November 2, 2021

Carving Locust Wood

Locust wood is a type of wood that has a very interesting look, feel and smell. This wood is very light and not very durable. Locust is a very popular choice among people who want easy to carve wood. The locust tree’s linear leaves are often confused with those of the cholla cactus, but the two plants are easily distinguished by the size of their flowers. This post will help you understand carving locust wood.

What is locust wood

Locust Wood is a product of the locust tree that grows up from  65 to 100 feet with a 2-3 feet trunk diameter. The standard dried weight is 48 lbs. When it comes to appearance, the color ranges from a pale greenish-yellow to a darker brown. It darkens to a russet brown with time. Be observant to avoid confusing it for Osage Orange and Honey locust. The grain is straight, with a medium texture.

Considering that it is rot-resistant, that makes it durable. That is an incredibly good weathering feature. That is why it works as fence posts due to its outdoor longevity. When it comes to workability, the straight grain makes it easy. 

However, its high density and hardness make it difficult to machine. Locust wood has a moderate blunting effect on cutting edges and responds well to lathe turning and steam bending. It also glues and finishes well.

No odor comes from the wood. Although there are no severe reactions caused, there are cases of eye and skin irritation. Some even feel nausea. The prices differ depending on location. It is more affordable in its natural range. That is in the United States where it grows in abundance. 

There is a price rise in areas where lumber is imported. It makes fence posts, boat building, flooring, furniture, mine timbers, railroad ties, turned objects, and veneer. The wood is hard and strong hence competing with hardwood such as Hickory. It also comes with more stability.

Locust wood characteristics


Locust wood is hard and strong. That is why it competes with Hickory, which is stiffer than the rest of hardwood. Strong wood tolerates changes in humidity, and it is more important than grain direction. Grain direction is not only your consideration. That does not compromise the beauty of the wood.


Wood stability refers to the ability to recover quickly from losing its form after harvest. The chances are high after it has been cut and fit into a structure. The stability of wood depends on the tree types and the way the log was milled, dried, and stored. 

Wood shrinks and swells at a cellular level until it reaches equilibrium. That makes it unstable. Take time to learn all about locust wood and how to select stable wood from locust types.


What prevents the onset of stain fungi and decay is low moisture content. The decay of locust wood is low, and that makes it stay longer. That means enduring harsh weather conditions. Rot-resistant is a way of preserving and protecting the wood. That is made possible through a  process of materials used in industrial manufacturing or production to prevent biodegradation and chemical decomposition. 


Wood treatment extends its life span, and it remains more subject to rot than concrete. When your wood is heavy, mold and mildew cannot be concerned with wood construction. If attention is paid to moisture control, properly sealing windows, and other preventative measures, the chances remain low. 

There are no structural limitations, and that makes it ideal for heavy and light construction. The wood is a better choice for many traditional houses, especially those in a timber frame style. Design features such as cantilevered elements or large windows are not difficult to achieve relying on wood frame construction. 

Fire risks are minimal and the application of fire retardants, and the installation of sprinkler systems is easy on heavy wood. There is a limited risk of fire in completed wood-frame buildings, but builders should be aware of the fire hazards in the early stages of construction when the wood frame is exposed and unprotected. 

Can you carve locust wood?

Locust wood is a yellow- to coffee-colored wood, suited for carving into tool handles, kitchenware, and longbows. 

The high-density wood is rot-resistant wood we can grow in our climate, making it an ideal material for fence posts, hope poles, outdoor furniture, decks, and other projects demanding weatherproof materials. It is hard, making it a better domestic timber. It splits easily, and that makes it easy to carve. The beautiful color makes it great for carving.

Is locust wood good for woodworking?

Yes, locust wood is good for woodworking. It is often used for items such as fence posts, boat building, flooring, furniture, mine timbers, railroad ties, turned objects, and veneer, it remains a good wood for woodwork. It is a strong wood, competing with Hickory. That makes the wood durable. More stability and rot resistance make it also good for woodworking. You have good-looking and long-lasting items. 

Is locust wood hard to cut?

It is a little hard, but you do not go through chains to cut the wood. Sharpening of tools is done but not to the extremes. The wood is soft and lasts longer. You start thinking of replacing it years later after you have purchased it. 

However, it easily splits, and that requires one to be more careful. Allow it to cure enough, and you have a bearable moment cutting the wood. If you have a difficult time due to poor-quality cutting tools, cut wood in smaller sections. Being strong does not make it difficult in cutting.

Is locust wood valuable?

Locust wood is valuable because it contains natural organic compounds that resist rot for 100 years or more. It is also environmentally friendly and ideal for fence and deck posts. Multiple benefits of locust wood make it valuable wood. These include an extended life in the ground, honey production, and high tensile beam strength. 

How to carve locust wood

  1. Put on your safety gear.
  2. Look for the best carving technique for your project.
  3. Gather your tools and materials. Make sure the locust wood is of high quality and purchased from a trusted supplier.
  4. Make sure you have the right carving knife. It should be sharp, easy to handle, rigid, and comfortable. 
  5. Practice with scrap wood to master your cuts and shapes.
  6. Hold the knife correctly by keeping your hands behind the sharp cutting edge since it slips whilst working. These tools slip as you work, and if your fingers are in front of the blade, it’ll result in an injury.
  7. Carve along the grain rather than across the grain. Examine the wood to find parallel lines.
  8. Practice basic cuts since there are numerous cuts you need to learn.
  9. When you have mastered the cuts, you are food to go.
  10. Clamp the wood onto the table or vise.
  11. Remove as much wood as you can.
  12. Use gouges to remove excess material.
  13. Switch to smaller groups for detailed carving.
David D. Hughes
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