Learning To Carve Hornbeam

Hello Friends! Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Tomorrow’s Forest 71321a” and is available for purchase by clicking the thumbnail and reaching out to me on the contact page.

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. 

Two of my “homemade” utility knives. These have handles made from yellow birch and held together with wooden pins and epoxy glue.

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.

Announcement 2.0

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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Forage Friday #84 Hornbeam

Hello Friends! Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “New Hornbeam Leaves 41620” and is available for purchase by clicking the thumbnail and reaching out to me on the contact page.

Please remember that Forage Friday is presented as trivia and not to be mistaken for medical advice.

One of the most interesting trees on my mountain is the hornbeam on the edge of my yard. This mature tree has limbs that twist and bend in ways that give it a unique character. Not to mention that instead of growing up it’s growing out horizontally.

My Hornbeam growing sideways. When the leaves are off you can see how twisty the limbs are.

These trees go by several different names. Hornbeam, Hop Hornbeam, Blue Beech, Musclewood and Ironwood. Hornbeam is said to be a reference to the hardness of the wood. Horn of course implies the horns of an animal and Beam is the anglicized version of the German Baum ( as in Tannenbaum). Ironwood comes from the same idea. The wood is so hard that it was once used to make wagon wheels.

Detail of the muscle-like texture of the tree.

The fluted texture of the tree really does resemble ripped look of a professional body builder giving it the name Musclewood.

The dense wood has also been used for tool handles and walking sticks. Once the bark is peeled the wood looks like bone. In spite of the fact that it’s notoriously hard to work because of the hardness and density it is said to be good for making bowls and such because it resists cracking.

The wood itself doesn’t really have a taste so it’s not going to taint the flavor of food. I think that it would also make a good mortar and pestle set for grinding herbs. And it’s a good hot firewood. At one time it was used to make coke for the blacksmith’s forge.

Perhaps a limb like this is a Shillelagh in the making.

This particular tree is actually due to be pruned. Not shown in the photos is my work shed which is being raked by the limbs on windy days. It would be a sin to not try to make use of the trimmed wood.

Hornbeam is both a food and medicine tree. The catkins resemble hops however that’s where the similarly ends. Online forums all seem to agree that it’s useless for making beer. The true food value of Hornbeam is in the fruit. The “hop” when mature will contain several nutlets about the size of sunflower seeds that are freed simply by rubbing them between your hands until the papery husk falls away. The nut will still need to be shelled. My suggestion is to grind nuts into a flour to add to other flour but the nuts themselves can be eaten raw, roasted or boiled. They don’t really have a strong flavor which means they could be added to other dishes to kinda bulk up a meal.

The hornbeam in full green.

The inner bark was used by Native Americans as a soak for arthritis and as a rinse for toothache. This inner bark tea is said to be antibiotic and anti-inflammatory as well as astringent.

The leaves have heamostatic properties and have been used for minor cuts and bruises. A distillation of the leaves is said to be useful as a wash for tired eyes and conjunctivitis.

The hornbeam prefers most growing conditions and partial shade. The seeds tend to only travel short distances in the wind. So if you find a mature one then it’s likely that you’ll find a few seedlings close by. If you have the right growing conditions this is a small tree that looks like something out of a fairy tale. And, even if you’re not interested in forage it’s a great food for wildlife. In Fall mine is constantly visited by squirrels and songbirds collecting those seeds.

That’s it’s for this week’s Forage Friday post. Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.

Hey Friends! Just a quick reminder that Lloyds Lens Photography is available for portraits!

To book me simply reach out using the Contact Page and we’ll set a date. If you’re within a 50 mile radius of Summersville West Virginia all travel fees are waived.

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If you’re enjoying my blog and don’t want to miss a post then you can sign up for email alerts on my website.

https://lloydslensphotographyllc.com/

Have you checked out the Zazzle Store?

I’m now using Zazzle to fulfil orders. What this means for you is a secure way to place an order, discount codes & a broader product selection! Simplymessage me on Facebookoruse the contact form on my websiteand tell me which image you want and I’ll reply with a direct link to where you can place the order.

Clicking on the photo takes you tohttps://www.zazzle.com/lloydslensphotos?rf=238248269630914251

Lastly, all of the photos and writings are my original work unless otherwise specified and are not to be copied or reproduced without expressed written permission from the photographer

Thank you again for your support of my page!