#71: Vitex

Bird number: 104
Date: October 2, 2012
Wood: Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus)
Source: Neighbor’s yard

My next door neighbors trimmed their Vitex tree a couple of months back. I saw the branches lying there in the yard and asked if I could take a couple of the larger pieces for carving. As expected, they were happy to let me have whatever I wanted.

When I got the wood I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a bird out of it. There were many cracks and bug holes, and lots of rotten soft spots. But I figured that all I’d lose was a little time. So I cut the branches down, squared them off on the bandsaw, sealed the ends with wax, and let them dry in the garage over the summer. It was difficult, but I managed to make a bird cutout and carve it.

I cut this bird from a crotch in the tree where several branches met. That made for some interesting grain variation, but also resulted in a rather difficult piece of wood to carve. The head had many soft and crumbly spots mixed in with some really hard knots. The second picture shows the many bug holes in the right side. That side, too, had some soft crumbly areas.

The wood carved well with a knife, which is a good thing. I would have had some real trouble carving those soft spots with power. I suspect that even one of my sanding discs would have made a real mess of that crumbly wood. I considered filling the bug holes and smoothing the left side of the head with epoxy, but in the end decided that I’d rather show the wood in as close to a “natural” state as possible. The Danish Oil seems to have stabilized the the soft spots, and the polyurethane finish sure makes it shine.

I’d like to get hold of a clear piece of Vitex at some point. If the grain is similar to this, with all the variations, it could make for a really interesting carving.