November 2, 2021

Carving Mesquite Wood | Key Ideas

Many people are interested in carving mesquite wood. Some are interested in the process of making the pieces, while others are more interested in the end product. The possibilities are many, whether you want to make a small coffee table or a large structure. For this project, we wanted to see how the different types of wood would look in the finished product.

Best tools for carving mesquite

When you want to do some carving on Mesquite wood use the root or burl of the mesquite. It works with grinding tools and finishes with finer sandpaper until they shine perfectly. Use a gouge and mallet as you do some cutting. 

However, the burl does not cut very well, and it knocks off the edges of the wood. Since the hardwood has a high extractive content that overheats cutting blades, use carbide-tipped blades and cutters for your power tools.

What to carve out of mesquite wood

With mesquite wood, you can carve spoons, furniture, and many more items. Although it is not easy to use, it makes beautiful pieces. Spoons are the easiest to carve using wood. 

Where to find mesquite wood

Mesquite is not quite popular due to its small size, beating, and twisted trunk. Small companies in the Southwest use it. It is a native wood of Texas. 

What is the hardest wood to carve?

Australian Buloke is the hardest wood that measures up to 5,060 IBF. It is an Australian native tree from Eastern and Southern Australia. As the hardest wood in the world, it has a Janka hardness of 5,060 lbf. It makes knife handles, flooring, fine furniture, and turned objects.

Each wood material has its hardness quantified using the industry-standard rating. The rating shows the resistance of wood samples to denting and wear through measurement. What shows the difference in hardness is the variance in wood grain direction. Wood types are tested based on the cut surface of a stump cut from the material, and the measurement is in pounds-force (lbf).

What can I do with mesquite wood? mesquite wood projects

Mesquite makes furniture, such as long-wearing tables and chairs. It makes carvings, turnings, hardworking flooring, premium gunstocks, and knife handles.

Is mesquite a hardwood?

Mesquite wood is hardwood. It is easy to identify during winter because hardwood trees are deciduous. That means they lose their leaves in the fall. Its hardness makes it stable. It belongs to the same class as teak and mahogany, although it is harder than oak and maple. That makes it last longer since it withstands heavy weight and moisture changes.

Tips for carving mesquite wood

  • Carve it Green for a bearable experience. 
  • Mesquite’s hardness and interlocking grain cause chipping and tearing out when planning. To get rid of that problem, feed the wood at a slight angle and take light passes that only remove about 1⁄32 ” at a time.
  • Avoid feeding mesquite quickly against the blade when ripping so that you give the gullets more time to clear themselves of sawdust.
  • Select the correct grain direction when feeding the jointer to avoid chipping and more problems. Start by setting the table height for a 1⁄16 ” cut to increase the cut to 1⁄8 “, given there are no tear-outs.
  • Use only spurred bits and slower drill-press speeds for mesquite. 
  • Clear the bit regularly in thick stock to prevent burning the hole sides. The process ensures that glue is not absorbed. 
  • Make use of shallow passes to reduce tearing out and chipping when routing. That gives you a consistent feed rate.
  • Use a backing board to route the end grain for precision.
  • Avoid cross-grain sanding on mesquite because it produces scratches. Whenever you see grains meeting at right angles, use a cabinet scraper or random-orbit sander to clean up. Do not skip grits when sanding this wood to get a smooth surface.
  • Use an adhesive with a longer open time to glue up the mesquite wood. It allows you to give a light coat of glue to the wood.  As you join the pieces, pull them apart so that the adhesive is set up before rejoining.
  • Predrill mesquite for nails and screws because it is hard and dense.
  • Use a clear finish or penetrative oil for a beautiful, natural look. Allow the number of figures your wood displays to guide you. 
  • Use sharp tools for carving mesquite wood. Hone them frequently.
  • Avoid and get rid of scratches by sanding with the grain while the lathe is off. 
  • Carving comments
  • Mesquite, unlike most woods, can be carved green because it checks very little as it dries. You will need power-carving burs, starting with less aggressive ones, to remove material without tearout.
  • For stability in use indoors, stick to wood with a maximum moisture content of 6-7 percent. For outdoor wood projects, it should be 12 percent moisture.
  • Feed straight-grained wood into planer knives at a 90° angle, so your wood does not tear.
  • For clean cuts, use a rip-profile blade with 4-32 teeth and for crosscutting, use one with 40 teeth.
  • Avoid drilling with twist drills since they cause a breakout. 

Advantages of mesquite wood

Mesquite comes with great color and density. It holds the detail and finishes great. It can be a good choice of wood if you carve it perfectly. 

Mesquite is very stable and seldom splits while drying. However, it is very dense, and that makes it hard to carve using hand tools. Using hand tools is better when making the first cut and carving while it is wet. If you have no other option except to use hand tools, take advantage of its stability. 

The correct way to carve

  1. Choose mesquite wood of high quality. That is wood with finer grain and fewer open pores.
  2. Put on your safety gear. 
  3. Practice on a plank of scrap wood.
  4. Choose a straight wood piece
  5. Make or look for a design of your choice.
  6. Secure the material by clamping it onto a table or vise.
  7. Shape the inside of your item as you get rid of the material inside.
  8. Push the gouge into the wood, working directly across the grain. 
  9. Cut.
  10. Use a drawknife or handsaw to shape.
  11. Give your item a finish.
  12. Use card scrapers to remove tool marks and tear-out when you have your desired shape.
  13. Sand your item to 220-grit, then apply a non-toxic oil finish.
David D. Hughes

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