I enjoy wood carving, but the cost of wood can make practicing very expensive.

Carving wild Wood can be a greater challenge than a nice clean block of wood. The grain can go into a variety of directions. By planing what you are going to carve before you start, you can use the grain to your advantage to create unique works of art.

Collecting wood to carve

Go For A Hike

Wondering in the woods is a great way to get out and collect wood for carving. Carry a handsaw that you can use to clean branches off, to make it easier to carry. If you are in an area where there is a large variety of trees, this is a great way to get some hardwood pieces that you would pay high prices to buy.
Be sure to inspect the wood for worm holes, and other bugs. You don’t want to be nearly finished with a carving and find a hole where you didn’t want one.

Find A Tree Being Cut Down

If you live in the northwest like I do, mostly what you will find hiking around is pine. There’s a lot of pine growing here.
Pine is great for chain saw carving, and making smoother projects. If you want more detail in your work, a better quality wood works better.
In town there are hardwood tree growing around peoples homes. If you know someone who is going to have their tree cut down, ask them if you can take a few pieces.
Or if you keep your ears out, especially in the fall, you will hear the sounds of trees being cut down. If the guys working are cool, they will let you take some. That’s less that they need to take to the dump.

Get Some Wood At Dinner

This idea I have tried once, and it worked. I was at a smokehouse BBQ restaurant with my family. I simply asked the waiter what kind of wood they used to smoke their meat. After he told me, I asked him if I could have a piece for carving. He brought me two.

How Do You Store Your Wood Until You’re Ready To Carve

The wild wood that you have collected may have some water in it. To prevent it from cracking you can melt wax on any exposed ends. This is where the moisture will escape from, and the cracking will begin. by sealing the end the wood will dry evenly and slower.
Collecting wood far in advance of when you plan to carve will give the wood sufficient time to dry. If you can let it sit for a year, the wood should be dry enough. A minimum of two months would work if you don’t want to wait. Just keep the wax on as long as you can while carving to help prevent cracking.
Store it like your beans, in a cool dry place. This will let it dry slow enough that it will crack less.

Remove The Excess Wood

So your piece of wood is dry and you’re ready to start carving. You have studied the shape of the piece, and have a good idea of what you are going to carve.
Decide which areas are going to be removed, then use a power tool if you have one available, to cut out as much as you need to. Be sure to not take too much, because you can’t put it back.
This is the roughing in phase. Using drills, or electric saws to remove the waste doesn’t make you less of an artist, it makes you efficient. Why waste time chiseling away large areas of wood. The artistic part comes later.

Define Your Design

When you have removed the excess wood you can see how the grain is flowing throughout the piece of wood. If you are using a piece that has turns and twists, study the grain to see how you can use it to highlight your design.
The grain is what will make your design pop after you finish it. If your carving wild wood you must be flexible enough with the design to change it a little if needed to make it the best it can be.

Use The Unique Parts Of The Wood In Your Project

The cool thing about carving wild wood is that it has unique natural features that can be used to make your project a one of a kind piece. Using the knots in the wood as eyes is one example. The knots are very hard, and they can be polished to an amazing shine.
Leaving some of the natural branch, and have your carving appear to be coming out of the branch is another method of using the natural parts of the wood. If you’re a carver, I’m sure you have enough creativity to find ways to incorporate the natural features of the wood you are using.

Have Fun

Carving wild wood is fun and free. If you’re a creative type of person, when you’re looking at a branch that’s bent and twisted you don’t see firewood you see art. When I have a clean block of wood on my bench, I find it harder to come up with ideas to carve. The wood doesn’t have any character like wild wood does.