Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My new favorite wood - Ginkgo

...or Gingko, either spelling is considered correct. Native to China and known for it's medicinal powers, Ginkgo Biloba also grows well in the North American climate.A huge one fell nearby when Hurricane Irene came through. I have posted about this a couple times earlier (check the archives), but I have only been using it to make wooden spoons up until very recently. I wanted to know how it might compare to my favorite carving wood, basswood. First let me say I also enjoy carving aspen and cottonwood (the tree, not the bark). Both of those have similar qualities to basswood - light color, fine grain, hold detail, relatively easy to carve. I find the aspen and cottonwood a little hard to work than basswood, but it might well be I have had some very soft variety of basswood. But back to Ginkgo. First, I really love the light caramel color and the delicate light streaks. I am finding it fairly easy to carve, with just a hint more resistance to my blade than basswood, but with a very sharp knife, not difficult to carve at all. A sharp tool leaves a nice sheen to the cut. It sands and finishes beautifully. I have added some photos of a little rustic santa ornament I just finished. I was able to hog off the waste very easily and quickly without any tendency to split away the way cedar, for example, might. Of course, I did have to mind the grain direction, but that's easier to actually see (more visible than basswood). Carve details was equally easy and quite enjoyable. An oil finish brings out the very best quality of Ginkgo, though this piece also has an antique treatment of some umber artist paint thinned with mineral spirits. I hope you can get your hands on some of this wonderful sometime and give it a try. I have quite a bit, maybe I'll list a few pieces on eBay if someone shows interest.

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