I have to say as well that even though I love the look of natural wood grain, I don't like it being so heavy on my carvings. This is as I said before a softer wood than bass at least the batch I got is. You have to pay close attention to the grain when carving or it will split along the fault line of the grain. This can be an issue when you are trying to cut a curved area into the wood. I found that making smaller cuts at times on the edge of the grain can give you the edge you need for this.
Didn't get a chance yesterday so will make sure I put the blades on the strop and clean them up some before I do any more work. What I have always heard is that you should use your strop after every full hour of carving, don't know about you but I am not good at putting a carving down to strop my tools.
Happy trails and
Carpe diem carving