Is Oak Good for Carving? + Other Wood Types for Carving

If you buy something through our posts, we may get a small commission. Read more here.

Share It

Wood carving is a favored pastime for many individuals. However, it’s important to note that not all common types of wood possess the durability required to withstand the demands of wood carving.

However, some woods, like oak, can endure the pressure of wood sculpting. So, does this mean that oak is good for carving? Let me clarify this, once and for all!

Is Oak Hard to Carve? Is it for Beginner Carvers?

Oak can be sculpted into beautiful shapes and patterns, but its porous nature, hardness, and vulnerabilities during relief carving can make it a challenging material for wood carving. 

Novices in woodworking need the right tools to make precise cuts and attain a smooth finish on this type of wood.

Advantages of Oak Wood for Carving

Safe and Non-Toxic

Oak is an excellent and safe option for carved projects due to its food-safe and non-toxic properties. In fact, it can be utilized to craft baby toys without any concerns about potential health risks.

Beautiful Hue

Adding oak wood to your living room enhances its elegance, thanks to the inherent natural beauty of this material. You’ll have a variety of color options to choose from, including white oak and red oak, each offering unique characteristics.

holding oak wood

Finishes Easily

Most other woods are stubborn and sometimes require special finishing techniques and carving tools. It’s quite the opposite with oak.

You may start applying beeswax, Danish oil, or linseed oil for additional protection to your old and new oak carvings. Its porous structure will make finishing oil penetrate other woods quicker.


Oak wood is an example of hardwood. It’s well-known as one of the strongest woods. Regarding long-term durability, oakwood creations are second to none. Some of our oak wood-carved projects are still stable as new.

Holds Detail Well

You can count on your oak wood carvings in terms of holding details. White oak is a dense wood that can support complex and minute details in your chainsaw carving.

Disadvantages of Using Oak Wood for Carving

As a beginner woodcarver, you must know the following disadvantages of using oak timber as your primary component.

Preparing oak wood


You must be aware of the challenges of oak carving. Due to its hard nature, you will need various tools to carve, control, and get your desired design and texture.


Oak is subject to warping. This increases the risk of its structure breaking, making it more demanding to make stronger cuts to scale your wood project.

Porous Structure

It is hard to keep the oakwood’s surface smooth because of its porous nature. This may result in your next project looking rough and unfinished.

Broken Tools

Given the hardness of oakwoods, it can damage your tools. The worst case is when knives snap at you when working. This may also pose a risk to others when they fly off at a higher speed.

Is Oak Wood Ideal for Hand Carving?

A hand carver will undoubtedly find placing deep cuts and complex shapes in oak wood challenging, especially if you don’t handle the wood properly.

carving red oak knife handle

The blade spillage can injure a hand carver due to oak wood’s rugged and dense nature. So proper handling of the tools is the key to not getting hurt.

I highly recommend adding extra protection, like a thumb guard and safety gloves, to your next project. After all, it’s more complicated than engraving basswood or balsa wood

Is Oak Wood Best for Carving Spoons?

Generally speaking, there are better choices of wood to carve spoons. To be fair, oak wood is excellent for furniture and flooring but not preferred for spoon carving or making kitchen utensils.

Aside from that, it has a porous structure that absorbs liquids quickly, emitting an unpleasant smell and staining. Wooden oak spoons can be a probable breeding ground for germs and bacteria [1].

Lastly, an oakwood spoon displays its age faster than a softer wood. Over time, it stains, and its pores get more significant. These various factors and features make them less aesthetically appealing to carve kitchen utensils.

wood spoon carving

How About Oak for Chainsaw Carving?

Choosing the appropriate wood makes all the difference if you decide to work on a chainsaw carving project. Most woodworkers prefer working on any hardwood, like oakwood.

However, you must note that oak is a tough timber meaning chainsaw carving can be tedious and tiring. Rushing oakwood carvings, particularly a chainsaw project, ruins the wood and your mood.

Oakwood Carving Ideas

Hardwoods like oak wood are primarily effective in sculpting extensive projects. Furthermore, this wood is excellent for exterior and interior use. Take a look at some ideas for the best oak wood carvings:

Tips & Tricks for Carving Oak Wood

With adequate methods and techniques, oak wood detailing significantly increases your sculpture’s style. According to woodworkers, here are some tips to help you finish oakwood carvings:

plaining oak wood piece

Look for Splits as the Oak Chainsaw Carving Dries

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that preventing wood from splitting entirely is impossible, and this holds true for oak as well. 

Nonetheless, similar to when you’re carving with basswood using a chainsaw, it is possible to anticipate and avoid splits in the front areas of your work.

Use a Sharpened Chainsaw When Carving Oak

Chainsaw carvers should know that their sharpening skills are vital, especially when dealing with tougher timbers that often blunt the edges.

Oak Green Chainsaw Carving

You can chainsaw an oak when it’s green. It’s a creative way of overcoming the high hardness of the lumber when it dries. This process will make your woodwork activity faster and much lighter.

Best Alternatives to Oakwood

Although oak is good for carving, several different types of timber can also work in wood carving, such as:


Alder is one of the softest hardwoods. While it’s recommended using alder for whittling, you can use it for other wood projects using various hand tools. Further, alder wood is pliable with a stunningly beautiful color.

measuring alder wood


Some woodworking experts prefer softwood due to their color, texture, and straight-grain structure. Additionally, softer lumbers are beginner-friendly as they blend effortlessly with a gorgeous appeal.


As mentioned in the previous section, it’s now recommended to use oak wood for spoon carving. You may use beech to scoop flour, sugar, and salt.


Basswood is ideal for novice carvers because of its fine, uniform structure. It’s also relatively cheaper and easier to find, unlike other types. It’s also lightweight with few grains.

Black Walnut

Black walnut has a lovely dark hue with a rich grain imprint. It’s durable yet light enough to cut smoothly. Moreover, walnuts have a beautiful pattern, adding style for spoon carving and other kitchen tools.


Butternut has darker streaks with a light-colored wood shade. It could be an excellent alternative to oak wood due to its hardness, yet you can easily curve it. However, butternut can be tricky to find because a lumber yard often does not have them in stock.

carving butternut wood


Cherry wood can be the most visually appealing among the listed wood alternatives because of its darker streaks and lovely red shade. Cherry wood is also robust to handle intricate designs, which makes it pricey.

Pine (White Pine)

This wood is a popular pick when dealing with a chainsaw project. It has a light beige color and can retain shape and style adequately.

Read More


Thus, the question remains: is oak suitable for carving? Having absorbed all the pertinent information, you can confidently affirm that the answer is a resounding yes! 

While hardwoods such as oak may present some challenges in handling, they stand out as the premier choice, offering a natural grace and robustness that ensures longevity.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles
Join our community on facebook and get 3 woodworking plans for free!

Join Our Woodworking Community on Facebook And Get 3 Woodworking Plans for Free!