Whittled Wood

A few years back I took a trip to a beautiful woodland – sleeping in a yurt, cooking over an open fire and showering under a tree. Of course, my homely yurt also came with a bed, plug sockets and electric blankets, this was glamping after all! I was there to try my hand at greenwood whittling, the art of carving moisture rich bark into beautiful wooden objects. I collected my knife and tree branch, thankfully already trimmed to a small length, and embarked on a few of hours of whittling to make a pencil pot. Turns out, in the world of wood carving enthusiasm cannot replace skill. As I struggled to carve out the centre I inevitably cut my finger resulting in my instructor calling “not to run the work with blood”! Although small, I am mighty proud of my finished whittled pen pot and it retains pride of place on my desk today. However it turns out I could have tried a different route…

In the world of additive manufacture, 3D printers take a reel of filament, printing it in layers to make 3D structures. Sometimes the nozzle head extruding the filament moves above a bed on which the object is created, other systems use a reversed approach with the bed moving and the filament head static. This can impact the build tolerance and object size, but also key is the selection of filament material. The right filament choice can offer a range of object properties and finishes. I have only worked with PLA, a thermoplastic called Polylactic Acid. Made from sugar cane or corn starch, PLA is sometimes referred to as a bioplastic. For the beginner, PLA offers an easy print material at a reasonable price. But today, whilst researching filament options for a phyics project, I came across wood based composites.

Combining PLA soft plastic with fine grain wood flour, wood filament can create structures which look and handle like wood. They shrink and warp when exposed to water, can be sanded, burned, painted or even embellished with carvings. Whilst I don’t fancy a reattempt at the later, I am intrigued and tempted to give my pen pot another go. I have a feeling that whilst the end result might benefit from being blood free, I’m not sure a printed pot will replace the joy and fun of a muddy glamping weekend, whittling in a forest with lovely new friends. That said I will be warm and dry with a mug of tea as the printer whirs. I’ll let you know how it goes…