Harvesting / Working with Ficus (Benjamina) Wood ?

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Forum topic by JacksonDogCarvesToo posted 12-24-2014 05:28 PM 2713 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 1448 days

12-24-2014 05:28 PM

Topic tags/keywords: ficus harvesting carving question

There is a ficus which was a houseplant in the NE US, then was planted in FL and is growing too fast/impinging on sewer lines and must be removed. I was thinking of carving a nice walking stick / cane from it’s a good size and has an intertwined midsection so it might look good.

Has anyone worked with Ficus before? What’s it like?

Anyone ever harvested Ficus? How should I dig the tree up / dry the wood? Note: I would like to save the root ball for use much in the way a shallelagh does.


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1578 posts in 2130 days

#1 posted 12-24-2014 06:15 PM

I have never worked with Ficus but I have some experience with canes. So here is my suggestion to dig up the tree:
First trim off all the branches so you have the main trunk – be sure to leave the trunk a lot longer than you think you will need for a cane or walking stick. Next get down on the ground and carefully dig away the dirt around the base with a small garden trowel. Use some hand pruners to trim the roots as you uncover them, leaving a rootball. Working slowly will give you an idea of the size and shape of the root ball and let you see any particularly interesting shapes. Eventually you will cut the main root and then you can lift the whole thing out of the ground. Wash off the dirt with a garden hose and let it drip dry. Once it is cleaned off you might want to trim more roots off, then I usually stand them upside-down (roots up) against a wall to dry in the sun for a few weeks. As it dries turn it occasionally (to keep it from warping) and lean on it to test the strength of the wood. Depending on how thick it is it and how humid your weather is, it might take several months to completely dry – I usually let my canes sit outside all summer then bring them into the garage in Fall to dry for a full year or more before I start working on them. Some types of wood get stronger as they dry others don’t. When the wood is ready to start working it test it again by leaning on it to see how sturdy the shaft is – then trim a little at a time until it is the right length that feels good to hold in your hand and still take your weight without bending. Good luck and keep us posted.

And Happy Holidays!

-- Leafherder

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11 posts in 1448 days

#2 posted 12-24-2014 09:01 PM

Thanks for the information, I’ll take pics along the way.

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11 posts in 1448 days

#3 posted 08-18-2015 01:53 AM

Figured I should give an update:
I harvested the Ficus, “painted” the exterior of the twisted trunks and root “ball” (not really a ball) with a watered down solution of wood glue, and have dried it out for the past 8 months. This past weekend I decided to get the wood out from storage and start cleaning it up a bit before deciding how to move forward with making this into a cane/staff/walking stick.

Some observations on said Ficus wood now that it has thoroughly dried:

In short, it is fantastic. It is a relatively hard, almost-white, wood which is much stronger than I had ever imagined it could be. It is also very very light. When I say relatively hard, I mean to say it seems harder than pine or red cedar (see my other project, red cedar end table from stump), but not as hard (obviously) as oaks, etc. When I say light, it feels light as Balsa but not brittle.

At first I was a little disappointed that the root “ball” is not an actual ball like that found in, say, saplings used for Shillelaghs. The roots are more akin to that of a mangrove; several root/trunks going straight down and intertwining. However, I have decided that since the wood is so light, and yet so strong, I can make a cane which will have 4 points at the bottom (think root ball at bottom instead of root ball at top). Hopefully, if done right, it will stand on its’ own like a modern 4-leg walking support cane… but with a little more class.

I look forward to any comments on how best to turn this into a cane/staff/walking stick as I will be making this for my mom (67) to use regularly.

Please see the attached images of the ficus in its’ current state.

(PS – Ignore the duct tape, I was experimenting to see if I twisted branches while supple, prior to drying, if they would stay that way when dry. Spoiler alert: They do! Also, it’s currently like 5.5’ long, so the curvy-ness will get cut to ~3.5’ for my relatively short Ma to use.)


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11 posts in 1448 days

#4 posted 08-18-2015 01:56 AM

Also, in case anyone wanted to see the red cedar end table I carved with a chainsaw and chisels out of an old stump here it is:

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