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Everyone who travels loves to buy gifts for their family and friends after their trip. Indeed, shopping is a way to immerse yourself in local cultures during holidays. Vietnam is a famous tourist destination for its diversity of culture features, alongside with thousands of specialties. It has a wide range of choices for souvenirs, including the decorative and the food ones. These kinds of souvernirs have their own charms that are really worth purchasing. This article will give you 20 things to buy in Vietnam, followed by the useful information. Check it out!
1. Ao dai – The national costume of Vietnam
Ao dai is the national costume of Vietnam. It is the combination of elegant tight fitted dress and long stylish pants. Ao dai is a highlight in Vietnamese fashion, which follows both traditional and temporary styles, symbolizing for Vietnamese feminine beauty. Because Ao dai is available at many stores through the country, you can easily find a suitable one for yourself or for gifts. Normally, this outfit is already in the ready-to-buy form, but if you want to make some priority with the material and the design, you can buy the cloths first and then order at some tailor’s, but it does certainly cost higher.
Hanoi, Hue, Hoian and Ho Chi Minh are the 4 places that are the most famous for Ao dai. Ao dai is suitable for all women at all ages. It will be such a surprising gift for your mother, your sister or your grandmother. The price of a set of Ao dai may vary, depending on different designs, materials, quality, and colors.
Price: VND 500,000 – VND 2,000,000/set
Where to buy Ao dai in Vietnam?
Where to buy ao dai in Hanoi?
Ao dai Minh Duc – 41 Dang Tien Dong Street, Trung Liet Ward, Dong Da District
Huu la la – 30 Hang Bong Street, Hang Gai Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Thanh Mai – 428 Bach Mai Street, Truong Dinh Ward, Hai Ba Trung District
Where to buy Ao dai in Hue?
Ao dai Minh Tan – 57 Nguyen Sinh Cung Street, Vy Da Ward, Hue City
Ao dai Bich Thuy – 47 Vo Thi Sau Street, Phu Hoi Ward, Hue City
Where to buy Ao dai in Ho Chi Minh City?
Ao dai Ngoc Chau – 148 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, Ward 3, District 3
Ao dai Lien Huong – 111 Pasteur Street, Ward 8, District 3
2. Silk – The high-fashion and charming material
Silk, or “lụa” in Vietnamese, which used to be considered as a luxurious material, was worn by the Imperials and high class. Also, Ao dai, which is the traditional costume, is often handmade of silk. Nowadays, Vietnamese designers use it to create high-fashion items which are to appear in famous fashion shows. Though Italia, Chinese, Japanese silks have good reputations, Vietnamese silk gains its own distinctive charm in the area and it is absolutely one of the best things to buy in Vietnam.
When it comes to Vietnamese silk, you can easily get access to some traditional villages where silk is still made on conventional handlooms and hence gives the best textiles. It is highly recommended that you buy it at Van Phuc silk village in Hanoi. However, as silk is sold widely in Vietnam, you can also find it in any markets or silk stores, especially on Hang Gai Street of Hanoi Old Quarter, Hoian Ancient Town and Ho Chi Minh City. Normally, these stores sell silk fabric, but sometimes and other silk items such as scarf, bag, tie, etc are available.
Price: VND 150,000/meter
Where to buy Silk in Vietnam?
Where to buy Silk in Hanoi?
Khai Silk – 96 Hang Gai Street, Hang Gai Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Le Minh – 79-111 Hang Gai Street, Hang Gai Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Where to buy Silk in Hoi An?
Bao Khanh Silk – 101 Tran Hung Dao Street, Son Phong Ward
B’lan Silk – 23 Tran Phu Street, Minh An Ward
Where to buy Silk in Ho Chi Minh City?
Thai Tuan Silk – 419 Hai Ba Trung Street, Ward 8, District 3
3. Conical hats – a symbol of Vietnamese agriculture
Conical hat, or straw hat, has long been the symbol of Vietnam, it stems from a legend related to Vietnam’s rice-growing culture. Being in the shape of a circular cone, conical hats are made of palm leaves, bamboo cataphylls and is an ideal souvenir for tourists traveling to Vietnam. This stuff is kinda versatile when can be used in any weather conditions to help users feel more comfortable. Also, nowadays, there are a variety of types, varying in designs, alongside with sizes and quantity, which makes it easier to select.
Conical hat is the most suitable for those who enjoy outdoor activities such as gardening. You can find this souvenir at almost all souvenir shops along the country with a cheap price. But it is highly recommended for you to buy conical hat directly at some villages such as Chuong conical hat village (Hanoi), Phu Cam conical hat village, Tay Ho conical hat village (Hue).
Price: VND 10,000 – VND 50,000
Where to buy conical hats in Vietnam?
Where to buy conical hats in Hanoi?
Dong Xuan Market – Hang Khoai Street, Dong Xuan Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Where to buy conical hats in Hue?
Dong Ba Market – 2 Tran Hung Dao, Phu Hoa Ward, Hue City
Where to buy conical hats in Ho Chi Minh City?
Ben Thanh Market – Le Loi Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
4. Hand embroidery – The special gift for your precious ones
Vietnam is famous for embroidery art. The products include embroidered quilts, bed sheets, pillowcase, table runners, bags, clothes, scarfs, purses, nightdresses, etc. Hanoi is a great place to purchase this kind of product because there is a wide range of in selection, quality, and price. Also, if you have a chance to visit Sapa, you can get access to different villages of the valley, where you can see how handmade embroidery products are made and buy them in the local markets. The best items are usually found on special cotton and linen and the best designs. Anybody who appreciates hard work and culture will definitely like these beautiful handmade gifts. This is an ideal option for gifts to those who are passionate about culture or just simply the special ones in your life (mother, wife, girlfriend)
Price: depending on different products (bags, clothes, pillowcase, bedsheets,etc), ranging from VND 50,000 to VND VND 1,000,000
Where to buy hand embroidery in Vietnam?
Where to buy hand embroidery in Hanoi?
Tan My Design – 61 Hang Gai Street, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District
May Store – 7 Nha Tho Street, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Where to buy hand embroidery in Hoi An?
XQ Hoi An – 27 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street – Minh An Ward
Where to buy hand embroidery in Ho Chi Minh City?
Ninh Khuong Hand Embroidery – 42 Le Loi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
XQ Sai Gon – 147 Dong Khoi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
5. Bamboo and woody products – The eco-friendly souvenirs
Bamboo and wooden products in Vietnam are two of the most popular things to buy in Vietnam that are sold in almost every tourist sites in this country. They are all handmade and available in a wide range of designs and colors.The typical bamboo items are baskets, strays, bowls, hats, decorative things (especially the cute dragonfly that can stand on its mouth), chopsticks or even furniture. Timber products are quite the same. These two products are not also cheap, but also eco-friendly. They are such the smart choices for your family. But remember to choose to authentic ones.
Price: depending on different items (clothing items, decorative things, furniture,etc)
Where to buy bamboo and woody products in Vietnam?
Where to buy bamboo and woody products in Hanoi?
Ninh Khuong Hand Embroidery – 42 Le Loi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
XQ Sai Gon – 147 Dong Khoi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
Where to buy bamboo and woody products in Hue?
Dong Ba Market, 2 Tran Hung Dao Street, Phu Hoa Ward, Hue City
Nguyen Dinh Chieu Walking Street – Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Phu Hoi Ward – Hue City
Where to buy bamboo and woody products in Hoi An?
Reaching Out Teahouse – 103 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Minh An Ward
Where to buy bamboo and woody products in Ho Chi Minh City?
Ben Thanh Market – Le Loi Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
6. Pottery – An appealing and handmade kind of souvenirs
Pottery is another ideal kind of Vietnamese souvenirs that you can bring home. There are a variety of ceramic products, including vase, bowl, dish, cup, etc, which are appealing and beautiful in different colors and patterns. All of these ceramic items are hand-crafted based on traditional methods
In Vietnam, pottery can be found at many stores, but if you have a chance, we recommend that you should pay a visit to some traditional villages such as Bat Trang (Hanoi), Phuoc Tich (Hue), Thanh Ha (Hoian) to buy them directly, as well as experience these products’ making process. The price is affordable, but sometimes high because of the quality and size. By the way, be careful when handling them because they are rather fragile.
Price: depending on different products (vase, bowl, dish, cup,etc), ranging from VND 20,000 to VND 10,000,000
Where to buy pottery in Vietnam?
Where to buy pottery in Hanoi?
Quang Ceramics Store – 93 Ba Trieu Street, Nguyen Du Ward, Hai Ba Trung District
Cerender Ceramics – 11A Trang Thi Street, Trang Tien Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Where to buy pottery in Ho Chi Minh City?
Hey Camel Ceramics – 116/19A Tran Quoc Toan Street, Ward 7, District 3
7. Ethnic handicraft products – Reflexion of Vietnamese ethnic cultures
Ethnic handicraft is a type of art that includes products made by minority groups living in Vietnam. Each group has its own distinct culture, which is depicted in their patterns and clothing styles. The most popular items are scarf, bag, textiles, paintings, clothing items, and even woodworks, all of which are unique and impressive things to buy in Vietnam.
This is an ideal gift for whom are into exotic cultures. Normally, these products are widely sold in almost every site, but if you want to buy the authentic ones, find some stores that provide the true handmade items, though they maybe more expensive. If you have an opportunity to travel to the Northern region or the Highland region, you can observe the making process and then buy these products directly. Traveling, basically, is experiencing.
Price: depending on different items (scarves, bags, painting, clothing items, woodworks,etc), but in general it ranges from VND 30,000 – VND 500,000
Where to buy ethnic handicraft in Vietnam?
Where to buy ethnic handicraft in Hanoi?
Shop Craft Link – 43 & 51 Van Mieu Street, Van Mieu Ward, Dong Da District
Indigenous – 36 Au Trieu Street, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Where to buy ethnic handicraft in Quang Binh?
Tree Hugger Café – 30 Nguyen Du Street, Dong My Ward, Dong Hoi City
8. Vietnamese paintings – The storyteller about Vietnamese culture
Vietnamese painting is a unique product which depicts every moment of Vietnam in an iconic artistic way. Normally, there are a lot of painting materials such as silk, sand, oil, etc, each of which has its own characteristics and beauty. Besides, these paintings are rich in colors and motives but they are all incredible for the story insides. Hanging these pictures on the walls is one of the good ways to decorate your house. In Vietnam, it is not difficult to find a store that provides these paintings because these paintings are sold at many souvenir shops and bookstores. However, the price maybe rather higher than other kinds of souvenirs, but it is worth collecting.
Price: VND 250,000 – VND 1,500,000
Where to buy Vietnamese paintings in Vietnam?
Where to buy Vietnamese paintings in Hanoi?
Amazing Hanoi – 69 Hang Gai Street, Hang Gai Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Where to buy Vietnamese paintings in Hue?
Nguyen Dinh Chieu Walking Street – Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Phu Hoi Ward, Hue City
Where to buy Vietnamese paintings in Hoi An?
Hoian Fine Art Gallery – 42 Phan Boi Chau Street, Son Phong Ward
9. Vietnamese musical instruments – Traditional and unique instruments
Musical instruments are also favourite kinds of souvenir in Vietnam for their sweet tones and other feature of Vietnamese music. Among them, bamboo flutes, Vietnamese violin (dan Nhi), and mini t’rungs are the most popular choices. They are occasionally hand-craft and easy to handle. They are widely used and it is not difficult to find a Vietnamese musical instrument store. But by the way, check the instruments carefully when purchasing because there are many products not good as they may seem.
Price: depending on the kind of instruments (flutes, Vietnamese violins, t’rungs, drums,etc), ranging from VND 50,000 to VND 1,500,000
10. Lacquerware – The distinctive artworks of Vietnam
Vietnam has long traditions of lacquer work. Indeed, lacquerware-making in Vietnam has been a unique art form for many years. Lacquer products in Vietnam are jewelry boxes, photograph albums, dishes, bowls, vases, which all have distinctive styles and quality, compared to those from other Asian countries. Normally, it takes 20 stages and 100 days to make high-quality lacquer products, followed by hard and careful work of the lacquer makers. There are some galleries featuring this art where you can find really great collections.
These products are the most suitable for some senior family members, as well as your friends. Though lacquer art is highly developed in Hue, Hoian, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, you can find this souvenir at many tourist sites. However, be careful when purchasing lacquerware because they maybe in low quality and condition.
Price: VND 180,000 – VND 1,500,000
Where to buy Lacquerware in Vietnam?
Where to buy Lacquerware in Hanoi?
Minh Tam Lacquerware – 2 Hang Bong Street, Hang Gai Ward, Hoan Kiem District
An Duy Lacquer – 25 Hang Trong Street, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Where to buy Lacquerware in Hue?
Dong Ba Lacquerware store – 47 Tran Hung Dao Street, Phu Hoa Ward, Hue City
Tinh Hoa Art Shop – 6B Vo Thi Sau Street, Phu Hoi Ward, Hue City
Nguyen Dinh Chieu Walking Street – Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Phu Hoi Ward, Hue City
Where to buy Lacquerware in Hoi An?
Lam Kieu traditional lacquerware and sculpture, 41 Tran Phu Street, Minh Ward
Where to buy Lacquerware in Ho Chi Minh City?
Ben Thanh Market – Le Loi Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
Minh Phuong Lacquer-ware Gallery – 40 Phung Khac Khoan Street, Dakao Ward, District 1
11. Vietnam books – Necessary things to buy in Vietnam for knowledgeable travelers
Vietnam is famous for its historical and architectural heritages. Some of them are Hue Citadel, Nguyen’s famous tombs, Hanoi Literature Temple, etc. Visiting these sites, you may need a book, or just a brochure to acknowledge the history and culture, along with other interesting information of them. These products are sold at some corners of each destination, including not only Vietnamese version, but also the English one. Traveling would not be nicer when you gain yourself cultural knowledge on your own holiday.
Price: Depending on the sizes and printing materials of books
12. Calligraphy – The meaningful and special word art
Vietnamese calligraphy, for a long time, has become a meaningful custom in daily life, as well as on some special occasion. Calligraphy refers to works using scripts, including both the Chinese-based characters and Latin-based one, in different styles.
During tet holiday, giving this form of writing is believed to bring the happiness and wealth to families. Also, the art of calligraphy is performed at some well-known festivals. Calligraphy is an indispensable part of Vietnamese culture. This type of artworks is printed and sold on many street’s pavements or in bookshops. Plus, Hue and Hanoi are the 2 most famous place for calligraphy.
Price: VND 200,000 – VND 500,000
13. Lanterns – A colorful symbol of luck, health, and happiness
Chinese or Japanese lanterns may seem familiar with you before, but Vietnamese ones are rather one of a kind. As Hoian used to be a trading port, there is inter-culture in this old town. Lantern, hence is a special product of Hoian ancient town. Once traveling there, you will be deeply impressed by the gorgeousity of lanterns hanging in front of almost every house to bring luck, health, and happiness.
Hoian lanterns are special for its design and durability. Normally, they are made of brocade or silk. They are in a variety of shapes such as circle, diamond, garlic,…, as well as the colors. It’s better to buy lanterns at night because you will be able to check how they are when lit up. Lanterns are really suitable to decorate your house. You can buy them at many local shops in Hoi An. There are also many available shops in other cities such as Hue, Hanoi. Price varies due to the difference in size, color, and material.
Price: VND 30,000 – VND 150,000
Where to buy Lanterns in Vietnam?
Where to buy Lanterns in Hanoi?
Lantern Lounge – 80 Ma May Street, Hang Buom Ward, Hoan Kiem District[/su_list]
Where to buy Lanterns in Hue?
Dong Ba Market – 2 Tran Hung Dao Street, Phu Hoa Ward, Hue City
Nguyen Dinh Chieu Walking Street – Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Phu Hoi Ward, Hue City
Where to buy Lanterns in Hoi An?
Ngoc Thu Lantern shop – 109 Tran Phu Street, Minh An Ward
Hoi An Lantern – 276/2 Cua Dai Street, Cam Chau Ward
Where to buy Lanterns in Ho Chi Minh City?
Ben Thanh Market – Le Loi Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
14. Dried fruit (O mai) – A special gift of Hanoians
O mai is a specialty of Hanoi, which is sugared or salted dried fruits, mixed with other spices to gain a harmonious taste. The most common fruits that are used to make O mai are apricot, plum, peach, kumquat, and mango. To many Hanoians, O mai is not only a kind of snack, but it is also a gift in some special occasions. Its flavour is the best when served with a cup of lotus tea.
This is the best gift for those enjoying dried fruits and want to have interesting tea breaks. There are a lot of O mai brands in Vietnam, but we highly recommend Hong Lam and Tien Thinh, which are the most famous and popular. These stores are available in every part of Hanoi and the price may vary, based on different types of fruits, as well as the brands.
Price: VND 40,000 – VND 150,000/box
Where to buy O mai?
Where to buy O mai Hong Lam?
11 Hang Duong Street, Hang Dao Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
143 Cau Giay Street, Quan Hoa Ward, Cau Giay District, Hanoi
82-84 Ham Nghi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh
398 Le Van Sy, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh
Where to buy O mai Tien Thinh?
21 Hang Duong Street, Hang Dao Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
25 Phan Dinh Phung Street, Quan Thanh Ward, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
15. Fish sauce – A staple sauce of Vietnamese cuisine
Fish sauce, which is a condiment fermented from salted fish, is a familiar and staple seasoning in Vietnamese cuisine. In Vietnam, you can easily buy fish sauce in any coastal areas, but Phu Quoc is known for its high quality sauce for a long time. Phu Quoc fish sauce, thus, may have a higher price than one in other areas.
However, carrying this kind of sauce may lead to some certain problems. You should beware because if there is a leak, you will have a funky gift coming off the luggage. Plus, it is not allowed to bring this kind of liquid on the plane. Hence, the best way is that you buy the product which is already exported to your country.
Price: VND 150,000 – VND 180,000/650 ml
16. Tea – A pure and fresh beverage of Vietnam
Tea is one of the favourite beverages of Vietnamese of all ages and it plays an important role in Vietnamese culture. Sipped at any periods of day, this drink always brings peace in mind to people, even they are in the busiest time. Normally, there are 3 main categories of tea: green tea (tra xanh), plain black tea (tra man) and scented tea (tra uop huong). While the young prefer scented tea, green tea and plain black tea are appreciated because people believe they bring a unique and pure taste, which combines both sweetness and bitterness. Having a tea talk with friends insides on a gloomy day, or just serve yourself a pot of tea, along with some cookies and favourite music can definitely make your day. In Vietnam, you can buy tea at many stores and markets, which can be easily found in any parts of the country.
Price: depending on different kinds of tea, ranging from VND 100,000 – VND 300,000/kilogram
17. Vietnamese coffee grounds and beans – A Highland’s specialty
If you are a fan of coffee, it will be a mistake not to try (and buy) Vietnam’s coffee beans and grounds because they are the popular things to buy in Vietnam. In fact, Vietnam has long been well-known for being one of the biggest coffee exporting countries in the world and its coffee is distinctive from any other kinds of coffee in the world. And as you may know, Buon Me Thuot’s coffee, which is produced in the Highland area, is such a well-known brand in the world’s coffee market.
You can find coffee anywhere throughout the country, from local markets, coffee shops, shopping malls to coffee companies. We suggest you buy directly at retail stores, or order at some coffee shops if you find theirs good. However, be careful when buying because there may be fake coffee. The price may vary due to different types and quality.
Price: VND 100,000 – VND 500,000/kilogram
Where to buy coffee grounds and beans in Vietnam?
Where to buy coffee grounds and beans in Hanoi?
Kim Lai Café – 99 Hang Buom Street, Hang Buom Ward, Hoan Kiem District
Café Mai – 79 Le Van Huu Street, Ngo Thi Nham Ward, Hai Ba Trung District
Punto Italia Café – 62 To Ngoc Van Street, Quang An Ward, Tay Ho District
Where to buy coffee grounds and beans in Hue?
Da Lat Chon Xua Café – 103 Nguyen Truong To Street, Vinh Ninh Ward, Hue City
Where to buy coffee grounds and beans in Hoi An?
Hoian Roastery – 135 Tran Phu Street, Minh An Ward
Cocobox Café Farm Shop – 94 Le Loi Street, Minh An Ward
Where to buy coffee grounds and beans in Ho Chi Minh City?
Ben Thanh Market – Le Loi Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
Trung Nguyen Café – G7 Counter, 207 Nguyen Van Troi Street, Ward 10, Phu Nhuan District
18. Coconut candy – A sweet treat from Southern Vietnam
Hailing from Ben Tre Province where coconut trees are so indigenous, coconut candy is such a sweet specialty. There are a lot of flavors such as the original one, pandan, durian, or chocolate. What makes this kind of candy so special and in the list of things to buy in Vietnam is not only its great taste, but also the edible rice thin wrapper around it. This is a great gift for friends and family members or who has sweet tooth. The price is rather cheap and it is sold both in Ben Tre and other provinces of the Mekong deltas as well.
Price: VND 30,000 – VND 60,000
19. Young Green Rice (Com) – A little rustic thing of Vietnam
Vietnamese young green rice, or Com,is a rustic specialty of Vietnam, especially Hanoi. It is a kind of sticky rice, which is freshly harvested and then toasted to obtain its delicate flavor. Normally, they are wrapped in banana leaves, which makes the this specailty green.
There are many ways to enjoy Com: you can eat it right away or used to cook other relating dishes such as ice-cream, soup, etc. Vong village, located on the outskirts of Hanoi, is the most well-known to produce Com. Indeed, Com from Vong village has a special place in Vietnamese’ hearts. Traveling to Hanoi in autumn, you can easily find this super fresh treat sold by vendors at many streets in Hanoi because this is the Com season.
Price: VND 260,000 – VND 300,000/kilogram
20. Pepper from Phu Quoc – The great “King of Spices”
For a long time, pepper has been considered as the “King of Spices”. In Vietnam, especially Phu Quoc, where this spice is produced on large scale, pepper is a choice, a familiar product for visitors to bring back home. Phu Quoc black pepper is such a famous brand for its quality. There are 3 kinds of pepper there, including the black pepper, the white, and the red one. In addition, this spice is rather cheap and easy to find.
Price: VND 60,000 – VND 100,000/kilogram
In brief, Vietnam will never disappoint travelers with its beauty. Once visit Vietnam, you will have a chance to live in its amazing mix-and-match cultural and traditional diversity. We hope you find the 20 mentioned-above things to buy in Vietnam interesting and useful when you are confused about what to buy. Each region, each destination has its own charm, hence, go exploring them and get yourself memorable things to bring back home. Have a nice trip!
The post 20 things to buy in Vietnam – 2018 travel guide appeared first on Journey On Air.
The chestnut (Castanea) group is a genus of eight or nine species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the beech family Fagaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
The name also refers to the edible nuts they produce.
Chestnuts belong to the family Fagaceae, which also includes oaks and beeches. The four main species are commonly known as European, Chinese, Japanese, and American chestnuts, some species called chinkapin or chinquapin:
European species sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) (also called "Spanish chestnut" in the US) is the only European species of chestnut, though it was successfully introduced to the Himalayas and other temperate parts of Asia. Unrelated but externally similar species of horse chestnut are abundant around Europe.
Asiatic species Castanea crenata (Japanese chestnut, Korean chestnut), Castanea mollissima (Chinese chestnut), Castanea davidii (China), Castanea henryi (Chinese chinkapin, also called Henry’s chestnut – China) and Castanea seguinii (also called Seguin’s chestnut – China)
American species These include Castanea dentata (American chestnut – Eastern states), Castanea pumila (American- or Allegheny chinkapin, also known as "dwarf chestnut" – Eastern states), Castanea alnifolia (Southern states), Castanea ashei (Southern states), Castanea floridana (Southern states) and Castanea paucispina (Southern states).
Chestnuts should not be confused with horse chestnuts (genus Aesculus), which are not related to Castanea and are named for producing nuts of similar appearance, but which are mildly poisonous to humans, nor should they be confused with water chestnut (family Cyperaceae), which are also unrelated to Castanea and are tubers of similar taste from an aquatic herbaceous plant. Other trees commonly mistaken for chestnut trees are the chestnut oak (Quercus prinus) and the American beech (Fagus grandifolia), both of which are also in Fagaceae.
The name "chestnut" is derived from an earlier English term "chesten nut", which descends from the Old French word chastain (Modern French, châtaigne).
The name Castanea is probably derived from the old name for the sweet chestnut, either in Latin or in Ancient Greek. Another possible source of the name is the town of Kastania in Thessaly, Greece; more probable, though, is that the town took its name from the most common tree growing around it. In the Mediterranean climate zone, chestnut trees are rarer in Greece because the chalky soil is not conducive to the tree’s growth. Kastania is located on one of the relatively few sedimentary or siliceous outcrops. They grow so abundantly there, their presence would have determined the place’s name. Still others take the name as coming from the Greek name of Sardis glans (Sardis acorn) – Sardis being the capital of Lydia, Asia Minor, from where the fruit had spread.
The name is cited twice in the King James Version of the Bible. In one instance, Jacob puts peeled twigs in the water troughs to promote healthy offspring of his livestock. Although it may indicate another tree, it indicates the fruit was a local staple food in the early 17th century.
These synonyms are or have been in use: Fagus Castanea (used by Linnaeus in first edition of Species Plantarum, 1753), Sardian nut, Jupiter’s nut, husked nut, and Spanish chestnut (U.S.).
Chestnut trees are of moderate growth rate (for the Chinese chestnut tree) to fast-growing for American and European species. Their mature heights vary from the smallest species of chinkapins, often shrubby, to the giant of past American forests, C. dentata that could reach 60 m. Between these extremes are found the Japanese chestnut (C. crenata) at 10 m average; followed by the Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima) at about 15 m, then the European chestnut (C. sativa) around 30 m.
The Chinese and more so the Japanese chestnuts are both often multileadered and wide-spreading, whereas European and especially American species tend to grow very erect when planted among others, with little tapering of their columnar trunks, which are firmly set and massive. When standing on their own, they spread on the sides and develop broad, rounded, dense crowns at maturity. The two latter’s foliage has striking yellow autumn colouring.
Its bark is smooth when young, of a vinous maroon or red-brown colour for the American chestnut, grey for the European chestnut. With age, American species’ bark becomes grey and darker, thick and deeply furrowed; the furrows run longitudinally, and tend to twist around the trunk as the tree ages; it sometimes reminds one of a large cable with twisted strands.
The leaves are simple, ovate or lanceolate, 10–30 cm long and 4–10 cm wide, with sharply pointed, widely spaced teeth, with shallow rounded sinuates between.
The flowers follow the leaves, appearing in late spring or early summer or into July. They are arranged in long catkins of two kinds, with both kinds being borne on every tree. Some catkins are made of only male flowers, which mature first. Each flower has eight stamens, or 10 to 12 for C. mollissima. The ripe pollen carries a heavy, sweet odour that some people find too sweet or unpleasant. Other catkins have these pollen-bearing flowers, but also carry near the twig from which these spring, small clusters of female or fruit-producing flowers. Two or three flowers together form a four-lobed prickly calybium, which ultimately grows completely together to make the brown hull, or husk, covering the fruits.
Chestnut flowers are not self-compatible, so two trees are required for pollination. All Castanea species readily hybridize with each other.
The fruit is contained in a spiny (very sharp) cupule 5–11 cm in diameter, also called "bur" or "burr". The burrs are often paired or clustered on the branch and contain one to seven nuts according to the different species, varieties, and cultivars. Around the time the fruits reach maturity, the burrs turn yellow-brown and split open in two or four sections. They can remain on the tree longer than they hold the fruit, but more often achieve complete opening and release the fruits only after having fallen on the ground; opening is partly due to soil humidity.
The chestnut fruit has a pointed end with a small tuft at its tip (called "flame" in Italian), and at the other end, a hilum – a pale brown attachment scar. In many varieties, the fruit is flattened on one or two sides. It has two skins. The first one is a hard, shiny, brown outer hull or husk, called the pericarpus; the industry calls this the "peel". Underneath the pericarpus is another, thinner skin, called the pellicle or episperm. The pellicle closely adheres to the seed itself, following the grooves usually present at the surface of the fruit. These grooves are of variable sizes and depths according to the species and variety.
The fruit inside these shows two cotyledons with a creamy-white flesh throughout, except in some varieties which show only one cotyledon, and whose episperm is only slightly or not intruded at all. Usually, these varieties have only one large fruit per burr, well rounded (no flat face) and which is called "marron" (marron de Lyon in France, marron di Mugello in Italy, or paragon).
Chestnut fruit have no epigeal dormancy and germinate right upon falling to the ground in the autumn, with the roots emerging from the seed right away and the leaves and stem the following spring. Because the seeds lack a coating or internal food supply, they lose viability soon after ripening and must be planted immediately.
The superior fruiting varieties among European chestnuts have good size, sweet taste, and easy-to-remove inner skins. American chestnuts are usually very small (around 5 g), but sweet-tasting with easy-to-remove pellicles. Some Japanese varieties have very large nuts (around 40 g), with typically difficult-to-remove pellicles. Chinese chestnut pellicles are usually easy to remove, and their sizes vary greatly according to the varieties, although usually smaller than the Japanese chestnut.
The sweet chestnut was introduced into Europe from Sardis, in Asia Minor; the fruit was then called the Sardian nut. It has been a staple food in southern Europe, Turkey, and southwestern and eastern Asia for millennia, largely replacing cereals where these would not grow well, if at all, in mountainous Mediterranean areas. Evidence of its cultivation by man is found since around 2000 BC. Alexander the Great and the Romans planted chestnut trees across Europe while on their various campaigns. A Greek army is said to have survived their retreat from Asia Minor in 401–399 BC thanks to their stores of chestnuts. Ancient Greeks, such as Dioscorides and Galen, wrote of chestnuts to comment on their medicinal properties – and of the flatulence induced by eating too much of it. To the early Christians, chestnuts symbolized chastity. Until the introduction of the potato, whole forest-dwelling communities which had scarce access to wheat flour relied on chestnuts as their main source of carbohydrates. In some parts of Italy, a cake made of chestnuts is used as a substitute for potatoes. In 1583, Charles Estienne and Jean Liébault wrote, "an infinity of people live on nothing else but (the chestnut)". In 1802, an Italian agronomist said of Tuscany that "the fruit of the chestnut tree is practically the sole subsistence of our highlanders", while in 1879 it was said that it almost exclusively fed whole populations for half the year, as "a temporary but complete substitution for cereals".
Boundary records compiled in the reign of John already showed the famous Tortworth Chestnut in South Gloucestershire, as a landmark; and it was also known by the same name of "Great Chestnut of Tortworth" in the days of Stephen. This tree measured over 15 m in circumference at 1.5 m from the ground in 1720. The chestnut forests on Mount Etna contain many trees that are said to be even larger. Chestnut trees particularly flourish in the Mediterranean basin. In 1584, the governor of Genua, which dominated Corsica, ordered all the farmers and landowners to plant four trees yearly, among which a chestnut tree – plus olive, fig and mulberry trees (this assumedly lasted until the end of Genoese rule over Corsica in 1729). Many communities owe their origin and former richness to the ensuing chestnut woods. In France, the marron glacé, a candied chestnut involving 16 different processes in a typically French cooking style, is always served at Christmas and New Year’s time. In Modena, Italy, they are soaked in wine before roasting and serving, and are also traditionally eaten on Saint Simon’s Day in Tuscany. It is traditional to eat roasted chestnuts in Portugal on St. Martin’s Day.
Their popularity declined during the last few centuries, partly due to their reputation of "food for poor people". Many people did not want to take chestnut bread as "bread" because chestnut flour does not rise. Some slandered chestnut products in such words as the bread which "gives a sallow complexion" written in 1770, or in 1841 "this kind of mortar which is called a soup". The last decades’ worldwide renewal may have profited from the huge reforestation efforts started in the 1930s in the United States to establish varieties of C. sativa which may be resistant to chestnut blight, as well as to relieve the strain on cereal supplies.
The main region in Italy for chestnut production is the Mugello region; in 1996, the European Community granted the fruit Protected Geographic Indication (equivalent to the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status to the Mugello sweet chestnut. It is markedly sweet, peels easily, is not excessively floury or astringent, and has notes of vanilla, hazelnut, and, more subtly, fresh bread. There is no unpleasant aroma, such as yeast, fungus, mold or paper, which sometimes occur with other chestnuts. The main regions in France for chestnut production are the départements of Ardèche, with the famous "Châtaigne d’Ardèche" (A.O.C), of the Var (Eastern Provence), of the Cévennes (Gard and Lozère départements) and of the Lyon region. France annually produces over 1,000 metric tons, but still imports about 8,000 metric tons, mainly from Italy.
In Portugal’s archipelago of Madeira, chestnut liquor is a traditional beverage, and it is gaining popularity with the tourists and in continental Portugal.
Always served as part of the New Year menu in Japan, chestnuts represent both success and hard times – mastery and strength. The Japanese chestnut (kuri) was in cultivation before rice and the Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima) possibly for 2,000 to 6,000 years.
During British colonial rule in the mid-1700s to 1947, the sweet chestnut (C. sativa) was widely introduced in the temperate parts of the Indian Subcontinent, mainly in the lower-to-middle Himalayas. They are widely found in British-founded hill stations in northern India, and to a lesser extent in Bhutan and Nepal. They are mainly used as an ornamental tree and are found in almost all British-founded botanical gardens and official governmental compounds (such as larger official residences) in temperate parts of the Indian Subcontinent.
China has about 300 chestnut cultivars. Moreover, the Dandong chestnut (belonging to the Japanese chestnut C. crenata) is a major cultivar in Liaoning Province.
American Indians were eating the American chestnut species, mainly C. dentata and some others, long before European immigrants introduced their stock to America, and before the arrival of chestnut blight. In some places, such as the Appalachian Mountains, one-quarter of hardwoods were chestnuts. Mature trees often grew straight and branch-free for 15 m, up to 100 feet, averaging up to 5 ft in diameter. For three centuries, most barns and homes east of the Mississippi River were made from it. In 1911, the food book The Grocer’s Encyclopedia noted that a cannery in Holland included in its "vegetables-and-meat" ready-cooked combinations, a "chestnuts and sausages" casserole besides the more classic "beef and onions" and "green peas and veal". This celebrated the chestnut culture that would bring whole villages out in the woods for three weeks each autumn (and keep them busy all winter), and deplored the lack of food diversity in the United States’s shop shelves.
Soon after that, though, the American chestnuts were nearly wiped out by chestnut blight. The discovery of the blight fungus on some Asian chestnut trees planted on Long Island, New York, was made public in 1904. Within 40 years, the nearly four billion-strong American chestnut population in North America was devastated; only a few clumps of trees remained in Michigan, Wisconsin, California and the Pacific Northwest. Due to disease, American chestnut wood almost disappeared from the market for decades, although quantities can still be obtained as reclaimed lumber. Today, they only survive as single trees separated from any others (very rare), and as living stumps, or "stools", with only a few growing enough shoots to produce seeds shortly before dying. This is just enough to preserve the genetic material used to engineer an American chestnut tree with the minimal necessary genetic input from any of the disease-immune Asiatic species. Efforts started in the 1930s are still ongoing to repopulate the country with these trees, in Massachusetts and many places elsewhere in the United States. In the 1970s, geneticist Charles Burnham began back-breeding Asian chestnut into American chestnut populations to confer blight resistance with the minimum difference in genes. In the 1950s, the Dunstan chestnut was developed in Greensboro, N.C., and constitutes the majority of blight-free chestnuts produced in the United States annually.
Today, the nut’s demand outstrips supply. The United States imported 4,056 metric tons of European in-shell chestnuts worth $10 million in 2007. The U.S. chestnut industry is in its infancy, producing less than 1% of total world production. Since the mid-20th century, most of the US imports are from Southern Italy, with the large, meaty, and richly flavored Sicilian chestnuts being considered among the best quality for bulk sale and supermarket retail. Some imports come from Portugal and France. The next two largest sources of imports are China and South Korea. The French varieties of marrons are highly favoured and sold at high prices in gourmet shops.
A study of the sector in 2005 found that US producers are mainly part-timers diversifying an existing agricultural business, or hobbyists. Another recent study indicates that investment in a new plantation takes 13 years to break even, at least within the current Australian market. Starting a small-scale operation requires a relatively low initial investment; this is a factor in the small size of the present production operations, with half of them being within 40,000 m2. Another predetermining factor in the small productivity of the sector is that most orchards have been created less than 10 years ago, so have young trees which are as now barely entering commercial production. Assuming a 10 kilograms yield for a 10-year-old tree is a reliable conservative estimate, though some exceptional specimens of that age have yielded 100 kilograms. So, most producers earn less than $5,000 per year, with a third of the total not having sold anything so far.
Moreover, the plantings have so far been mostly of Chinese species, but the products are not readily available. The American Chestnut Foundation recommends waiting a little while more before large-scale planting. This is because it and its associates (the American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation and many others from education, research and industry sectors contributing to the program) are at the last stages of developing a variety that is as close as possible to the American chestnut, while having incorporated the blight-resistant gene of the Asiatic species. Considering the additional advantage that chestnut trees can be easily grown organically, and assuming the development of brands in the market, it has been asserted that, everything else being equal, home-grown products would reach higher prices than imports, the high volume of which indicates a market with expanding prospects. As of 2008, the price for chestnuts sold fresh in the shell ranges from $3.30/kg wholesale to about $11/kg retail, depending mainly on the size.
AUSTRALIA – NEW ZEALAND
The Australian gold rush of the 1850s and 1860s led to the first recorded plantings of European chestnut trees, brought in from Europe by the first settlers. Along the years, most chestnut tree plantations were C. sativa stock, which is still the dominant species. Some of these are still standing today. Some trees in northern Victoria are around 120 years old and up to 60 m tall.
Chestnuts grow well in southwest Western Australia, which has cold winters and warm to hot summers. As of 2008, the country has just under 350 growers, annually producing around 1,200 metric tons of chestnuts, of which 80% come from northeast Victoria. The produce is mostly sold to the domestic fresh fruit market. Chestnuts are now slowly gaining popularity in Australia. A considerable increase in production is expected in the next 10 years, due to the increase in commercial plantings during the last 15 to 25 years. By far, the most common species in Australia is the European chestnut, but small numbers of the other species, as well as some hybrids have been planted.
The Japanese chestnut (C. crenata) does well in wet and humid weather and in hot summers (about 30 °C); and was introduced to New Zealand in the early 1900s, more so in the upper North Island region.
Chestnuts depart from the norm for culinary nuts in that they have very little protein or fat, their calories coming chiefly from carbohydrates. Fresh chestnut fruits have about 180 calories (800 kJ) per 100 grams of edible parts, which is much lower than walnuts, almonds, other nuts and dried fruit (about 600 kcal/100 g). Chestnuts contain very little fat, mostly unsaturated, and no gluten.
Their carbohydrate content compares with that of wheat and rice; chestnuts have twice as much starch as the potato on an as-is basis. In addition, chestnuts contain about 8% of various sugars, mainly sucrose, glucose, fructose, and, in a lesser amount, stachyose and raffinose, which are fermented in the lower gut, producing gas. In some areas, sweet chestnut trees are called "the bread tree". When chestnuts are just starting to ripen, the fruit is mostly starch and is very firm under finger pressure from the high water content. As the chestnuts ripen, the starch is slowly converted into sugars, and moisture content also starts decreasing. Upon pressing the chestnut, a slight ‘give’ can be felt; the hull is not so tense, and space occurs between it and the flesh of the fruit. They are the only "nuts" that contain vitamin C, with about 40 mg per 100 g of raw product, which is about 65% of the U.S. recommended daily intake. The amount of vitamin C decreases by about 40% after heating. Fresh chestnuts contain about 52% water by weight, which evaporates relatively quickly during storage; they can lose as much as 1% of weight in one day at 20 °C and 70% relative humidity.
Tannin is contained in the bark as well as in the wood, leaves, and seed husks. The husks contain 10–13% tannin.
The fruit can be peeled and eaten raw, but it can be somewhat astringent, especially if the pellicle is not removed.
Another method of eating the fruit involves roasting, which does not require peeling. Roasting requires scoring the fruit beforehand to prevent explosion of the fruit due to expansion. Once cooked, its texture is slightly similar to that of a baked potato, with a delicate, sweet, and nutty flavour. This method of preparation is popular in many countries, where the scored chestnuts may be cooked mixed with a little sugar.
Chestnuts can be dried and milled into flour, which can then be used to prepare breads, cakes, pies, pancakes, pastas, polenta (known in Corsica as pulenda), or used as thickener for stews, soups, and sauces. Chestnut cake may be prepared using chestnut flour. In Corsica, the flour is fried into doughnut-like fritters called fritelli and made into necci, pattoni, castagnacci, and cialdi. The flour can be light beige like that from Castagniccia, or darker in other regions. It is a good solution for long storage of a nutritious food. Chestnut bread can stay fresh as long as two weeks.
The nuts can also be eaten candied, boiled, steamed, deep-fried, grilled, or roasted in sweet or savoury recipes. They can be used to stuff vegetables, poultry, fowl, and other edibles. They are available fresh, dried, ground, or canned (whole or in puree).
Candied chestnuts (whole chestnuts candied in sugar syrup, then iced) are sold under the French name marrons glacés or Turkish name kestane şekeri ("sugared chestnuts"). They appeared in France in the 16th century. Towards the end of 19th century, Lyon went into a recession with the collapse of the textile market, notably silk. Clément Faugier, a civil engineer, was looking for a way to revitalize the regional economy. In 1882 at Privas, he invented the technology to make marrons glacés on an industrial scale (although a great number of the more than 20 necessary steps from harvest to the finished product are still accomplished manually). Chestnuts are picked in autumn, and candied from the start of the following summer for the ensuing Christmas. Thus, the marrons glacés eaten at Christmas are those picked the year before.
In Hungarian cuisine, cooked chestnuts are puréed, mixed with sugar (and usually rum), forced through a ricer, and topped with whipped cream to make a dessert called gesztenyepüré (chestnut purée). In Swiss cuisine, a similar dish made with kirsch and butter is called vermicelles. A French version is known as "Mont Blanc".
A fine granular sugar can be obtained from the fermentation of the juice, as well as a beer; the roasted fruit provides a coffee substitute. Parmentier, who among other things was a famous potato promoter, extracted sugar from chestnuts and sent a chestnut sugarloaf weighing several pounds to the Academy of Lyon. The continental blockade following shortly after (1806–1814) increased the research into developing chestnuts as a source of sugar, but Napoleon chose beets instead.
Sweet chestnuts are not easy to peel when cold. One kilogram of untainted chestnuts yields about 700 g of shelled chestnuts.
Chestnut is of the same family as oak, and likewise its wood contains many tannins. This renders the wood very durable, gives it excellent natural outdoor resistance, and saves the need for other protection treatment. It also corrodes iron slowly, although copper, brass, or stainless metals are not affected.
Chestnut timber is decorative. Light brown in color, it is sometimes confused with oak wood. The two woods’ textures are similar. When in a growing stage, with very little sap wood, a chestnut tree contains more timber of a durable quality than an oak of the same dimensions. Young chestnut wood has proved more durable than oak for woodwork that has to be partly in the ground, such as stakes and fences.
After most growth is achieved, older chestnut timber tends to split and warp when harvested. The timber becomes neither as hard nor as strong as oak. The American chestnut C. dentata served as an important source of lumber, because that species has long, unbranched trunks. In Britain, chestnut was formerly used indiscriminately with oak for the construction of houses, millwork, and household furniture. It grows so freely in Britain that it was long considered a truly native species, partly because the roof of Westminster Hall and the Parliament House of Edinburgh were mistakenly thought to be constructed of chestnut wood. Chestnut wood, though, loses much of its durability when the tree is more than 50 years old, and despite the local chestnut’s quick growth rate, the timber used for these two buildings is considerably larger than a 50-year-old chestnut’s girth. It has been proven that the roofs of these buildings are actually Durmast oak, which closely resembles chestnut in grain and color.
It is therefore uncommon to find large pieces of chestnut in building structures, but it has always been highly valued for small outdoor furniture pieces, fencing, cladding (shingles) for covering buildings, and pit-props, for which durability is an important factor. In Italy, chestnut is also used to make barrels used for aging balsamic vinegar and some alcoholic beverages, such as whisky or lambic beer. Of note, the famous 18th-century "berles" in the French Cévennes are cupboards cut directly from the hollowed trunk.
Fabric can be starched with chestnut meal. Linen cloth can be whitened with chestnut meal. The leaves and the skins (husk and pellicle) of the fruits provide a hair shampoo.
Hydrolysable chestnut tannins can be used for partial phenol substitution in phenolic resin adhesives production and also for direct use as resin.
Chestnut extracts were evaluated through several biochemical assays showing evident antioxidant properties.
Chestnut buds have been listed as one of the 38 substances used to prepare Bach flower remedies, a kind of alternative medicine promoted for its effect on health. However, according to Cancer Research UK, "there is no scientific evidence to prove that flower remedies can control, cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer".
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This is a fishing boat building enterprise, part of the Kim Bong Carpentry Village on the touristless island of Cam Kim, Vietnam. Everything is made by hand here, and it takes about 6-9 months to make a boat.
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Wood carving is a form of woodworking by means of a cutting tool (knife) in one hand or a chisel by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, resulting in a wooden figure or figurine, or in the sculptural ornamentation of a wooden object. The phrase may also refer to the finished product, from individual sculptures to hand-worked mouldings composing part of a tracery.
The making of sculpture in wood has been extremely widely practised, but survives much less well than the other main materials such as stone and bronze, as it is vulnerable to decay, insect damage, and fire. It therefore forms an important hidden element in the art history of many cultures. Outdoor wood sculptures do not last long in most parts of the world, so it is still unknown how the totem pole tradition developed. Many of the most important sculptures of China and Japan, in particular, are in wood, and so are the great majority of African sculpture and that of Oceania and other regions. Wood is light and can take very fine detail so it is highly suitable for masks and other sculpture intended to be worn or carried. It is also much easier to work on than stone.
Some of the finest extant examples of early European wood carving are from the Middle Ages in Germany, Russia, Italy and France, where the typical themes of that era were Christian iconography. In England, many complete examples remain from the 16th and 17th century, where oak was the preferred medium.
METHODS AND STYLES
Pattern, Blocking, Detailing, Surfacing, and Smoothening
BASIC TOOL SET
– the carving knife: a specialized knife used to pare, cut, and smooth wood.
– the gouge: a tool with a curved cutting edge used in a variety of forms and sizes for carving hollows, rounds and sweeping curves.
– the coping saw: a small saw that is used to cut off chunks of wood at once.
– the chisel: large and small, whose straight cutting edge is used for lines and cleaning up flat surfaces.
– the V-tool: used for parting, and in certain classes of flat work for emphasizing lines.
– the U-Gauge: a specialized deep gouge with a U-shaped cutting edge.
– sharpening equipment, such as various stones and a strop: necessary for maintaining edges.
A special screw for fixing work to the workbench, and a mallet, complete the carvers kit, though other tools, both specialized and adapted, are often used, such as a router for bringing grounds to a uniform level, bent gouges and bent chisels for cutting hollows too deep for the ordinary tool.
WOOD CARVING PROCESS
The nature of the wood being carved limits the scope of the carver in that wood is not equally strong in all directions: it is an anisotropic material. The direction in which wood is strongest is called "grain" (grain may be straight, interlocked, wavy or fiddleback, etc.). It is smart to arrange the more delicate parts of a design along the grain instead of across it. Often, however, a "line of best fit" is instead employed, since a design may have multiple weak points in different directions, or orientation of these along the grain would necessitate carving detail on end grain, (which is considerably more difficult). Carving blanks are also sometimes assembled, as with carousel horses, out of many smaller boards, and in this way, one can orient different areas of a carving in the most logical way, both for the carving process and for durability. Less commonly, this same principle is used in solid pieces of wood, where the fork of two branches is utilized for its divergent grain, or a branch off of a larger log is carved into a beak (this was the technique employed for traditional Welsh shepherd’s crooks, and some Native American adze handles). The failure to appreciate these primary rules may constantly be seen in damaged work, when it will be noticed that, whereas tendrils, tips of birds beaks, etc., arranged across the grain have been broken away, similar details designed more in harmony with the growth of the wood and not too deeply undercut remain intact.
Probably the two most common woods used for carving in North America are basswood (aka tilia or lime) and tupelo; both are hardwoods that are relatively easy to work with. Chestnut, butternut, oak, American walnut, mahogany and teak are also very good woods; while for fine work Italian walnut, sycamore maple, apple, pear, box or plum, are usually chosen. Decoration that is to be painted and of not too delicate a nature is often carved in pine, which is relatively soft and inexpensive.
A wood carver begins a new carving by selecting a chunk of wood the approximate size and shape of the figure he or she wishes to create or if the carving is to be large, several pieces of wood may be laminated together to create the required size. The type of wood is important. Hardwoods are more difficult to shape but have greater luster and longevity. Softer woods may be easier to carve but are more prone to damage. Any wood can be carved but they all have different qualities and characteristics. The choice will depend on the requirements of carving being done: for example, a detailed figure would need a wood with a fine grain and very little figure as a strong figure can interfere with ‘reading’ fine detail.
Once the sculptor has selected their wood, he or she begins a general shaping process using gouges of various sizes. The gouge is a curved blade that can remove large portions of wood smoothly. For harder woods, the sculptor may use gouges sharpened with stronger bevels, about 35 degrees, and a mallet similar to a stone carver’s. The terms gouge and chisel are open to confusion. Correctly, a gouge is a tool with a curved cross-section and a chisel is a tool with a flat cross-section. However, professional carvers tend to refer to them all as ‘chisels’. Smaller sculptures may require the woodcarver to use a knife, and larger pieces might require the use of a saw. No matter what wood is selected or tool used, the wood sculptor must always carve either across or with the grain of the wood, never against the grain.
Once the general shape is made, the carver may use a variety of tools for creating details. For example, a “veiner” or “fluter” can be used to make deep gouges into the surface, or a “v-tool” for making fine lines or decorative cuts. Once the finer details have been added, the woodcarver finishes the surface. The method chosen depends on the required quality of the surface finish. The texture left by shallow gouges gives ‘life’ to the carving’s surface and many carvers prefer this ‘tooled’ finish. If a completely smooth surface is required general smoothing can be done with tools such as “rasps,” which are flat-bladed tools with a surface of pointed teeth. “Rifflers” are similar to rasps, but smaller, usually double-ended, and of various shapes for working in folds or crevasses. The finer polishing is done with abrasive paper. Large grained paper with a rougher surface is used first, with the sculptor then using finer grained paper that can make the surface of the sculpture slick to the touch.
After the carving and finishing is completed, the artist may seal & colour the wood with a variety of natural oils, such as walnut or linseed oil which protects the wood from dirt and moisture. Oil also imparts a sheen to the wood which, by reflecting light, helps the observer ‘read’ the form. Carvers seldom use gloss varnish as it creates too shiny a surface, which reflects so much light it can confuse the form; carvers refer to this as ‘the toffee apple effect’. Objects made of wood are frequently finished with a layer of wax, which protects the wood and gives a soft lustrous sheen. A wax finish (e.g. shoe polish) is comparatively fragile though and only suitable for indoor carvings.
The making of decoys and fish carving are two of the artistic traditions that use wood carvings.
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Asian female craftsman making the traditional hat in the old traditional house in Inle lake village, Shan State, Myanmar, traditional artist concept
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