Fall is for harvesting. cutting, and storing your tree saplings for cane carving, waling sticks, and wizard wands.
From early fall to late winter is the time for trimming your fruit trees and cleaning the saplings along your fence line. Those wonderful cuttings are perfect for walking sticks and canes. Because of the season the branches and trunks have a lower sap content than you find during the growth months.
With this winter’s storms there is a large supply of downed tree branches waiting to be harvested by the weekend wood carver. It is easy to strip the bark from a green wood stick.
Begin by trimming any small branches from the main stick as close as possible. With a bench knife make several small cuts in the bark at one end of the branch. The knife blade can be teased under the nicked area and then used to pull thin strips of bark off the walking stick branch.
If you are not going to carve your stick directly after harvest paint, the ends with any latex paint to seal the wood. Hang the sticks using bailing twine in a cool dark space and allow to dry until next year.
Green wood can be carved if you keep the exposed end grain liberally soaked with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine – a half and half mix that is thin enough to soak deeply into the fibers. After each carving session, soak the end grain with oil and loosely cover the stick with a plastic bags to control the moisture content.
When the carving is complete, keep it in a loose plastic bag and store the carving in an area where the stick will be out of direct sunlight and that has a consistent temperature, to avoid dramatic changes that will cause rapid drying. Allow your carving to dry completely before adding any finishing products – approximately one year for each inch of wood.
Even with these precautions checks, and splitting can occur. This is just a natural part of green wood carving and can add drama to your carving as it emphasizes the delicate, living nature of the wood. If the checking is sever you can use butterfly splints or a hardwood dowel to secure the two sides of the split.
With any green wood or winter storm harvested wood, please be aware that your branches can bring unexpected visitors into the house. Insect eggs can hatch if the wood is stored in a warm area.