

I also am not sure I like the look of sanded cottonwood bark. I considered not sanding this bird, but that looked even worse. I’m thinking that bark is better used for gnome homes and wood spirits. I find this figure to be rather bland. That won’t stop me from including it in the collection, though.

I’ve used Howard Feed ‘n Wax as the finish for all of my birds, except this one. I used the Feed ‘n Wax on cottonwood bark before, and it darkened the wood too much for my liking. This bird is finished with Meltonian Neutral shoe cream. I like the finish, but it’s going to smell for a few days.