Is Maple Good For Carving? + Other Best Woods for Carving

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Selecting an appropriate timber for your wood carving endeavors is vital for crafting both beautiful and resilient pieces. Although maple is a commonly chosen material, a lack of knowledge about its distinct characteristics can lead to complications over time.

To help you determine if maple is good for carving, I’m here to explore the wood’s properties to help you create beautiful, long-lasting carvings.

Is Maple Ideal for Wood Carving? Is it Hard to Carve?

Maple is a beautiful wood for carving, and it is commonly used by both beginner and experienced woodcarvers.

It is a hardwood, which is thick and sturdy, making it an ideal material for the job. However, maple’s hardness can make it slightly challenging to carve, especially for beginners. There are two types of maple wood commonly used for carving: soft maple and hard maple.

characteristics of maple wood

Soft maple is an affordable wood that is relatively easy to carve with hand tools. This soft wood has a beautiful pattern that can add character to any carving project. However, it’s more rugged and durable than hard maple wood.

On the other hand, hard maple wood is a hard wood that’s difficult to carve with hand tools, but its high density makes it a great wood for power carving or power tools. Due to its durability, hard maple wood is often used for kitchen utensils like cutting boards and spoons.

Soft and hard maple wood can be used for relief carving, chainsaw carving, and power carving. Chainsaw carving is a popular technique for carving maple wood because it quickly removes large wood chunks.

Different Maple Wood Types

White Maple

White maple, also referred to as hard maple, is widely popular for various woodworking projects. Its light color and fine texture make it an excellent choice for crafting intricate carvings and detailed designs.

Birds Eye Maple

Birds eye maple is a rare and highly sought-after type of maple wood with a distinctive pattern resembling tiny bird’s eyes. This type of maple is excellent for creating small carvings and is highly prized for its unique appearance.

axing maple wood

Curly Maple

Curly maple is another good wood with a wavy or curly pattern that adds depth and character to the finished work. This type of maple is ideal for creating furniture, bowls, and other decorative items.

Quilted Maple

Quilted maple is an excellent wood with a unique pattern resembling a quilt. This type of maple is highly prized for its special appearance and is ideal for creating high-end furnishings and decorative items.

Advantages of Maple Wood for Carving

Attractive Appearance

Maple wood has a beautiful grain pattern that varies depending on the different woods or types of maple used. The wood’s light color and fine surface make it ideal for creating intricate and detailed carvings.


These lumbers are thick hardwoods that are durable and withstand regular wear and tear. Hard maple is an excellent choice for creating furniture and other items that require durability.


Maple wood is food-safe, making it an excellent choice for creating kitchen utensils and other food-related items. The wood’s dense nature also makes it resistant to bacteria, making it an ideal material for creating cutting boards and other food preparation surfaces.

Maple wood burl


Maple trees will allow you to carve them with limited tools and even with your bare hands. Hardwoods like hard maple and black maple can be hard to hand carve, but they produce beautiful results.


Maple wood is a sustainable, readily available material and easy to source. This makes it an environmentally friendly choice for woodcarvers.

Ease of Maintenance

Maple wood is easy to maintain and can be sanded, polished, or oiled to restore its natural shine and luster. This makes it an excellent material for creating items that require regular maintenance, such as furniture and kitchen utensils.

Disadvantages When Carving Maple Wood

Prone to Cracks

Maple wood is susceptible to cracking, particularly if it dries too rapidly or faces extreme temperature changes. This poses a considerable challenge in maple carving, as the cracks can mar the appearance of the piece and potentially lead to its disintegration.

Prone to Fading

The color of the wood can become less vibrant and more muted as time goes on. This can be incredibly frustrating if you have put a lot of time and effort into carving a piece only to have it lose its color over time.

While you can stain this type of wood to achieve the color you desire, the question is, does maple wood absorb stain well? And what’s the best stains for maple wood? Find out next!

sawing maple wood

Requires Sharp Tools

Finally, it’s worth noting that this wood type requires sharp tools. This is because maple wood is a dense hardwood and carving through it can be difficult if your wood carving tools are sharp enough.

If you try to carve maple wood with dull tools, you may have a rough finish or even damage the wood.

Techniques For Carving Maple + Finishing Tips

There are several techniques and finishing tips to keep in mind to ensure the best results. First and foremost, using the appropriate carving tools for the job is essential.

Maple wood is dense and hard, requiring sharp tools and a steady hand to carve it effectively. Hand tools are often the best choice for maple wood carving, as they offer greater control over the carving process.

The pattern of maple wood is generally straight, and it is essential to carve in the direction of the grain to prevent the wood from splitting or chipping. This is especially important when carving intricate details or working with delicate wood areas.

techniques on wood carving

Regarding finishing, maple wood is beautiful and can be finished in various ways. Some prefer to leave the natural wood grain visible, while others prefer a painted or stained finish.

When finishing maple wood, it is essential to use a quality finish to protect it from moisture and other environmental elements.

Is Maple Wood Good for Chainsaw and Hand Carving?

Maple wood is versatile and can be carved using various techniques, including chainsaw carving and hand carving. When using a chainsaw to carve maple, it is essential to use a type of chainsaw that is appropriate for the job and to follow all safety precautions.

Hand-carving maple requires patience and skill, but it can be a rewarding process that results in beautiful maple wood carvings.

What Do You Mean By “Stable” Wood? Does it Matter for Chainsaw Carving?

Stable wood refers to wood that is less prone to cracking or warping over time. When it comes to chainsaw carving, stable wood is necessary because it allows for greater control over the carving process and reduces the risk of wood splitting or cracking.

axing maple piece wood

Maple wood is commonly recognized for its stability, rendering it a top-notch option for chainsaw carving projects.

How About Spoon Carving?

Maple wood is an excellent choice for spoon carving because it is a hardwood that can withstand the wear and tear of frequent use.

Additionally, maple wood has a fine texture and beautiful straight-grain pattern, making it a popular choice for kitchen accessories and equipment [1] as well as other carved items.

Are Sugar or Soft Maple Recommended for Carving?

Sugar maple and soft maple are both excellent choices for carving, although they have slightly different characteristics.

Sugar maple or hard maple is a hardwood with a fine grain and beautiful appearance, making it an ideal choice for carving projects that require a high level of detail. Soft maple, such as silver maple, is a bit softer than sugar maple, but soft maple is still durable for carving.

soft maple wood

What’s the Ideal Wood To Carve? + Maple Wood Alternatives

When it comes to wood carving, the ideal wood is durable, has a fine surface, and is easy to work with. While maple wood is an excellent choice for carving, many other kinds, including walnut, cherry, and oak, are suitable for carving.

Each has unique characteristics and advantages, so choosing the wood that best suits your carving needs is essential.


So, is maple good for carving? While maple may not be the first choice for some carvers due to its hardness, it can still be an excellent wood for carving.

Determining the best wood for carving depends on various factors, such as the project’s size, intricacy, and the carver’s skill level, so don’t hesitate to explore other options and experiment to find the best wood for your projects.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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