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

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Wood carving is a popular choice for recreational activity for some people. The thing is, not all regular woods are durable enough for handling 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’s find out!

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

Oak makes excellent shapes and designs but can be hard for wood carving due to its porous structure, hardness, and susceptibilities when relief carving. Beginners in woodworking can only make accurate cuts and achieve a smooth surface with the proper tools.

Advantages of Oak Wood for Carving

Safe and Non-Toxic

Oak is perfect and safe for carved projects, as its property is food safe and non-toxic. In fact, you may use it to carve baby toys and not worry about any health concerns.

Beautiful Hue

Oak wood makes your living room much more elegant, thanks to its natural beauty. You have many options for colors, like white oak and red oak.

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.

Our woodworkers 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

Before anything else, you must never forget that you cannot stop wood from splitting — oakwoods are no exception. However, like chainsaw carving using basswood, splits are avoidable and predictable for front areas.

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 we don’t recommend 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.


So, is oak good for carving? After reading all the details, you’ll know the answer is a big yes! Although hardwoods like oak can be challenging to work with, it’s the best wood with a natural elegance and sturdiness that can last longer.

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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