big hoss gets carved

Sneak Peek

Two years ago I introduced “Big Hoss” the Water-elm to you. Last year I chopped the trunk so I could improve taper. Now it’s time to do some carving on the chop.

Big Hoss Gets Carved

Here’s another look at “Big Hoss” the Water-elm from May of 2019. It had grown out very well after coming home in 2018, and I needed to chop the trunk to improve taper. That left me with a nice angle cut, but frankly those look unnatural until you do something to them.


First let’s check in to see where we are now with this very large specimen. The leader has been allowed to grow wild, except for a little wire in the beginning to put some shape in it. This has promoted thickening at the transition point, which is absolutely vital to making this a believable bonsai down the road. I don’t want to trim the leader yet – it’s about five feet long, but the good news is Water-elms put on taper without much coaxing so the leader can be chopped back whenever I want.

Here’s a closeup. The cut is flat, and that’s boring and unnatural, so the solution (almost always) is to carve it. Water-elms do not have the healing properties of other elm species, so while this wound will roll over to some degree it will never close up completely. That’s okay, however. All I need to do is carve it and manage the dead wood. Lime sulfur and PC Petrifier will do the trick.

You probably also noticed this chop lower down. Also needs carving.

I make no bones about preferring hand carving tools … but sometimes you need 35,000 rpm to get the job done.

That went fast. There are two keys to your first round of carving an angled trunk chop: one, don’t go too deep, you’ll be carving again down the road and you can’t uncarve if you go too far; and two, make sure your carved area will shed water.

Yes, it’s time to go from 35,000 revolutions per minute to about 10 gouges per minute.

Now I’m in deep enough for this session. The wood was mostly nice and solid, except for a small area to the right. I got out the punky stuff and will treat with lime sulfur and then PC Petrifier.

This is another thing to bear in mind as you carve on your trees. You will hit spots that are soft while not appearing to be that way. It’s normal. When you do, carve out as much of the punky stuff as is prudent to do, keeping in mind the area needs to shed water, and use PC Petrifier to harden what you’ve exposed. The stuff works great!

I used the same process for this chop, the Dremel followed by the hand tool. You can see that here too I found some soft wood. Whenever you can, carve down to living tissue.

Here’s an example of finding the living tissue.

One more spot out at the end of this sub-trunk/heavy branch needed carving. The hand tool was all I needed for this one.

And this is the result for today. Those spots on the tree that didn’t look so natural are greatly improved. Once the leader has put on another diameter’s girth, the callus will be rolling over that trunk chop that I carved and it will begin to take on the look of something that happened all on its own. When you carve a tree, that’s always your ultimate goal.

Let me know what you think of today’s work. And if you’d like to take over the development of Big Hoss from this point, it’s available at our Shop. The trunk on this tree measures 5″ across; it’s a significant and outstanding specimen Water-elm.