What is the Best Wood for Carving? — Discover Different Types of Wood for Your Projects (2023)

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Woodcarving seems to be a challenging task. This negative opinion makes aspiring woodcarvers anxious when starting. It demands time and energy, and when you are not using the right wood for the task, it can be even more difficult and frustrating. 

Given the importance of choosing appropriate types of wood, our team shares the best wood for carving so you’ll learn this art in no time. 

Best Types of Wood for Carving

1. Basswood

One of the best wood for carving that can be used to create projects is basswood. Some even claim that this is the Holy Grail for woodcarvers and even for beginners. So when our team discovered that this wood type is by far the most popular choice of wood commonly used by woodcarvers, we weren’t surprised. 

Basswood is a good woodworking material. It is easy to carve with. It gives off an aesthetic finish that would make wood designs look better. When we tried to carve a simple utensil design to test its softness, we were surprised to discover that it almost had no grain detail. Basswood is also odorless, so it’s very comfortable to work with. 

2. Oak

Oak is also one of the finest woods. This sturdy wood features very defined wood grains, making it ideal for making furniture. If you’d use this wood type, we suggest using power tools instead of hand tools. Since oak is considered a hardwood, it would be easier to carve designs using a more advanced tool. 

Oak wood

This wood is highly waterproof and moisture absorbent, so it’s an excellent choice in making barrels and wine caskets. Oak is also durable and aesthetically-pleasing among experienced woodworkers. However, this wood isn’t applicable to be used for ornamental pieces.

3. Butternut

Butternut is another excellent wood for your wood carvings. It features a lighter color than walnut, maple, and mahogany but has a browner color than lime, aspen or basswood. Butternut also has a nice grain detail, making it an ideal choice for carving. This softwood takes stains well, so it’s an excellent option for producing kitchen items like spoons. Butternut is also suitable for whittling. 

4. Black Walnut

Black Walnut is also considered a hardwood like maple. However, this type of wood is more popular among woodcarvers. It is most commonly used for whittling because it features natural straight wood grain patterns. The direction of the grain patterns serves as a guide for an easier cutting process. As a result, this wood is one of the best for creating desks.

Black Walnut also comes with an excellent finish when carved, so it saves you time because you won’t have to do any post-processing after carving it. This wood is also waterproof and only produces a tolerable odor, ideal for any wood carving.

You might want to check out: The Best Wood Types for Making Bows 

Black Walnut

Factors to Consider In Choosing & Preparing Wood

Wood carving is one of the oldest types of art. When choosing and preparing wood for your woodworking projects, you need to consider a few essential factors. 

The experience and ability to choose the type of wood for your carving projects is as important as choosing your carving tools or instruments. Especially, if you are a beginner trying wood carving projects for the very first time. 

Carvers use wood carving equipment or instruments such as a special carving knife, a gouge with a curved cutting edge, a straight-edge chisel, mallets and hammers. 

And some carvers prefer to use the best electric wood carving tools.  

Determine the benefits of the wood

It is always best to choose the finest wood for your carvings. It is always best to determine the essential features and benefits it could give a carver. We suggest that you find durable, waterproof wood, moisture absorbent, and has a defined grain like maple wood.

These features must always match the project you intend to use them for. It is recommended to determine if you are going to use power tools or hand carving equipment. Also, consider the materials you intend to use for your wood projects. For instance, if you intend to use oil, don’t use oak because it could stain the wood.

hands on wooden table

Determine the items you intend to carve

Furniture is different from decorative pieces. If woodworkers intend to produce furniture or sculptures, we suggest that you use hardwoods. However, if a carver intends to carve decorative pieces and other small items like spoons, it is always best to use softwood.   

Also, consider the types of tools that you would be using in carving your project. Choose a wood type that suits your intended design. Also, consider its color and other characteristics like growth rings. You can choose woods with white, reddish-brown, dark brown, or light brown.

Ensure the wood’s safety

If you’re a beginner, you shouldn’t only focus on the wood’s aesthetic finish or wood grains. We also suggest that you ensure that your wood choice is safe. Most woods emit strong odors, which could pose a health hazard. You need to consider the quality of the woods. If it shows an exterior defect, it could also have an internal defect. 

Wood has both advantages and drawbacks as a sculpture medium. Its fibrous strength can be carved more thinly and precisely than stone or animal bone. For large compositions, two or more pieces of wood may be carved then joined. Hardwoods are more difficult to sculpt but possess greater luster and endurance. At the same time, softwoods are easier to shape but less durable [1].

walnut wood


Is Pine a good wood for carving?

White Pine is a good wood for beginner carvers because it is soft. White pine also has a soft, straight grain texture, ideal for relief carving, whittling, and carving in the round. While most Pinewoods are so soft that they could only resist force less than 500 pounds, a Radiata Pine Wood can resist up to 710 pounds. Would you like to learn more about Pinewoods? Read our article to determine whether pine is a hardwood or a softwood.

What is the easiest wood to carve?

The easiest wood to carve is the basswood. It is the easiest wood to work with for carvers because of its fine grain texture. No wonder it’s a popular choice for your carvings. Like aspen, you can easily produce domestic utensils and decorative pieces using these malleable and inexpensive woods.

How long should wood dry before carving?

Before carving, you should air-dry the carving wood per inch of wood thickness for at least a year. Allowing the woods to air-dry in the prescribed time increases its usefulness and durability. Depending on the thickness, texture of the grain and wood species, the air-drying process must be done properly.

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After completing extensive research in finding the finest wood for carving, our team discovered that wood choice is crucial in determining its ease of use. There are several carving wood choices that you may consider, like white oak, aspen, basswood, limewood, black walnut, and butternut. We suggest that you determine your wood choice by determining the projects you intend to carve.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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