Norman Styles
Wildlife Sculpture in Wood  

 

   
 
       

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Over a period of time, I search for (and sometimes stumble across) suitable pieces of wood and bring them to my small timber store. Wood for carving must be well seasoned and kept in cool conditions, with a good flow of air and protected from the elements, particularly rain and hot sun.
   
Trees felled for a variety of reasons, including storm damage, are often a good source. A walk in the woods is as likely to turn up something interesting that has fallen from a tree. The wood I use is always at the end of its first life the wood is never taken from a living tree. The time taken for proper seasoning means that there is no need to damage healthy trees. Unusual shapes, colours and textures always catch the eye.
   
   
  
The trees and many of the creatures I carve live together so closely that it always seems very appropriate for them to be reunited in one new creation after they have left.
   

In the field or forest, the wood is selected for its grain, colour and texture. In the West of Ireland, often by the shoreline, I have found some of the more interesting pieces of driftwood used in my sculptures. Closer to home, I have used recycled wood, old beams, Bog Oak and Bog Yew, which often lend themselves to unusual shapes for the base.

   
   
   
Some of the Timbers used in Wood Sculpting
( * indicates wood used most frequently in my work )
Alder (Common) A greenish-white wood that turns reddish-brown after seasoning.
Ash Heartwood can have a slight pink or black colour to it.
Apple A soft working wood that is close grained and takes a good finish.
*Beech This wood has a light brown colour. It is hard and usually has a close straight grain. Its texture is fine and very durable, but does not always give the most appealing finish.
* Birch (European) This straight grained wood has a colour that is white to pale brown. It is not too hard, has a close texture and takes good finish.
* Bog Oak This is a fossil timber found under bogs with a blackish or grey colour, which turns a silvery grey colour when exposed to the air. It was used for roof timbers and domestic woodwork many years ago and often ended up as firework. It cracks easily when drying, but lends itself very well to bases for carvings in other timbers.
* Bog Yew One of my favourite woods for carving, when freshly cut it has a pink appearance. It develops a beautiful patina and often gives the appearance of a work in bronze.
Boxwood A fine-grained and durable wood that has a rich ivory colour.
* Cherry (European) The distinctive red colour of this wood often grows darker as it ages. It has a fine even texture and a straight grain.
Chestnut (Sweet or Spanish) After it has worked on, chestnut can look very like oak. However, it is much lighter in weight and does not have the silver grain. Horse Chestnut is not good for carving.
Cedar This soft wood is fine-grained and its colour ranges from light straw to dark brown.
* Driftwood Many various shapes and sizes, which makes looking for driftwood so interesting and rewarding.
* Elm The cross-grain that is often found in this wood can make it difficult to work, but it takes a good finish. The colour of the heartwood can range from light brown to reddish and light yellow sapwood. Wych Elm, which is paler in colour than common elm is straighter grained making it easier to work. Elm is now very scarce due to the devastating Dutch Elm disease.
Hawthorn A creamy coloured wood with dark texturing making for unusual contrasts. A little-used wood for carving and not easy to get in sizes suitable for carving. However, when a suitable piece is found, it carves beautifully.
Lime With a yellowish-white colour that tends to turn a light buff with seasoning, this straight, close-grained wood cuts well in all directions.
*Oak Varieties include Japanese, American White and European, Slavonian, Polish and English. Each has distinctive features and variations in colour and weight. It is generally hard and very durable. It works well and takes a good finish.
Pine (Many Varieties) It has a soft to medium hardness depending on the variety. There are many variations in colour from creamy white to reddish-browns. One of Its distinctive features is that it can often have many knots.
Sycamore Its whitish colour can tend to turn pale brown. Sometimes it has an undulating or wavy-grain which shows itself as an attractive ripple.
Teak (India, Java, Burma, Ceylon, Africa) The colour of this wood varies from light yellow to light brown. It has a hard, even grain that is sometimes subject to tearing. However, it is durable and takes a good finish.
*Walnut There are many varieties including English, French, American, Italian and Spanish. The colour and grain differ, but generally it varies from rich purplish brown to a greyish background streaked with dark brown. It works well, is hard and durable and takes a fine, smooth finish.
*Yew This is a fine-grained, hard and durable wood. The heartwood has a reddish-brown colour and its sapwood is creamy white. It often has a very attractive run of grain. It smooths to a fine surface and takes a good finish.
   

 

 

 
   
 
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© Norman Styles 2009