October 13, 2021

Carving Magnolia Wood | A Simple Guide

Magnolia wood carving

Carving magnolia wood does not have to be complicated. Whether it’s because of the dirty old tools or because it’s not exactly easy to carve, it’s one of the most difficult woods to work with. But if you take time and work slowly, you can get good results. This post will give you a clear overview of everything involved.

What is magnolia wood?

Magnolia wood (Magnoliaceae) is a light-colored hardwood often used in woodworking and Carving. It is easy to work with and takes stains, and finishes well. It is fine-textured, straight-grained wood that you might mistake for maple. Magnolia does not warp when thin-sawed, turns well, and steam bends. This makes it ideal for power tool users. Carving magnolia wood is also excellent for beginning carvers.

You can plane the wood to a smooth surface that requires little sanding. Due to its fine grain, you will not have to use a filler before finishing with your choice of paint, stain, or clear coatings. After magnolia is seasoned, it remains stable. 

It makes cabinet carcasses and furniture, toys, and interior trim. It makes good bowls and other food containers since it does not impart a taste or carry an odor. Magnolia costs the same as yellow poplar, and that is 1.25 per board foot. In the South and Southeast, they keep it readily available, inboards up to 2inch thick. It is for ornamental purposes and lumber.

Draw a design

Draw a design of the item you want first. That helps you keep track of your desired features. A design allows you to make alterations and improvements since you will be working on an item you are looking at.

Measure and mark the wood

Start by getting a quality tape measure if you do not have one. If you want an outside measurement, Keep the tape straight and at a right angle to the surface, you are measuring. Note that tape measures sometimes do not match. Use one tape measure on a project to keep your measurements constantly accurate. 

Carve the wood

For woodworkers, magnolia is an exciting species. Their straight grain, fine texture, workability, and non-warping capacity, are some of the features that stand this wood out. Magnolia makes the wooden projects of wooden spoons, tree carving, carved wooden birds, pens, and knives. 

Find out more about wood carving ideas that make your experience amazing. Magnolia wood is for carving rather than burning firewood, and it is easily workable and does not require more effort.  Carving magnolia wood, quartering it, or spitting it in equal pairs is easy.

Wood Staining magnolia

As much as shellac cannot be the most durable stain, it brings the beauty out of your magnolia wood. Using dewaxed shellac, you can coat it with almost any other clear film-forming finish. Boiled linseed oil is also a great alternative, and it brings out a lot of latent colors, and you can use that as a first coat. 

Before choosing the perfect stain, run trials on a scrap or the underside to see what works better, add french polish to the penetrating, and platinum shellac makes a good stain. Using linseed oil for the french polishing oil helps you attain a high level of durability to moisture. 

For a bare-naked wood look, wet sand with Watco oil. It gives you a silky-smooth unfinished look. However, bear in mind that it has zero protection. You can choose to keep the wood unstained since it already comes with natural color. 

Magnolia wood grain

The wide sapwood is a creamy white to a grayish color, and the heartwood color ranges from medium to dark brown, sometimes with green, purple, or black streaks. The grain is straight, with a medium to fine uniform texture. The name straight grain portrays species that grow straight and parallel with the tree’s trunk. Straight-grained woods are easy to work and machine with minimal complications.

The end grain is diffuse-porous; with small to medium pores in no specific arrangement, numerous; solitary, and in radial multiples of 4 or more. The growth rings are distinct, the narrow rays visible without lens, standard spacing, and parenchyma marginal. 

What makes magnolia stay longer is that it is rot-resistant. It is rated as non-durable to perishable regarding decay resistance and also susceptible to insect attack. It is easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Turns, glues, stains, and finishes well. It has no characteristic odor.

Severe reactions are not popular in the Magnolia genus. However, it causes asthma-like symptoms and a runny nose. It is readily available within its natural range when it comes to availability, though difficult to find elsewhere. Prices should be low for domestic hardwood.

Its uses include veneer, plywood, interior trim, upholstered furniture frames, and general utility wood. Southern Magnolia is the hardest and heaviest among the three primary magnolia species in the United States.

Tips on Carving Magnolia Wood

  • Magnolia is stringy and hard, but it comes with good grain. It takes details well. However, some of the wood has stresses that tend to crack when carving relieves the stress. It is better to cut in the winter.
  • Carving wet wood is easier than carving it dry since the moisture in the wood allows the knife to glide through the wood easier. When the wood is too dry, it can be hard and brittle. By wetting the wood, the experience is more fun. 
  • Soaking wood makes it easier to carve because as wood soaks fiber grains in the wood become increasingly flexible as its cells absorb water. That is an easy and economical way of cutting your material.
  • Pick the softer wood so that you will not struggle to carve. The carving knife has to glide easily, and your time is saved. 
  • If you cannot have softer wood, soak or wet the wood as you soften it. Follow correct procedures before damaging your item. 
  • Keep your knives sharp so that you do not struggle to carve. 

Is magnolia hardwood?

Although magnolia is evergreen, it belongs to the hardwood family, and the plant does not lose its leaves during the fall and winter months. The wood comes in creamy color, which is nice for crafting and decorative purposes. 

The color gives a natural look to your items. It is occasionally cut and used as firewood. Although the bark of the magnolia tree is gray-brown, it has a smooth texture when the tree is young; however, the bark of an older magnolia tree is often rougher or scaly in texture. 

Magnolias are also classified as soft hardwood trees since the wood has more air space. This air space makes the wood of the magnolia tree less dense and heavy than other hardwoods. 

There are different types of magnolias. Even when most species are soft hardwoods, the wood of the Bigleaf magnolia remains heavier and denser, making it a hardwood.

Magnolia tree wood uses

Most carvers would wonder, what is magnolia wood good for? What is magnolia wood used for? Magnolia trees are timber tree is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Their wood can be used for furniture, interior finishes, engraving, sword scabbards, spoons, sculptures and other woodworking projects. When burned, its charcoal is used for polishing lacquer.

Is a magnolia tree a hardwood

The magnolia tree is a hardwood. The wood is densely grained and, when planed and sanded, has a smooth surface. Magnolia wood is not as dense as other hardwoods, but it is still quite stable. Its density is between 30 and 40 pounds per cubic foot.

David D. Hughes
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