What is the best wood for carving?
Wood comes in many species and it is important to know each woods’ individual characteristics. Each wood has different texture and wood qualities that dictate how the wood will respond to wood carving.
Wood carving can be an incredibly rewarding and positive hobby, and it eventually can even become a career. It is one of the oldest crafts in the world and is both functional and artistically beautiful. Nearly every wood on earth can be used for carving, which gives the craft a huge abundance to choose from, and at times that can be overwhelming.
Basswood is the most popular choice wood for beginners. This is a white wood grows throughout Europe and the Americas. It’s been used in woodworking for centuries. Basswood has almost no grain and is very soft, making it ideal for new woodworkers. It is also popular in lower cost musical instruments, making up the bodies of some woodwinds, and electric basses and guitars. Basswood blanks can be found easily and are a great wood to start learning to carve on, since it is malleable and inexpensive.
Aspen is another white wood that is quite popular among woodworkers. It’s stronger than basswood but is still quite soft, so it is fairly easy to use for carving. Aspen is readily available and inexpensive.
Butternut is another good wood for beginner wood carving. It is browner than basswood or aspen and has a nice grain. It is related to walnut but is lighter in color and can be carved easier. Like black walnut, butternut polishes quite nicely, and is also a good choice for furniture. It is a much softer wood, so this wood is also friendly for beginners. Be prepared for wormholes when working with butternut.
Black walnut is a popular choice. It is more expensive than basswood, aspen and basswood. It should be carved using sharp tools and a mallet for the best results. Walnut has a rich color and grain that has made it popular for a wide range of products, including furniture and gunstocks.
Oak is also a popular wood for carving, with a range of features that make it almost ideal. It is a strong and sturdy wood. The grain of oak is very defined and is also a favorite woods used for making furniture.
The type of carving you do will influence the type of wood which is best to use. A power carver will often use different wood than a hand tool carver. With power you can more easily carve a hard wood and get great detail while the same hard wood might be very frustrating for a hand carver. So choose accordingly.