Best woods for arts and crafts

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by Unsub, Oct 28, 2008.

  1. Unsub


    Nov 23, 2006
    Since i got the new camp knife /bowie i have had a blast playing around in the back yard chopping wood and clearing brush. Today i chopped down a big branch that was going over the nieghbours fence and am making a walking stick from it.

    However i was wondering what would be the best wood to use for this that i could harvest from my local forest (Northern Boreal) and how best to ID and prepare it. As well what is the best season to harvest it?

    I know maple is an obvious choice but also Saskatoon. I would love to hear any other suggestions as well as what would be the best wood for different jobs?

    I also plan to harvest some birch bark this spring especially now that I have tried a Rosarms with the stacked birch handle. It makes an amazing light tactile and durable handle.
  2. Rupestris

    Rupestris Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 1, 2006
    Basswood. Its even sold at craft stores for woodcarving.
  3. Frostyfingers


    Aug 27, 2008
    All woods have unique properties, and most are useful/beautiful for different projects. For example, cedar is essentially useless as a walking stick, but has a beautiful color that is useful for decorative objects. It is also extremely rot resistant (which is why it is so often used for fenceposts).

    Take some time to learn the properties of the different woods in your area and let them dictate the use that you put them to.

    I believe it's best to harvest wood in the winter, when it is less full of sap. This will reduce your drying time, and therefore the likelihood of cracking/splitting.
  4. greenwoods


    Sep 2, 2006
    I use my tree ID books all the time, some you begin to recognize right away and some have a few different variations even in the same forest. Oak, Maple and Hickory are my favorite stout staff and walking stick woods. I have some lighter ones made from Sassafras( these leaves when dried and powdered are a traditional way to thicken Gumbos and soups), Alder(this smoke makes a wonderful flavor on meats) and Hawthorn(IIRC related to Blackthorn)makes a nice Shillelagh. Harvest the root ball to make a nice walking stick.
    We just harvested some Birch, it is fun and easy to carve, is actually an alright walking stick and one piece is getting cut into handle sized pieces for some scandi blanks I have.

    Have Fun and Good Luck
  5. flashlife


    Feb 16, 2007
    Hickory or oak. Basswood is way too weak for a walking stick. Basswood is only a slight step up from balsa. :)
  6. Rupestris

    Rupestris Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 1, 2006
    True. I must have read the OP differently. Unsub is looking to get some Birch bark and the "arts and crafts" in the title had me thinking that he was looking for something to do wood carving and practice cutting/carving with.
  7. siguy


    Aug 26, 2006
    my vote goes to birch. it is very light once cured and quite strong...i tried to break one of mine in some simulated hiking situations and couldn't...

    my favorite wood for bushcraft type chores is probably birch, since it grows quite clear often (free of knots for long sections at a time) and it is not too hard to work but it is sturdy once cured. also lightweight.

    but in my area there is very little birch, and even less larger sized birch, so i make do with maple, of which i have an abundance. it is harder and stronger than birch, but i don't find it quite as easy to work and it tends to have more knots in the sizes that i typically use (3-6").

    generally speaking, mid to late winter is the best time to harvest them. that way they have the least amount of sap running through them and they are easier to strip (if you are going that route). it is also easier because you don't have to deal with leaves when stripping the smaller branches off.

    then i suggest letting them sit outside to dry for at least 1-2 months, then taking them inside somewhere like a basement or garage to dry for an additional 2-6 months. i have some birch sapling staves in my garage that i've had curing for about 2 years now. at this point the bark is incredibly tough and it does a number on almost any knife edge that is used to cut/strip the bark off. i suggest stripping the bark after 3-5 weeks, but you don't have to. obviously, there are many ways to skin a cat, this is just my way.

    grab a tree ID book and figure out what you have in your area and then start doing some research (wiki is a good basepoint for this) to see what these trees have been traditionally used for to get an idea for what you can possibly use them for.
  8. Unsub


    Nov 23, 2006
    Thanks a lot guys this is exactly what i want to know ,both for arts and crafts with easily carved klight woods and good sturdy walking sticks. I do have a tree ID book as well.

    We have lots of birch in my area so i will check it out.
  9. Jim McClenny

    Jim McClenny

    Feb 5, 2019
    In regards to making shillelagh walking sticks, can anyone here tell me how Oregon Black Hawthorn, compares to Blackthorn, or even Oak? I live near Portland Oregon, and make walking sticks. We have Oak, Ash, Holly, Crabapple, Hazel, and Oregon Black Hawthorn all available locally for walking sticks. With the exception of the Black Hawthorn, these are traditional woods for shillelaghs. The Hawthorn is closely related to Blackthorn. I THINK, it should have similar characteristics for strength and durability, but don't KNOW. I can't even find a Janka hardness rating for either wood, let alone a crushing strength or modulus of rupture rating. I have not used either enough to say how they compare. Any ideas?
  10. Chucktabulous


    Jan 11, 2019
    I'd just go to the local lumber store and kick down for a chunk of purple heart just because I have a thing for purple heart.
    Ridiculously strong, not easy to whittle well, but ridiculously strong. Makes a great walking stick and defensive weapon if required.
  11. kvaughn

    kvaughn Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Hop hornbeam aka eastern iron wood.--KV
  12. BitingSarcasm


    Feb 25, 2014
    The difference in Hawthorne to Blackthorn for walking stick/cane purposes are basically more aesthetic than anything. The harder it gets to find real Blackthorn the more Hawthorne gets popular, and in some cases it gets passed off as "genuine Irish Blackthorn" with a heavy coat of black lacquer.

    I have noticed it is harder to find a Janka hardness rating on woods that are not traditionally sold as blocks or planks. They ARE out there, but I haven't linked to them in so long it seems my bookmarks are now dead. I used to check a reference book in my library with the creative title, Encyclopedia of Wood, that has since disappeared. What I have noticed is that high Janka woods are really heavy for use as walking sticks, where elasticity makes a big difference in day-to-day use for durability and shock absorbance. I love Purpleheart for lots of reasons, same with Kamagong, but for comfort and ease of use my go-to woods are Ash and Birch. If you can find a nice piece of either one that has been shade-grown, it is super strong in comparison to the thick rings of a sun-rich tree. Alaska Natives used shade-grown Birch to make the hafts for their bear-killing spears, and it makes for a helluva walking stick, light and strong.
  13. Jim McClenny

    Jim McClenny

    Feb 5, 2019
    I'd love to someday when I have the funds.
  14. Jim McClenny

    Jim McClenny

    Feb 5, 2019
    Another wood I'd love to work with if I ever get the funds. Hornbeam isn't native in the Pacific Northwest, and a little spendy to import, if I can find a supplier that will order it.
    BitingSarcasm likes this.
  15. Jim McClenny

    Jim McClenny

    Feb 5, 2019
    I make a lot of ash and birch sticks. Leaving the inner bark on in places makes for a pleasant looking pattern. They are both pretty tough woods, though I do favor oak and hawthorn. Thanks for the info comparing them. It is GOOD to know they are that close. Traditional shillelagh makers look down on hawthorn, but that seems to have a Irish V. English vibe to it. Both have been used for walking sticks and weapons. The Irish seem to favor blackthorn, and the English hawthorn, niether seems to have any metrics to back them up. I'm an American, and just want a good stout stick. You have been a most knowledgeable and helpful source of information. Thankyou.
  16. VtBlackDog


    Mar 5, 2019
    I like birch and basswood for carving spoons..also basswood for bow drill sets.

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