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Thread: Catalpa Wood for Carving

  1. Default Catalpa Wood for Carving

    At my local Owl Hardwood store they have a section for Catalpa wood with a sign up that says "New". It's very light weight and has a nice grain to it. It's about as soft as pine but much lighter in weight.

    I started a two and a half hour carve that was only .2" in depth and it started out very smooth and seem to cut like butter. But by the end of the two and half hours the flex shaft was very hot and the bit was making a lot of chopping noises. I twirled the bit in my fingers and the tip didn't seem to have the same bite that it used to have. The bit only had about 80 hours of carve time on it and I was expecting to get up to 250 hours at most. While the wood is very soft somehow I think the molecular structure somehow effects the carbide.

    I'm kind of afraid to try carving some more of it. I only have a little bit left but I think I'll try another bit on it using my other CNC.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Brunswick, GA


    Hi Alan,

    I know nothing about Catalpa wood, but did a couple google searches and skimmed some reading about it. I saw a few photos and it is a gorgeous wood. "Everyone" seems to love it and they say it cuts like a dream...lightweight but strong. It seems to be very popular with wood turners as well.

    I had the initial thought when reading your post, it might be like Teak (contains sand in the wood which dulls cutting edges), but could find no mention of that at all regarding the Catalpa.

    So, it is a mystery why it's dulling your bit and overheating the flexshaft (or giving the impression it is the cause). Sure doesn't seem like that's possible, from what little I've read about it. Hope you get it solved. I want to see what you do with it - bet it will be beautiful!

    Here's a link to one of the threads I found about the wood...
    Last edited by mtylerfl; 07-30-2014 at 01:57 PM.
    Michael T
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  3. Default

    The wood I got looks like the samples seen on line. Although I have not put any finish on it yet. There are a few varieties to choose from and different locations where the trees are grown, but I would not have thought that it would dull my bit either. I put a new bit in, to finish up the last of four carves in the board, and it ran smooth like the first one so I don't know why the first bit got worn while carving the soft wood.

    I'm thinking about trying one of these carbide burr taper bits just to see what happens:

    Here's info on the wood:

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Beardstown, IL


    I'd like to add that some times, although catalpa cuts like it grew with sand in the bark, it's a poor man's butternut for carving. It is stable and doesn't seem to split when cut in wide pieces. It takes a wood chisel or rotozip well. The center carving is catalpa, stained with red oak. notice the blotchiness difference(chisel vs rotory) The outside two are fruit wood and have split.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Capture cawtapa bust 2.JPG  
    thanks so much!

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