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VanBass

...setting up to carve hard baits, what wood(s) do you recommend?

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Hi from Ontario; Canada! 

I've dabbled in carving plugs since I was a kid - mostly small lures (1 to 2 inch long) for panfish carved from spruce construction lumber. Retired now, have lots of time to make lures.  :)

Wondering what woods you would recommend - I have access to a variety of hard and soft woods (maple, birch, beech, poplar; basswood, cedar, white pine, spruce) and would like to lay in a stock for the winter carving season.

I'm particularly curious about the suitability of poplar as I have a couple of 16 inch trees that I have to cut down. 

I fish smallmouth bass, walleye, panfish and pike and expect that 80% of my lures would be diving plugs less than 6 inches long with the remainder being top water plugs, jerk baits and gliders. Guess if I had to narrow it down to a particular style and size of lure it would be a 3 1/2 inch Rapala "Shad Rap".

Thanks in advance!

Van

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Popular has a habit of expansion and contraction due to temperature, etc., so I have heard bad things about it..... never tried myself.  Going with a lighter wood allows for more ballast flexibility, and like hillbilly I like Cedar.

BUT, I am a terrible wood carver, so I prefer to use resin.

 

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Depends on what you want to do with your carvings. If you want to look at them I would go with basswood, if you want to make a lure for reproducing with a mold then basswood or maple, if you want to make them too fish with I like white cedar which is good for all depths with proper weight maple is also good for deeper depths. Then there is the size of the lure you want too carve small lures balsa is what you should be carving. I am not a carver but use the tools that I have band saws, wood lathes, and sanders plus hand work. I make my musky lures out of white cedar then go to silicon mold then white resin making of the lures.

Vanbass welcome to a bunch of good and help full guys.

Wayne

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of the one you listed Basswood will carve the best. Its really nice to cut and will hold screw eyes.

cedar is good, it carves fine and is arguably the best lure making wood.

you left out balsa and its not great for carving but it makes good lures, but needs though wire preferably, but not always

a lot of lures get made out of poplar and are fine. if you have some id use it as that is cool to use what you have

In general for diving plugs your lighter woods are best, balsa, basswood western red cedar etc...

top waters are pretty forgiving and is a good git for poplar, i prefer western red, or Alaskan yellow cedar here 

gliders are a good spot for maple or other harder hoods

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Thanks for the input guys!

Looks like cedar and basswood at the top of the list with maple for special baits. That’s good as I have quite a bit of those woods cut and dried  :)

@ Hillbilly voodoo - NO didn’t vote for Trudeau ...don't get me going LOL!

@ Anglinarcher - I’ll do a bit of research into poplar (as I like the grain and hardness of the wood) and post anything I find out.

@ ravenlures – I’ll be making lures (mostly) to fish them, might make a couple for display if I get skilled enough to make something worthwhile. Thanks for the welcome!

@ Outlaw4 – yes, I skipped over balsa. All the woods I listed are ones that I can harvest off of my property. Figured that basswood, being a bit harder and finer grained would be a good substitute for balsa. I do have some balsa that I have been using to make fly fishing poppers and will try a lure or two with it.

Cheers!

Van

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Personally this would be a easy decision.  Any of the woods you listed could be used a fine lures can be made. However, one wood has pretty much  dominated in respect to knife work many, many years ago.... basswood.

   

 

 

 

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17 hours ago, VanBass said:

Thank Mark!

I read that thread, interesting but for now I have lots of wood and no PVC.

I'll definitely try PVC once I get some experience with wood baits.

Van

I went to PVC after I couldn't find a wood sealer that would hold up on my jointed swimbaits.  Thank you again JR Hopkins!

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Welcome to the site.

I use poplar a lot and like it. I use the round and square poplar dowels from the big box stores. The dowels are cheap, easy to carve, and kiln dried so you don't get too much expansion and contraction.

My favorite wood to use is western red cedar. It is a bit harder to carve than poplar due the grain. The smell makes it great to work with. I use it mostly on bigger baits, 5" and up and 1+ ounces. It has nice combination of strength and action.

As you will be harvesting the wood from your property, I would search Youtube for ways to dry your wood. Maybe you could setup a small solar wood drying kiln or a dehumidifier kiln. Try to harvest your wood in advance of making a lure to allow for drying. Otherwise, you will end up with a lot of cracked lures or cracked clear coats from expansion and contraction.

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8 hours ago, JD_mudbug said:

 

Welcome to the site.

I use poplar a lot and like it. I use the round and square poplar dowels from the big box stores. The dowels are cheap, easy to carve, and kiln dried so you don't get too much expansion and contraction.

My favorite wood to use is western red cedar. It is a bit harder to carve than poplar due the grain. The smell makes it great to work with. I use it mostly on bigger baits, 5" and up and 1+ ounces. It has nice combination of strength and action.

As you will be harvesting the wood from your property, I would search Youtube for ways to dry your wood. Maybe you could setup a small solar wood drying kiln or a dehumidifier kiln. Try to harvest your wood in advance of making a lure to allow for drying. Otherwise, you will end up with a lot of cracked lures or cracked clear coats from expansion and contraction.

Easiest method for lures is just microwave.  Small pieces can be dried by a few heat cool cycles in the microwave.  Common practice with some wood turners.

For carving I will take air dried wood any day over kiln dried. 

Very easy to just mill a few fire logs and stack/sticker and air dry.

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@JD_mudbug

Thanks for your comments! 

I have quite a stock of dry basswood, cedar and several hardwoods to get me started carving baits but I will definitely be re-sawing a bunch of poplar to put aside to air-dry.

As Travis mentioned, I can always microwave-dry small pieces of poplar to try. I do have a moisture meter to check the wood with.

Van

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Great input here! I use what's available and have tried all sorts of stuff. I prefer basswood and cedar. I've found basswood gets "fuzzy" sometimes and needs a little extra sanding. Sanding dust from cedar can be a respiratory irritant, so be somewhat cautious.

I like to make little "bug" lures for panfish, and I've been using some redwood I got from a demo job I did. It carves like butter and is exceptionally buoyant. Problem is its not commercially available where I am located, so once I'm out I'm out.

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7 hours ago, Big Epp said:

 I've found basswood gets "fuzzy" sometimes and needs a little extra sanding.

If power carving this can be an issue.  Never had any issues with a knife.  That said a quick pass with a propane torch, lighter, etc.. will get rid of the basswood fuzz.  Can also give quick spray of shellac then sand if getting caught chasing the problem.

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Free is the best type of wood. I’ve used pine and oak pallets and even came across old cedar pieces from a junk kids swing set. Since you are just starting, pine pallets are numerous and you can afford mistakes. I enjoy the buoyancy of the cedar, but the pine is easier to use in smaller crank baits I’ve made. Good luck. Check out the YouTube channel engineered angler . Guy has great tips 

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On 8/18/2021 at 11:12 PM, KeepinPeace said:

Free is the best type of wood.

Agreed! I learned a lot about wood and carving using this method. It's also important to note that "free" doesn't always mean "trash." I've gotten free redwood, mahogany, basswood, and plenty of other quality pieces. Keep your eyes open and you never know what you'll find.

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