Best Wood for Carving – 11 Different Types

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best wood for carving

Wood carving is one of the most rewarding hobbies you can indulge in. It slowly develops into a career and a source of livelihood for some people, so it is a functional and aesthetically pleasing one. However, there are a few things that you should know before your wood carving project begins.

Before choosing the suitable wood for carving, you need to know the different characteristics of all the wood species you’d like to use. Keep in mind that woods differ in texture and qualities that determine how they respond to carving. 

Video: Basic Wood Carving Tutorial

Best Wood for Carving

It is worth noting that you can carve almost all the wood species in the universe, although some will take extra effort than others! However, some will give you the best results. Let’s look at some of these:


Basswood is undoubtedly one of the best woods for carving. It serves beginners and experienced wood carvers alike. Basswood is white wood, popular in Europe and America, and has been in use from time immemorial. 

It is mainly suited for carving, thanks to its softness. It has almost no grain, making it ideal for practically any type of woodwork. You will notice some basswood in several musical instruments such as guitars and electric basses. If you are a beginner, I would highly encourage you to settle for this type of wood. 

best wood for carving


Like basswood, aspen is also a white wood used to create some of the best wood carvings. However, it is more robust than basswood, which is widely used for its softness. This is not a deal-breaker, though, since you will still manage to curve it easily. You can find this type of wood quickly, and it is not expensive. Therefore, if you are working on a budget, this is the best option for you.


Do you know that you can use oak for carving? Several people worldwide use oak for woodwork projects thanks to its wide range of features that make it ideal for the nature of the craft. One of the advantages of oak is its strength and sturdiness since it is a type of hardwood. 

The oak also has defined grain and is, therefore, an essential wood for making furniture. Therefore, if you are working on a project that needs the most rigid wood, I will encourage you to settle on oak for the best results. 


Butternut is perfect for beginners, which is when people learn how to go about carving and coming up with the ideal shapes. It has a beautiful grain, and instead of the occasional white color of most of the counterparts, it is slightly browned. 

Butternut can be linked to walnut, save for its light color. Also, it is easier to curve, giving it an edge over the former. It can be polished easily, making it an excellent choice for people’s furniture-making projects. Generally, butternut is softer than most of these woods used for carving. You only need to get ready for some wormholes when using this type of wood. 

Black walnut 

You know how many people love this type of wood if you are a woodworker. Black walnut is one of the most popular choices for carvers of all skill levels. However, it is pretty expensive and fetches a higher price than both basswood and aspen. We would highly advise you to use a sharp tool and a mallet with black walnut if you need the best results on your woodworking ventures. Some of the reasons why this wood is popular are because of its rich color and perfect grain. Most carpenters prefer walnut for their furniture. It is also used in gunstocks.


Maple is quite a challenging choice, but it is worth it. It is mainly used by experienced woodworkers who enjoy and can handle a small challenge. Keep in mind that it has a trickier structure, unlike most of the wood species we have seen.

Some of the advantages of maple include its exceptional properties, including the highly sophisticated asymmetrical wood grains. Before you start using maple, you must have a plan lest you blunder midway.

This wood species is mainly used for interior wood art since you should keep it away from moisture, which affects its form, especially before it dries up. Also, watch out for allergies since several people have reported allergic reactions when using maple in their projects.

best wood for carving


This is the best option if you need something balanced. It has properties of both soft and hardwood, giving it an edge over most of our recommendations. Despite its excellent properties, it is mainly recommended for experienced carvers. 

Keep in mind that this wood can easily change its form when dried, but afterward, it is sturdy enough and can last for centuries. You will notice this type of wood in commercial decorative items thanks to its stain-resistant properties and a slight odor. 


Though not as popular as most of these options, several woodworkers turn to mahogany for their projects. It has a reddish-brown texture and staring wood grains, making it a good choice for several projects. 

Do not be misled by the fact that mahogany is hardwood; it can still be carved easily to assume any shape or model. It does not have a strong scent and can be used alongside power tools for different projects. One of the reasons it’s so famous for high-end furniture and ornament making is that it doesn’t lose its color even after drying. You will still see the reddish, pleasant finish that screams of quality. Keep in mind that items made from mahogany last long. 

Fruit Wood

Fruit trees make an ideal carving wood, thanks to their fine grain. Dishes, bowls, plates, and spoons are ideal because of the close-pored texture of the wood that makes them leak-proof. Greener fruitwood is best to carve because it’s more supple and less likely to crack.


If you are into whittling as a craft, then you will most likely have used Balsa. Cheap to buy, lightweight, and soft, this is the ideal training wood for beginners just starting. It’s typical for model making, crafting, and child-play, but more experienced woodcarvers use it for statue and ornament making. It is prone to splinter if dry so sand the edges well to prevent this. Balsa wood is also perfect for wood burning.


Our last recommendation is tupelo, a finely grained hardwood that can be pretty challenging to curve. Most people shy away from it since you need a few power tools to get the perfect shape. The good news is that tupelo does not burn or char quickly when exposed to power blades. If you choose it, make sure that you get it in bulk to save on costs. 


Woodcarving is an enjoyable hobby that requires the best species of wood. Therefore, ensure that you first ascertain the properties you would like before settling on a given type of wood. No two trees are the same, and working with this natural material does take some experience. For beginners, it’s best to start with a soft and lightweight wood, such as Balsa, Basswood, Butternut. If you are making furniture or cabinets, harder woods will serve you best, for example, Oak and Mahogany.

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Walter Snyder

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