What’s the Best Type of Wood for Carving? 8 Woods Suitable for Carving

Wood carving is the oldest craft in the world. The wood-carved patterns are very useful and they look beautiful also. Wood crafting is very rewarding as a profession and very satisfying as a hobby.

Neatly carved patterns give a royal look to the product. 

Whether you are a beginner or you are experienced with wood carving work, the selection of the right wood is very important for a perfect shape with less strain on the carving tool as well as on the hand. 

While creating any wood carving pattern the knowledge of the type of wood is mandatory to avoid any inconvenience. 

If you have no idea about the wood type and try to make any product, you may not get satisfactory results. Your efforts and time would be wasted and you may feel frustrated.

Different types of wood are used to create different carving patterns. Some woods are so soft that they easily get cut, on the other hand, some woods such as pine are very knotty that need a little extra effort to carve.

There are various types of woods given by nature. We only have to observe the characteristics and behavior of them for proper selection. Each wood has different qualities, different texture and moreover has a different reaction while carving them.

Mostly, every wood can be used for carving. It means a huge amount of raw material is available for you. The only thing you have to do is to select appropriate wood for a specific carving pattern.

 But, How to Select Wood for Carving?

There are some important factors for choosing wood for wood carving. These are:

Usage of Wood

The prime factor for wood selection is its usage. What is the purpose of the wood? Which type of design pattern you are going to carve from this wood? 

If you are carving kitchen utensils such as bowl, spoon, and any other product you will need hardwood that also absorbs moisture. Along with that, it must be durable and strong, so that it does not break easily. 

But all the hardwoods are not good for kitchen utensils e.g. Oak or Ash. Although both of them absorb the moisture very well yet they get stained in contact with the oil.  

If you intend to select the wood for Whittling, you can choose hardwood as well as softwood to carve such decorative pieces.

Life of Carving Tool

The selection of wrong wood leads to deterioration of the sharpness of the blade of carving tools. This is the major issue that woodcarvers face many times due to wrong selection of wood.

From the durability point of view, it is a known fact that softwood is the most suitable wood for increasing the lifespan of the carving tool. 

Softwood like Basswood or Pine very easily creates carving patterns putting very little strain on the carving tool. 

On the other hand, hardwood like white Oak is very difficult to carve. Sometimes carving tools may get damaged while carving such a hardwood. It can even harm the user also if not handled properly. 

Wood Grain Direction

How to Use a Wood Lathe

Woodgrain’s direction is also one of the important factors for fine finishing. It is even more important when you are carving hardwood. 

It is suggested that to strike the blade in woodgrain’s direction. Because of this, you would save both, time and effort. Moreover, you will have a comfortable carving experience. 

In the case of softwood, it does not matter whether you are carving across or along the wood grain. The final result will be excellent.

Sometimes it is better to carve the wood across the wood grain to get a refined and polished finish.

Ensure Safety

You should ensure that the wood you are using to carve is safe. It is because some woods are toxic and can cause allergic reactions to your body.

Some woodcarvers experienced red patches or rashes on their hands while whittling. However, softwoods like Basswood, Pine, etc are safe for carving. Eploy the best router lift if you have to.

Avoid Strong Smelled Wood

It is recommended not to choose a wood that has a strong odor. Some woods produce bad odor so it is very difficult to work on them. It can even cause a headache or nausea.

The selection of these woods is also not appropriate if you are doing woodcarving for commercial use.

Avoid Defective Woodblock

It is better to examine the wood thoroughly before starting the carving. Inspect raw woodblock for any defects otherwise while carving you won’t get desired results and feel dissatisfied. This is true for CNC wood routers as well.

Types of Wood for Wood Carving

Woodcarvers whether they are entrepreneurs or hobbyists, always try to select proper wood that provides desired results in less time and with little effort. Here are some woods that are tested by professional woodcarver and proven best suitable for carving.

1. Basswood

Basswood is a white softwood available all over Europe and America. It has been used for woodcarving for centuries. It is the most useful and easiest wood for carving. 

Basswood is the best wood for beginners. It is very soft to cut with less strain on the carving tool. 

This wood is useful in every carving technique whether it is whittling art or detailing through relief carving. On this wood, you can easily work across as well as along the wood grain. But carving along with the grain is always preferable for better results. 

Basswoods are more popular in making low-cost instruments, bodies of some woodwinds, electric basses, guitars, etc. 

It can be found easily and is also a great wood for beginners.  

2. Fruit Wood

Fruit woods are wood from fruit trees such as Pear, Cherry, and Apple, etc. These woods are fine-grained so it is very useful for making kitchen utensils such as a bowl, spoon, etc.

It has a close-pored texture which is helpful to make leak-proof vessels. It is better to carve this wood when it is on the greener side. The dryness of the wood is prone to create cracks while carving.

3. Oak

Oak is a hardwood. It is one of the strongest wood types and very popular for its durability. Oak is ideal for making furniture. It possesses a rich color and stark grain that adds attractiveness to your work.

As Oak is a hardwood with closed pores it is very useful in crafting barrels. Oak wooden barrels are widely used to keep whiskey or wine for fermentation for years.

4. Black Walnut

Like Oak, Black Walnut is also hardwood. It is more expensive than basswood. But because of its rich grain and color woodcarvers use this wood for Relief carving. 

If you choose this wood to carve you should carve using a sharp tool and a mallet for better results. Keep the tool sharp to avoid unnecessary strain on the tool as well as on hands.

Black Walnut wood is also very useful in crafting furniture and gun barrels.

5. White Pine

Pine is very difficult to carve but white pine is an exception in this case. Pinewood is also very useful for carving furniture.

It is also one of the best woods for Chainsaw carving as it can remain undamaged due to the strength of the chainsaw. The green side of this wood is soft and easily manageable. Keep the wood wet for best results.

6. Balsa

Balsa is a soft lightweight wood that is good for beginners. It is best suitable for Whittling. Mostly it is useful in crafting, modeling, and dollhouses.

But due to its versatility, you can also carve ornaments, statues with this wood. You can easily chip Balsa wood. So, it is highly recommended to sand the edges to protect the wood.


ASPEN is also a type of softwood. Aspen is very easily available and is inexpensive. The woodcarvers use this wood for carving many design patterns easily and quickly. Though this wood is softer yet it is stronger.

8. Butternut

As its name suggests, it is also a softwood and stands closer to Basswood. It is available in North America. Butternut is a good choice for beginners as well as for experienced woodcarvers. 

It is very soft and straight grained. Woodcarvers use this for Relief carving or in making sculptures. 

The color of Butternut wood is browner than Basswood. Like Black Walnut, the Butternut polishes nicely and is also used for crafting furniture. 

The only drawback with Butternut wood is the fungus that grows on the Butternut tree. You will find wormholes when working with this wood. 

Final Words

Finally, we can say that every wood has different texture quality and characteristics. As far as beginners’ choice is concerned Basswood or Butternut wood is the best choice to start carving.

Butternut, Basswood, and Aspen are soft and lightweight to carve any design pattern easily with less strain on hands as well as on carving tools, like the wood carving dremel bits

If you want harder wood to make a long-lasting durable project such as furniture, cabinet, etc. then Oak and Black Walnut is a good choice.

So, the selection of the wood totally depends upon the usage of the wood. The right selection of wood could reduce a lot of effort in preparing a wood product and give wonderful wood-crafting results.

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