Best Wood for Carving

Updated on April 7, 2020

Choosing the best wood for carving can be difficult. Some types are too soft, while others such as pine can be full of knots. With all the natural options we have, you might be wondering which woods are best for your carving needs. Here are some insights into how to choose the ideal wood for carving.

Choosing Wood for Carving

Firstly, we need to consider the ideal type of wood for our needs. Some people might wish to carve kitchenware, such as spoons or bowls. In this case, you will need a hardwood that does not absorb moisture, is durable, and will not break easily.

If you choose oak or ash for your kitchenware and dinnerware, you also need to be aware of the fact that while these types are resistant and they do not absorb moisture, they become stained quickly if you place oils on them, so oak and ash carvings are better suited without much oily contact. On the other hand, if you enjoy making decorative carvings, any type of softwood or hardwood can be used.

The most common hurdle of not choosing the correct wood type is when your weapons become dull. If you have an expensive carver’s tool, you should focus on using softwood rather than hardwood, as it preserves the life of the tools and knives.

If you want high-quality carvings with little effort, basswood and pine are ideal. White oak, on the other hand, is more challenging to work with, and it can quickly dull your tools if you do not handle it properly. Dense, hard materials such as white oak can also favor slippages, which will result in injuries to the carver.


Our first choice is basswood, which is perhaps the most popular choice for carving wood. It is a softwood that is extremely easy to work with. Basswood is great for creating wood art, from bowls and decorative plates to spoons. It has almost no scent, and it can handle oil stains well.

Basswood can be carved both along and across the wood grain, and it is most often used for kitchenware. It is food-safe, so you can make spoons, bowls, and plates. It is allergenic free, and the odor is almost imperceptible.


If you are on a budget, you might want to check out butternut. Similar to basswood, butternut is extremely easy to work with, it does well with stains, and the odor level is low. Raw butternut can be very affordable and has a natural pink finish, with coarse wood grains. It is a favorite choice for any wood art.


For a denser, sturdier option, walnut is a great option for carving. It is dark and has straight wood grains, and due to the harder texture, it is best to cut with the grain, using a mallet. It has a natural, clean finish, which is easy to achieve. Wood art made of walnut is durable and resists moisture. The odor levels are higher than the other two options but very manageable.


If you enjoy a little challenge, maple can be a good choice. Despite its trickier structure, many woodcarvers choose this wood for its exceptional properties. Maple has coarse, asymmetrical wood grains, and it requires careful planing before starting. It is ideally carved along the grain.

It is best used for interior wood art and kept away from moisture, which can cause it to change its form slightly when it dries up. Some people can have mild allergies when using maple objects.


A balanced option, cherry is the ideal compromise between softwood and hardwood, but it is best recommended for more experienced woodcarvers. It can slightly change its form when dried, but once it does, it is a sturdy, stable wood that lasts for a very long time. Cherry is often used to create commercial decorative items, it is stain-resistant, and the odor is negligible.

Cherry is versatile, and it can be carved both along or across the grain, with decent tools and skills. Cherry is definitely the best option if you are planning to sell your decorative items.

Red Oak

Red oak is a true challenge to work with. It is a porous wood and requires a quality mallet to carve. Red oak objects should be kept away from water and moisture. It is a wood type for some of the most experienced woodcarvers who know how to handle this tough wood. However, if you manage to carve the long, large wood grains and maintain your objects well, red oak carvings can even last for centuries.


Mahogany is a new trend for some woodcarvers. The reddish-brown texture with straight wood grains makes it an interesting choice for many objects. And even though it is a hardwood, it can be carved with ease. The scent is very faint, and you can use both hand carving and power tools to carve this wood. Once it dries up, it retains a reddish, pleasant finish, and it is incredibly stable and durable for a long time.


Lastly, tupelo is a finely grained hardwood that poses moderate challenges to carvers due to its toughness. Tupelo is not the first choice of many carvers since it requires power tools to shape it, but the best feature of this wood type is that it will not burn easily or char when it becomes in contact with power blades. Additionally, it can be quite affordable to purchase in bulk.

Wrapping up

Choosing the best wood for carving depends mostly on your skills, tools, and what you are planning to create. Each wood type is ideal for a different project, and they all feature different characteristics. For a beginner, basswood and butternut are great options to start with, but if you want durable items such as furniture, hardwoods are more suitable, including oak. To find out which works best for you, we highly recommend to try out different ones!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Ben Martin


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)