re-using, recycling, and redeeming old wood

#28 Wood carving: Cotton wood bark houses and buildings

One of the joys I have in carving is cottonwood bark. The bark of the cottonwood tree is a delightful carving medium.

Bark house 11 14 10 a

It can grow up to six inches thick on certain Plains trees.  Most of the bark I work with is from two to four inches thick.

Bark house 11 14 10 b

Another great feature of the bark is its color.  The outer part comes in many shades of gray, maybe black or I have even found pieces that have been bleached white by the sun and other conditions.  The exterior coloring is also varied by the amount of moss or lichen which may cover the piece.  While there is great coloration on the exterior, the interior coloring always takes my breath away.  Tones of color from rich, deep reds to light browns and even yellows make cutting into any piece an adventure.

Bark house 11 14 10 c

In the next months I will post many more bark carvings,

Bark house 11 14 10 d

take note of the color variations.  Added to the coloring is the growth layer variations which are exposed in different ways with each new cut.  If you have not, let me encourage you to pick up a piece of cottonwood bark and give it a try.

Bark house 11 14 10 e

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music…  Psalm 98:4


6 responses

  1. hello I was luck to approach your website in baidu
    your topic is exceptional
    I obtain a lot in your blog really thank your very much
    btw the theme of you site is really fabulous
    where can find it

    November 24, 2010 at 4:48 am

    • Good morning, welcome to the blog. I do hope you will subscribe so that we can answer your questions and share ideas. Baidu is Chinese. Are you in China? Do you carve? I would enjoy getting to know more about you. Shalom.

      November 27, 2010 at 8:09 am

  2. This brings Bilbo Baggins to mind for sure! Very whimsical, and a piece that makes you smile. I also love the fact that you put a verse under it. Thanks John! ~Jean

    November 24, 2010 at 5:49 am

    • Jean, glad you like the house. You are not the first to make such a connection. I have read the Tolkien material (more than once) so perhaps my images from the books come out in the carvings. I have not watched the movie series – have my ideas and images to go along with the books. Believe books are better than the movies. Shalom. May the message carry the world.

      November 24, 2010 at 6:54 am

    • john

      I was fortunate that a friend posted a piece of cottonwood bark to me ,here in Scotland. Now I want to carve it.

      I carve caricatures in limewood and would like to carve a fantasy house in bark. Any tips would be welcome.

      February 12, 2011 at 10:59 am

      • Hello John, Glad you have the chance to carve some cottonwood bark. You will really enjoy it. Tips: 1. Clean the piece well. Take a bristle brush to it to get the dirt off and to knock off some of the looser pieces. 2. Don’t worry about losing part of the outer layer. You want to keep some of the outer layer for character but much will come off as you carve. 3. IMPORTANT – do not use your best carving knives on the bark. There is far too much grit embedded in the bark. It will dull your knives rapidly. I have two sets of knives, one for bark and one for other wood. 4. Have a good CA or some other fast setting glue on hand. You will break off pieces. 5. Bark is less forgiving than other wood, pressure that line will take will break off pieces of cottonwood. Make clean cuts without twisting the knife. 6. Begin with the roof and work your way down. Rough in the roof shape – chimney and set the eve line under. Then set in the general shape of the walls. After that work on the base – if you want stairs going or some other things going on under the house. Now set in the windows and doors [If you are going to hollow out the back to give light through the windows, make deep cuts in the windows from the front or drill tiny holes to let yourself know where the windows come through and begin to hollow the back – I use bigger gouges, some use power] THEN go back and detail everything upfront. 7. Make deep cuts into the corners where things meet to create stronger shadows, more visual interest. NOW I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISH. Shalom, John. < Ichthus.

        February 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm

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