Without the right type of wood, wood carving becomes a struggle. Some wood types are too soft while others are too knotty that they are nearly impossible to carve. So what is the best wood for carving?
Generally speaking, the best wood for carving is wood sourced from leafy hardwoods. Hardwoods tend to absorb less moisture, making them ideal for carving things such as bowls.
More importantly, hardwoods have a dense grain structure, which is friendlier to carve. Softwood such as pine and conifers are not recommended.
Below we have compiled a list of different types of wood that are good for carving with reasons why.
What Is The Best Wood For Carving And Why? Is There Other Options?
Basswood is the best wood for beginners as it is soft and forgiving. You can use basswood to carve spoons or caricature. One of its best properties is that it is odorless and easy to color; also, basswood is ideal for relief carving.
The acacia tree and shrub are both suitable for wood carving. Wood from these two is excellent for handcrafting. The wood is hard and strong, but its best property is its texture and color pattern. Wood from this tree tends to be either yellow, greenish-yellow, or olive-yellow.
Also, it is water-resistant. When using acacia, use paraffin wax to finish your project.
Wood from hawthorn is expensive but solid. The wood is a joy to carve across the grain. Mature wood develops a pinkish tint, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Nonetheless, this wood is ideal for carving intricate carvings.
Next on the list is beechwood. This wood is strong and heavy with a straight and tight grain. What makes it a good option for wood carving is its texture. It has an even texture with a light creamy color and a natural gloss. You may notice a brown or pinkish shade.
If you want a wood carving with a natural finish, we recommend going for cherry. Wood from this fruit tree has a beautiful reddish-brown color. It has a wavy grain that reveals a beautiful grain pattern when carved. This wood is preferred for carving tiny sculptures with a chainsaw or other tools.
Another fruit tree whose wood you can use for carving is the pear. Wood from this tree is easy to carve and cut into different shapes. The wood has a yellowish or sometimes white color that results in beautiful carvings.
Oak, particularly white oak, can be challenging to carve if you do not have sharp enough tools like these powerful chainsaws. However, it is an excellent wood for carving and is known for its beautiful stark grain. This is because items made from oak are long-lasting, strong, and resistant to decay and fungus. Oak has a light brown, yellow, or ash gray color.
Birch is another strong wood that is used for wood carving. With a fine grain and a light color, you can make beautiful products using this wood with natural shining. Birch works best when dried as it tends to warp and crack when not dried properly.
The apple tree has the same properties as the pear. However, it is a bit harder than a pear. You will not have any problems finding wood from this tree. Wood from this tree can be light or have a dark shade.
Great for making utensils such as spoons, plum is not the most comfortable woods to deal with. However, its vibrant color makes it worthwhile. It features colorful wood threads with brown and pink shades.
Mulberry is another type of wood that is great for wood carving. It has the same properties as other fruit trees. It is a solid wood that is also resistant to insects. It has different color shades from yellowish-white to golden brown.
Cottonwood is similar to basswood and is thus easy to carve. This wood is used to make a wide array of items, from toys to crates and boxes. It has a pale brown or light yellow color that gives it a nice texture. Some cottonwood can also have a white color.
Butternut is a more versatile wood and can be used for both general carving and sculpting. Like basswood, it is soft, making it easy to transform into different shapes. This wood has a darker brownish color than basswood, though.
Butternut polishes nicely, making it ideal for making furniture as well. This type of wood is also relatively inexpensive. When working with butternut, be prepared for wormholes.
Aspen is known more for making functional objects than sculptures and ornamental carvings. This is because it is more challenging than basswood and butternut. Aspen is a whitewood similar to pine and is used in the making of furniture.
While it is more challenging than both butternut and basswood, it is still relatively soft. But just like its two counterparts, aspen is inexpensive and readily available.
Black walnut is another versatile wood used to carve a wide variety of items, including gun stocks and furniture. The problem with black walnut is that it’s a bit costlier than most. Also, it is a hardwood that is harder than the others on this list.
So what makes it the right choice for carving? It has a rich grain and a beautiful color. Thus it produces aesthetically pleasing finished products.
The best pine for carving is white pine. With a bit more stubborn grain, it closely matches the properties of basswood. It is worth noting that it produces chipping and splitting when being carved. With patience and practice, you can learn to control this wood, though.
Where To Get Wood For Carving?
Now that we have seen the best woods for carving, let’s move to the next topic; where to get wood for carving.
If you do not want to spend money on your wood carving, make friends with an arborist. Arborists are frequently felling or pruning trees for different reasons. You can find lovely branches to use for carving wood.
For those leaving near parks, park wardens often have piles of freshly cut branches or logs. Thus making friends with them is another way of accessing wood for carving. Obviously, you will have to spend some time looking for the perfect log or branch.
The alternative to this is to purchase wood blocks for carving. These come ready for use and often have a smooth finish, making your work easier. So, where to buy carving woodblocks?
Woodblocks for carving can be bought from most hardware and woodcraft stores. Also, you can buy woodblocks online from the likes of Amazon.
Different types of wood have different properties that make them either ideal or not ideal for carving. However, all the recommended woods in this article are great for carving. Both professionals and beginners can use them.