What is the Best Wood for Carving?

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Wood carving is a specialized form of woodworking that involves shaping wood into various objects. This is done by hand and can be considered an art. With any art, certain materials work best. For wood carving, the type of wood you use can easily make or break your project. That’s why it’s vital to select the right one.

Basswood is the best and one of the most used and well-liked types of wood for carving, especially for beginners. However, you have numerous options to choose from when selecting your desired material. We’ve provided our top 10 best types of wood to help you decide.

Best wood for carving for beginners

Each type of wood offers its own benefits, and it’s important to understand these features to ensure you pick the right one for your desired carving project. Here are some of the most common:

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Fruitwoods

Woods from fruit trees (like apricot, pear, cherry, and apple) are fine-grained. These materials are excellent for making carved spoons, dishes, and bowls. Additionally, this wood features a close grain, which is great for functional waterproof vessels like urns, pots, and vases. However, you want to carve this wood when it’s still quite green, as it can become harder and crack when it dries.

European Lime

European lime works well for professional and amateur carvers alike. This type of wood offers a pale white or cream color while its subtle growth rings make it an exceptional choice when carving small details into this material. You can easily create some intricate carving work with sharp tools.

Oak

It’s no secret that oak is an all-time favorite in the woodworking community. This is because of its durability, strength, and vibrant color. It’s equipped with a fine uniform grain that stands out when polished, which is due to its close pores. Even though this wood offers unmatched quality, it’s known for being relatively difficult to carve because of its hard exterior.

White Pine

Pine is considered a difficult wood to carve and is typically used as lumbar for furniture making and construction. However, white pine is a softer variety and is more effortless to carve.

It also does a good job of retaining its shape while being a popular choice for chainsaw carving. Nonetheless, you want this wood to be a little green when you begin carving. Additionally, keeping it wet during this process offers the best results. 

Mahogany

This type of wood features a medium hardness and is suitable for numerous carving techniques. Mahogany always manages to bring satisfactory results with whatever technique you use. The reddish color offers an attractive finish while it’s mainly used as a base material.

Basswood

As we have mentioned above, basswood is known as being one of the most common types of wood for carving. The various features incorporated in this wood make it the best option for beginners. It’s soft and forgiving, meaning that there’s less wear and tear on your carving tools.

Butternut

Butternut wood is also called oil nut or white walnut. It boasts a vibrant tan color and a soft texture, making it ideal for beginners. The texture is straight-grained and soft, which is perfect for carving with a gouge. When using this wood, you don’t need to worry about cracking. It also offers an exceptional appearance that takes well to stains.

Black Walnut

The dark color and rich grain of black walnut makes it a popular option for woodworkers. Although this is a favorite, it’s difficult to carve because of its hard surface and tendency to crack. Nonetheless, you’re bound to see this type of material in relief carving but it certainly isn’t a suitable option for beginners. You’re required to use good quality tools and ensure each chisel, knife, or gouge is well-maintained and sharpened to reduce the strain on your hands and wrists.

Balsa

Balsa wood is another great option for beginners because it’s a lightweight softwood, making it suitable for whittling. You can easily conduct crafting and modeling on this material while gaining exceptional results. However, balsa is known to splinter easily. Thus, you should sand the edges to avoid this.

Aspen

If you’re searching for another softwood to carve with, aspen is a suitable choice. It’s extremely soft and is equipped with a Janka rating that’s smoother than basswood. It boasts a fine-grain and straight material that doesn’t split easily. However, you need to be aware of your blades while you’re carving. This is because the material tends to fuzz if you use blunt tools.

Wrapping It Up

You can find suitable carving wood in various colors and textures. However, these varied materials behave differently, which is why you should already know what type of carving project you would like to perform so that you can select a suitable material. Nonetheless, beginners can gain the best results when using softwoods, like balsa, butternut, and basswood. Good luck and happy carving!

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Graham Robson
Graham Robson

In the world of wood carving, your wooden project starts with you. Using the right kit can be seen as an extension of your existing skills and abilities that you're required to build over time.