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Stock Choice

I’m going to take two woodworking classes this summer - the first is a pre-requisite 18th century carving course followed by construction of a Philadelphia high chest which has ball and claw cabriole legs.

The stock choices are walnut and tiger maple.

I am a novice carver.  During the pre-requisite class the week before we will do a single Cabriole leg with ball and claw out of walnut.  When I asked the instructor about stock choices he mentioned that tiger maple is quite hard and time consuming to carve and that I might not be as far along by the end of the week of the class - and dissatisfied with the results.

I watched Mary’s video and did a side by side comparison with walnut and maple; doing a step on the walnut piece then doing it on the maple.  There was no appreciable time difference.

I find the maple more ‘responsive’ and it seems to cut cleaner.  Having said that they both stink.  I think I’m taking multiple small passes with the tools instead of nice, smooth, and ultra-effective ones so they look “beat up.”

Is this what I should expect for my second and third attempts at a ball and claw?

Any thoughts about what stock I should choose for my class?  My head says walnut but I really want to do the tiger maple if I can pull it off.



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Hi Kevin,

Those are definitely 2 very challenging woods you chose, but you got the shape down well. I usually recommend carving your first ball and claw in basswood, just to get the correct shape in an easier wood. Then tackle the harder wood when you don't have to worry about figuring out the details. But you dove in at the deep end, and did well! Each one will get smoother and better. The only "constructive criticism" would be to make sure the balls have more of a curve to them. It appears from the photo that they have a more flat vertical edge to them. Make sense?