#33: Staghorn Sumac

Bird number: 54
Date: April 2, 2012
Wood: Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)
Source: Trade

This is another bird carved from a blank provided by Frank Faust. It’s the first I’ve worked with Staghorn Sumac, although I’ve worked before with Fire Leaf (or Flame Leaf) Sumac, Rhus copallina, before. My recollection of the Fire Leaf Sumac is that it’s quite a bit harder than this stuff. But I was carving that with a knife. I carved the bird with the Foredom, and it tended to fuzz up quite a bit.

For some reason I had trouble getting this bird’s shape right, and getting a smooth surface (sanding) was a real problem. I put a finish on it a few days ago and then noticed quite a few spots where I hadn’t smoothed it sufficiently. I’ll just say that getting an oil/wax finish off a soft wood takes quite a bit of sanding.

You might not be able to see it very well, but the wood does have a greenish tint. It was much more green before I put the finish on it. The finish made it more yellowish.

Staghorn Sumac is a hardy tree that has a lot of different uses. I had no idea that so many parts of it were useful. I’d want to make sure the tree I was getting leaves or berries from wasn’t poison sumac before I started making tea. Or before I started carving it, for that matter. Poison sumac is, according to some, the most toxic plant species in the United States.

I know of a few people who carve Staghorn Sumac, but it’s more commonly used for turning and for lumber. I have a pen that somebody turned from Staghorn Sumac. It’s unfortunate that I only got this one piece of sumac. I’d like to carve some more of it and experiment with different finishes to see if I can get the green to come out more.