Never begin sanding on the wood of any carving project until you have completely finished carving it. The small particles of abrasive that lodge in the grain can dull your carving tools fast, and can quickly destroy all the benefits of using good sharpening equipment and techniques.
Termites and other pest can cause expensive damage. Here’s what to look for: sawdust-like accumulations of frass indicate the presence of termites. An exterminator can spray or set traps to eliminate the infestation. A clean hole without cobwebs or leaves indicates an access hole for rodents. An exterminator can set a trap for them, too.