Wood is one of the oldest materials being used by humans for a variety of purposes. In the modern world, we have managed to create alternative materials for wood but wood can never be replaced completely.

Carving is one of the oldest practices being done by humans. In ancient times our ancestors used to carve wood and stone to engrave pictures and messages. These types of old carvings are still a topic of research for wood.

Wood carving has not lost its charm and popularity with time, still, in this modern world, it is very common to see the beautiful carved design in wood articles.

The wood used for carving will differ in color, grain, and hardness depending on what type of wood you select. If you are just starting, it is best not to sit down with something too hard or random piece.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing wood for carving. 

Several types exist, some of which are soft, and others, like pine, are knotty. With all our natural carving options, deciding which wood is the best can be tricky. 

In this article, I have compiled a list of the best wood for carving options. Read on to know. 

What is a Wood Carving?

best wood for carving

Wood carving refers to creating figures and patterns in wood pieces through knives, chisels, and other hand-held wood carving tools, such as carving knives.

In the area of wood carving, woodcarvers create everything from duck decoys, cufflinks, and storybook scenes in three dimensions, to furniture, home décor, and even life-size sculptures of animals or people.

What to Consider when choosing Carving Wood?

best wood for carving

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What is the best wood for carving? That depends on a lot of factors, including the price, quality, beginner-friendliness, etc.

A lack of quality wood can hinder the final product from giving you the desired finish.

Consider the following factors when choosing wood for carving:

1. Beginner Friendly

When choosing wood carving, one of the most important things you need to remember is that it should be beginner friendly. As not everyone is an experienced carver, you must choose a wood carving that you can trust and one that you should consider as a beginner. In addition to being affordable, it will make it easier for you to paint.

2. Equal Balance of Price & Quality

It is important to consider the price and quality of wood carving when making your decision.  It is essential to choose the right woods to get the best experience and more than needed to make the wood items.

Despite the importance of price, a balance between quality and price is a plus to ensure that you get quality pieces and the finishing touch every woodcarver strives for.

3. Long-Lasting

The durability of wood carving is a determining factor in choosing it. It is highly recommended whenever you wish to make furniture or wooden items from it since it is both sturdy and easy for beginners and experts.

With long-lasting effects, it brings you non-prone to scratches and wears and tear.

List of 8 Best Wood For Carving

A wide variety of wood types are available that are suitable for carving. Which ones would you consider to be the best? With that being said, the following are some of the best options.

1. Basswood (Best for Hand Carving)

Basswood ranks high on the list of the best woods for carving when it comes to picking the best woods for carving. Basswood could be your go-to wood if you are just beginning as a carver. However, this is not the end of what basswood offers. Instead, it is a good choice for larger projects and offers excellent quality.

The ease of use of this wood makes it great for beginners.


  • It is easy to paint on.
  • Brown finish with minimal grain presence.
  • It can also make musical instruments, chests, and boxes


  • If you stain it, it can be difficult to remove.

2. White Willow (Best for a beginner due to ease of use)

The White Willow sits over the pond, its branches stretching over the water. This is a softer species that is not readily available. White Willow can be hard to find in stores in the US, as it is mainly found in Canada and Europe. It is an excellent wood for a beginner because it is soft and easy to work with. Hand tools are the only tool that will work with their long grain, so you should avoid power tools if possible.

As a result, it fuzzes easily, making it better to avoid power carving a White Willow. Additionally, it has a few distinct flaws that prevent it from being an excellent carving material. It’s also great for making furniture like chests, boxes, and baskets.


  • Use hand tools to carve easily.
  • Boxes, chests, and baskets are commonly made from them.
  • It can also be carved into spoons and used as a cricket bat.


  • Easily warps.
  • It buzzes up when you use a power tool, so it is not ideal.
  • Working with the long grain is difficult..

3. White Pine (Best for Softwoods)

If you are starting in hand carving, you may consider White Pine. A medium grain and light cream color make this wood a good choice for holding detail. Carving in the round or whittling is best done with white pine. Due to its soft, straight-grained texture, it is not appropriate for chip carving. As pine dries out, some people experience cracking, so if your carving is safe to dry, seal it after a couple of days.


  • Cheap and easily accessible.
  • Cabinets and drawers can be made with it.
  • Durable and not prone to breaking.


  • A very poor water-resistance rating.
  • A White Pine with a creamy color variation can be difficult to differentiate from a Pine with a darker color variation.

4. Butternut (Best for Relief Carving)

Butternut is a tree belonging to the walnut family, but its wood is softer, and its color is lighter than it is related to. Since it is slightly more expensive, it would not be the first recommendation for a beginner. However, it has a beautiful grain structure and color and is softer and easier to work with.

Since it’s non-fuzzy, it’s also suitable for power carving. Furthermore, it doesn’t crack easily, so it can be used for various things. Plus, it has a higher Janka hardness rating than basswood, so it holds details very well.


  • The color and structure of the grain are great.
  • Furniture and carvings can be made from it.
  • Black Walnut also polishes well.


  • Carving it requires experience with softer woods beforehand.
  • Compared to pine, it costs slightly more and is more difficult to find.

5. Maple (Best for making Construction Items)

The most commonly used hardwood is maple, typically used in furniture making, cabinetry, and even buildings. Maple also makes an excellent material for carving with a Dremel.

You wonder why? This is due to the strong grain structure of maple wood, which makes it a beautiful material for carvings of different patterns with fine textures. However, guaranteeing the best results requires reliable machining techniques.

Furthermore, who isn’t aware of maple wood’s durability? As a result of its excellent resistance to the elements, maple is amazing when it comes to insect attacks, moisture, and direct sunlight.


  • Wood with a beautiful deep color grain that stands out from the rest.
  • Maintaining it properly will ensure a long and durable life.
  • No splitting or splintering makes it easier to carve.


  • Comparatively, it might be harder to locate than other Maple species.
  • The price is a little higher than that of Basswood or other woods.

6. Aspen (Best For Beginners)

Among woodworkers, aspen wood is one of the most sought-after white woods. The wood is perfect for beginners due to its affordability, characteristics, and advantages. Since it is soft, non-splintering, and non-resinous, it cuts easily, and there is no need for a special blade to cut it. This wood is also very beautiful and robust due to its straight grain. A timber market or woodworker’s shop can supply it to you.

A good thing about aspen wood is that it is splinter-free so nails can be driven easily into it. However, while it is splinter-free, it does fuzz up, so power carving is not recommended. It is best to use hand tools and power tools when carving it.


  • It makes excellent spoons and bowls since it is mostly white.
  • Sculptures can also be painted on them easily, so it is suitable for sculptures that require painting later.
  • The material is easy to cut, so your tools will not be damaged.
  • Almost all pet bedding is made up of chips and shavings.
  • Janka’s hardness is low, making it stronger than most woods.


  • Fuzzing is easy, so you will have to use hand tools more often than power tools to fix it.
  • Getting it might take some searching.

7. Cherry (Best for Professionals with Great Experience)

Cherry wood is a balanced option between softwood and hardwood, but it is a better choice for woodcarvers with more experience. After drying, it takes on a solid, stable form and lasts very long. It is stain-resistant and odorless, which makes cherry a popular choice for commercial decorative items.

When used with decent tools and skills, cherries can be carved across or along the grain. If you are considering selling any decorative items that you own, cherry is the best option to choose.


  • There is no doubt that cherry wood has a wonderful color as well as a smooth and fine texture.
  • Generally, hardwoods have wavy and irregular grain patterns, which makes them difficult to work, but cherry wood has a straight, uniform grain pattern that makes work easier for woodworkers.
  • It can be easily cut, molded, and curved as a flexible wood.


  • The price of cherry wood is higher than that of most other hardwoods, such as maple.
  • It can be challenging for an owner to find the perfect woodblock because cherry wood comes in many different colors.
  • Cherry wood is a difficult wood to stain for beginners. Unless you know wood, you may ruin it.

8. Box Elder (Best for Home Decor Items)

Most hobbyists love Box Elder’s unique color combination, which makes it one of the most sought-after woods. It’s not uncommon for carvers to use this species of maple, despite most woodturners looking for it.

This wood has a beautiful darker heartwood, almost raspberry-like, while the sapwood is pale and greenish. With its unique color combination, this wood is ideal for ornaments, home decorations, and items of a decorative nature.

From an objective standpoint, you will find that this wood is less hard than many other types of wood when you compare it on the Janka scale, and it is still challenging to carve and top it all off. It is hard to find Box Elder trees at stores, but they are not too costly.


  • Reddish-purple heartwood and grain.
  • This material is strong and can be used to make ornaments and decorations for the home.
  • It’s great for challenging yourself.


  • Insects that live in Box Elder trees are a common household pest.
  • When not taken care of, it rots easily.

Tips For Getting The Best Results With Carving

The first (and easiest) step in wood carving is selecting suitable wood and softening the lumber. Getting started on carving is the hardest part.

These tips will help you along the way;

  • Sharpen all your tools, including power tools
  • The pursuit of perfection requires practice
  • Ensure that you have adequate space
  • Find out what the wood type has to offer and what it doesn’t
  • Get proportional
  • While you’re at it, learn wood pyrography
  • Knives should be handled with the appropriate gloves when wood carving.

Frequently Asked Question

Using wood that splinters easily for carving should be avoided, and it is also advisable to prevent woods that are too difficult to carve.

As toxicity in wood can cause allergies, you should avoid carving it.

There are two types of hardwoods: closed-grained woods and slower-growing woods. Hardwoods are denser compared to softwoods, but they are easier to carve since they are softer. In other words, not all hardwoods require a lot of carving.

For wood carving projects, you must consider the Wood Grain type. 

Among all the Hardwoods, Basswood, Aspen, and Butternut are the best woods for carving.

For carving figures, Basswood is by far the most popular choice of wood to use. Due to its close grain, this wood is easy to carve because it does not split or splinter during the carving process.

Another benefit to working with basswood is its softness, which makes it easier to use hand tools.

Generally, softer woods can be cut more easily using chisels or whittled using carving knives. For beginners, you should use woods with low Janka hardness ratings.

As wood becomes harder, carving becomes more difficult.

Choosing Silver Maple as your spoon-carving wood is a great choice. There are many advantages to carving this type of wood, including its strength, durability, and ease of carving.

Your spoon will also stand out from the crowd since it is one of the most beautiful woods.

Basswood is the most suitable wood for chip carving. Unfigured and straight-grained, the wood carves beautifully.

Many craft stores carry it, which is a good choice for detailed work. Besides being relatively soft and easy to work with, Basswood can also be carved intricately without causing damage.


For carving, the best wood depends on several factors, such as your skill, tools, and the project you are planning.

Different types of wood have different characteristics and are ideal for different projects. Choosing basswood or butternut for beginners is a good option, but hardwoods, such as oak, are better for durable furniture.

Trying different options is highly recommended to determine which will work best for you.

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