How NOT to carve a canoe!

How NOT to carve a canoe!

So, one of the trees I have in my backyard is a weed species known as Buckthorn. Given concerns about toxicity I decided to try carving it into a miniature dugout canoe for use in a tabletop RPG. I research dugout canoes, particularly period from around and just after the time of the Louis & Clark Expedition and tried to make one. Here were my finings/opinions.

FYI, the red stuff is wax from mini Babybel cheeses as I found it to be a good sealing wax when applied to the ends of cut staves I have been seasoning to make walking sticks from. Much better than paste waxes or attempts to rub in paraffin wax into the ends as it seals much more completely in a single coat.

First lesson learned: buckthorn is a pain in the (gluteus maximus)! Those thorns are paired and travel all the way to the center and are harder than the sapwood that surrounds it. Thus it messes with all and any attempts to carve it. Much swearing occurred just to get it this far.

Second lesson: inner corners are hard, especially in tight spaces. I am only beginning to teach myself to carve after having only whittled, sawn, and split wood decades ago. Thus I apparently tried to go for "easy" woods to carve like seasoned maple, oak, and black walnut because that is how you do staves. Then I found out they recommend fresh wood for spoons, so I did some black walnut. Temperatures started dipping below 50 degrees a few months back so I headed inside and cut a piece of green buckthorn to try carving. So yeah, I am just learning and likely a source of great amusement.

Third lesson: Buckthorn cracks. My first attempt at spoon carving involved fresh buckthorn, a jackknife, and small wood gouges. It worked OK since I carved around the thorns as much as possible and ended up with a very small spoon with a long handle that bulged in places, but it did not crack. Adding a hook knife to the carving kit allowed me to make larger spoons but it is too large for the small buckthorn I was carving, so I stuck to fresh black walnut for the next couple projects. As colder weather hit and I could no longer carve outside (black walnut is NOT something to carve or sand indoors), I switched to seasoned maple (firewood repurposed). Then I decided to do a buckthorn canoe and between that and other maple carving I overstressed my hand so I gave it a rest for a month. I sealed the ends and carve-ins and let it set. Checking it a month or so later and the result (shown) is a long crack down the middle almost from stem to stern (they are fine, just the rest of the length cracked).

So I think I will stick to seasoned maple or black walnut as that seems more forgiving than fresh buckthorn. I will see if I can cut some staves of buckthorn and also pull out the seasoned bit to see if that works for small projects between the thorns like maybe a letter opener or a set of Reading Runes or something. I think I am done trying to turn buckthorn into wooden canoes :p

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