Sylva Spoon

shrink pot

My 3 Favourite Carving Woods

Tom Bartlett1 Comment

Silver birch (Betula pendula)


It is easily identified by its white, peeling bark. On the bark, starting at the base, grow dark, rough arrows/diamonds, which can cause the whole base of the tree to appear dark and rough. Birches can grow 30m (100') tall. The shoots on the branches are slender and tend to droop. The leaves are small and trianglar, with ragged teeth along the edges.

Some Traditional Uses

The bark has been used to make containers and even canoes. The thin, flexible branches are used to make besoms (think 'witches broomstick'). Birch poles were also used to stir molten copper as they prevented oxides from forming, which meant a purer copper.

My Birch Carvings

Maples (Acer campestre - field maple, Acer pseudoplatanus - sycamore)


Tend to be densely crowned, with pale, cracked bark. The leaves are opposite paired with five veins radiating from the stem to five lobes. Most easily recognised by their winged seeds that spiral to the ground like little helicopters. 

Some Traditional Uses

Perhaps most famously used to make violins, with the rippled grain being referred to as 'fiddleback'. The sap can also be boiled down to make syrup.

My Maple Carvings

Hornbeam (Carpinus Betulus)


The grey, smooth bark makes the trunks look a little like elephant's legs. The leaves a deeply veined with fine, uneven serrations.

Some Traditional Uses

Hornbeam is a very hard wood. As such it has been used for mallet heads, skittles and butchers' chopping blocks. The wood also burns very long and hot, used to smelt iron.

My Hornbeam Carvings

Hornbeam shrink pot

Hornbeam spoon and small shrink pot

What are your favourite woods for carving? Feel free to share examples of your work in the comments section.