The heat of the July sun drives me to shade at the foot of my mountain. There in the dappled light of the forest edge I’m greeted by the hornbeam that I’ve come to truly appreciate. Since writing Forage Friday #84 on Hornbeam I’ve located a few pieces that were cast into a brush pile near a public road and hauled them home. Since the pile kept the pieces up of the ground they seasoned out well. Carving Hornbeam turned out to be both challenging and rewarding. I used a few knives that I’d made from pruning snips. Now these blades are very hard but the manufacturer makes them with cheap plastic handles and soft rivets that fail after a couple of years of service. So the broken parts are discarded and I fix the blade into a handle that’s usually made from branches that are collected from the trees and bushes that the snips once trimmed. Aluminum rivets are replaced with appropriate size nails that cut down to length and peened to make a tight fit. The result is a small utility knife that really retains an edge well. A second benefit is that bypass loppers are single bevel and great for making shallow cuts in the hard, twisted wood of Hornbeam.
In the photo of the knives the top one was the first one that I ever made and is the single bevel. It’s been with me about 20 years and is great for striping bark and removing knots from natural stock.
Even though the homemade knives have a hard edge the hornbeam proved to be at the limit of what they can handle. After about a day of removing bark and knots from the hornbeam they both needed to be sharpened. I learned that you don’t really carve hornbeam in long pretty curls like you see most in woodcarving videos. Instead I wound up removing small chips until I had the rough shape and then finishing the work with files and a sander. I also learned that while hornbeam resists cracking one still must take measures to not let it dry out too quickly when you bring it inside your home. But the cracks were very minor and a filling of carpenter’s glue made them all but disappear. The grain of the wood criss-crosses so the hiking staff I was making didn’t suffer any loss of strength. The smaller twigs became blowgun darts. I’ve recently found that in addition to being a fun pastime the blowgun is an excellent lung exercise. The hornbeam darts are of various styles and sizes so I can find out what works best. I can’t say that I’m setting any records with it but it is a lot of fun.
As my skills grow in carving I’ll probably make a few things like spoons, cups and bowls and judging from the amount of seeds that my hornbeam is producing I should have plenty of stock to work with. And even though this wood is challenging to make things with it is a tight grain that yields an interesting piece once polished. And wood carving is a traditional Appalachian skill that should be kept alive.
Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.
For those who have been following me on Facebook and know of the struggle content providers have to get circulation from big tech I’ve been recommending for people to adopt MeWe as a social media platform. One of the problems I’ve run into on MeWe is that people don’t know how to navigate the platform. So to help with that I’ve created a permanent page on my website as a basic Basic Beginner’s Guide To MeWe I’ve tried to anticipate all basic questions there and You can bookmark the page to have as a reference and if you have any questions or suggestions don’t hesitate to contact me. I do still have a day job and I help admin several pages on both platforms so replies might be a little slow but I will answer you.
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