Carving wood has been around for centuries, and it’s still one of the most popular ways to spend your free time today. You can carve many types of wood, but some are better than others, depending on your skill level and what you want to carve. With the help of this guide, you’ll learn which type of Wood to Carve for Beginners so you can start carving as soon as possible.
Types of Wood Available
When it comes to wood, a few different types make ideal candidates for carving projects, including softwoods, hardwoods, and artificial woods like balsa wood. The type of wood you use will significantly impact your overall success with your project, so it’s essential to understand each one before deciding on one that works best for you. Here’s a breakdown of each type of wood and its characteristics:
The best and most crucial characteristic of hardwood is that it’s hard; otherwise, you wouldn’t want to carve it! Hardwoods are easier to carve than softwoods because they have many more natural structures within their grain. In other words, there are many small ridges and grooves in hardwoods that serve as handles for your carving tool.
Softwoods like pine don’t have these same characteristics, so they require more effort on your part. When discussing wood art choices, you will often hear carvers say that harder is better. You should be fine if you don’t pick something completely impenetrable like ironbark or Manchester oak! And if you want to work with natural hardwoods, remember to wear protective gear.
Softwood refers to coniferous trees and shrubs with needle-like leaves or needles, unlike broad-leaved trees with broad leaves. Softwoods typically have resin canals in their stems and are well-known for their pleasant aroma when working with them.
Humans have widely used softwood throughout history due to its versatility, ease of shaping, and low cost compared to hardwoods. In addition to woodworking, softwood has also been used for many other purposes, such as matches and cabinet doors!
However, softwoods are rarely on the list of the easiest woods to carve when it comes to carving. This limited availability is due to the grain’s nature, which does not tolerate being abused by a carving tool. But this does not mean they can’t be carved, and some carvers have specialized in carving only softwoods. So there are species of softwood that are still considered easy to carve.
What is the best wood for carving?
However, the type of wood you choose will affect how easily it can be carved. Some types of wood are much better suited to carving than others.
Here are eight types that we consider the Best carving wood for beginners: We have grouped them into hardwood and softwood, but they are randomly selected.
This timber is one of the easiest woods to carve, especially for beginners and weekend hobbyists.
Basswood Provides Consistency
Unlike many types of wood, basswood is not generally susceptible to end grain checking or cracking. This makes it a good choice for beginning carvers. Its fibrous appearance and fine texture make basswood easy to carve with or without tools.
It’s also one of the cheapest carving woods around and works well with hand-carving tools like gouges and V-tools, and power carvers. Basswood paints beautifully when stained, lacquered, or painted with an airbrush.
Features that make Basswood the easiest to carve
- Basswood is light and soft, making it easier to carve into intricate designs.
- It also doesn’t splinter as quickly as other woods, making it safe to handle without wearing gloves or using sandpaper to smooth out rough areas.
- It’s simple to work with its texture, easy to color, and odorless.
- You can find basswood almost anywhere at an affordable price.
The main downside to using basswood is that it tends to be soft and doesn’t hold detail very well once carved. If you want a lot of detail in your project, you might consider using another type of wood instead. But if you want something inexpensive that won’t fall apart on you after just a few cuts, then basswood could be your best bet.
2. Yellow Cedar
You can carve into cedar and create pieces that will rival anything you see in shops, no matter your skill level.
Features of Yellow Cedar
- Cedar is a softwood with a medium texture that’s easy to shape with tools or even without them—use your fingers.
- It’s lightweight and slightly coarse, holding details well but can also be easily sanded if you mess up.
- Best of all, yellow cedar has a bright, long-lasting color that looks beautiful when stained or left natural.
3. Pine (white pine)
White pine is one of the most popular softwoods.
Features that make white pine easy to carve
- Pine is a softer wood, so it requires minor sanding and filling before painting or sealing, which means you’ll spend less time on your project than if you had chosen a more complex type of wood like oak or mahogany.
- It has thick grains, which makes it more durable when carved.
- It is easy to carve with a knife.
It is a fine-grained light brown hardwood and easy to carve, but it can develop darker streaks with age and usually won’t accept natural polish.
It is most commonly used by carvers who do relief carving, which means it is mainly used in carving elegant carvings.
Features of Walnut:
- Walnut has a beautiful dark color that won’t show scratches.
- It has a dense grain pattern giving it a robust and lustrous appearance.
When carving, be sure that you use sharp tools to avoid damaging your material by digging in too much with a dull blade or chisel.
5. White Ash
Easiest Woods to Carve For Beginners – White ash is easy for beginners to carve into beautiful art.
Features of White Ash
- The grains of white ash are straight, making it easy for beginners who need simple patterns in their artwork. It’s best when carving is a fun hobby or for family and friends.
The easiest wood to work with, oak, is excellent for beginner carvers with larger projects.
Oak Comes in Variety of Grades
When it comes to oak, you will find that there are several different grades. These include red oak, white oak, mahogany, and cherry. They differ in appearance and price point. Oak is a sturdy wood type with lots of natural appeal, so it’s a great choice if you’re just starting out with wood carving projects.
Features of Oak
- It is easy to carve oak wood with your hands and carving tools.
- It is one of the strongest and most durable types of wood.
- It has a delicate and uniform grain pattern.
- It has a gorgeous, rich color that will make your work even more attractive.
- It does not decay quickly.
Maple is another popular type of wood that carvers love because it’s relatively easy to carve and shape. The grain makes it easy to remove large chunks and leaves a beautiful natural finish after sanding the surface smoothly.
- The smooth grain pattern may hide carving flaws that might appear on different types of wood, especially if you’re not experienced enough at carving.
- The light colors of maple wood make it a good choice for carving lighter-colored objects, such as animals and angels, with much of their details showing through in darker areas.
- This type of wood also accepts paint or stain well and is relatively easy to work with hand or power tools.
Cottonwood’s color can be light brown, light yellow, or almost white.
Features that make cottonwood easy to carve
- This type of wood is very soft and easy to carve without having any problems, especially cottonwood bark.
- It is easy to carve with your hand when you use sharp tools.
What kinds of projects are best for these types of wood?
The types of projects you can create with these types of wood are endless. You might want to carve some wood into a piece of furniture or maybe even make some bowls for your new kitchen. Your only limitation is your imagination.
This type of wood is lightweight and easy to use. It tends toward being splintery, though, so it needs special attention if you plan on using it for intricate designs.
Both carving caricatures and spoons can be accomplished with it. It’s also widely used in music to make electric basses and guitars.
Ducks, bears, and fish are among the common carvings made from this wood.
suitable for carving projects requiring curvature in design, such as table legs and decorative items.
We often use this wood in carving luxurious things.
Ash is famous for making baskets, ax handles, and bowl carving.
How do you know which type of wood to use for your project?
Things To Consider When Choosing The Type Of Wood To Use
Numerous types of wood are available, and you can use each for various projects. However, not all woods are suitable for carving; some even require a specific carving technique! The properties of each wood can affect how easy it is to carve, so you will want to consider these factors before choosing your desired piece. Here is what you should consider:
When choosing a type of wood for your wood carving project, there are a few things that you need to consider:
- First, think about what size you want the finished product to be. The greater the size of the piece, the more difficult it will be to work on it. Softer woods, in most cases, can take on complex shapes when they are huge because they lack sufficient grain strength and stability.
- Next, take some time to think about the surface the finished product will have on the front and back. For example, you could paint or stain your project and need a flat surface; if so, solid wood might not be the best idea since it has more texture than other types of wood, like plywood or balsa wood.
- Thirdly, think about how easy it will be for you to get into tight spaces or do detailed work with your chosen type of wood.
- Consider the grain of the wood: the grain indicates where that specific piece of wood originated in the tree. More intricate grains include oak, ash, walnuts, and maple. They have tighter knots and more distinct patterns than softer woods such as pine or cedar, making them more challenging to work with when carving. Hardwoods allow for intricate carvings because they resist cracking during drying compared to softwoods like spruce or fir, which tend to curl during the drying process, making them harder to paint later.
When it comes to carving wood, you need to consider a few things. Different types of wood have different hardness levels, each with unique properties that will dictate how your project turns out.
Knowing which types of wood are best for your particular needs is essential whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro. I hope our article has guided your next selection of the best wood for carving.
After knowing which wood to pick for your carving, you should know how to protect your wood carving from splitting since this is likely to happen in your carving projects.