#65: Sweetgum

Bird number: 98
Date: September 13, 2012
Wood: Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Source: Carver in Ohio

A carver from Ohio saw me mention this project on the Woodcarving Illustrated Message Board, and contacted me with an offer to send some wood. All told, he sent me four different blocks: this one, the two that follow, and a piece of “mystery wood” that he thinks might be some type of elm.

I’d heard of Sweetgum before, but to my knowledge had never seen one, nor was it on my list of woods to carve. But then, I didn’t have a list of 100 woods to carve. I just figured I’d pick them up as I went along. So far it’s been working out, although getting new species is becoming more difficult.

Sweetgum is one of the most common hardwood trees in the Eastern U.S. It’s a popular ornamental tree, primarily because of its very colorful fall foliage. The tree is also harvested for its lumber, which is used in many different applications. It’s one of the most important timber trees in the Southeastern U.S.

It also finishes up rather nicely.

The wood is a bit too hard to carve comfortably with a knife, but it was no trouble with the power carver. For some reason, though, I had trouble getting the shape of this bird right. After carving more than 100 birds, I still have difficulty with symmetry. I don’t know why I had so much trouble with this one. I finally gave up trying to get it balanced.

The wood does have a beautiful color. It sands well and takes a very fine finish. The color and the somewhat subdued grain would make this an excellent choice for other stylistic carvings. I look forward to carving it again sometime.