wood for carving

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Forum topic by Karda posted 01-08-2017 11:46 PM 847 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1324 posts in 756 days

01-08-2017 11:46 PM

Hi, I am new to wood carving and am curious about the kinds of woods that are carve able, I know basswood is a favorite but what else, I’m not to keen on pine, its splits alot. many of the woods I find on ebay specifically mention turning what are your thoughts thanks Mike

16 replies so far

View Danpaddles's profile


573 posts in 2514 days

#1 posted 01-09-2017 12:19 AM

You said it- basswood. Cedar, poplar. Maybe cherry, walnut. What is wrong with using basswood?

-- Dan V. in Indy

View Karda's profile


1324 posts in 756 days

#2 posted 01-09-2017 12:39 AM

basswood I have to buy but this summer I thought i would see if I can get some from tree cutters ot from people trimming tree. Also I see many online but they claim for turning. I don’t want to get something that is to hard to hand carve at least not yet.

View Aj2's profile


1881 posts in 2000 days

#3 posted 01-09-2017 02:21 AM

Basswood is really our best choice it’s not very expensive and easy to read the grain.
Popler is good and not too expensive.
Other woods that I like are Alasaken yellow cedar and walnut but then your talkin more money.


-- Aj

View runswithscissors's profile


2892 posts in 2228 days

#4 posted 01-09-2017 03:53 AM

I like alder as a carving wood. It is only moderately hard, does not dull tools, doesn’t split easily, and has a nice even brown tone (though not very exciting figure or grain).

Woods that are too soft (ponderosa pine, cedar) are actually harder to carve because they crush easily if tools aren’t razor sharp.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4251 posts in 2764 days

#5 posted 01-09-2017 04:30 AM

Actually All woods can be carved and have been carved.

But if you want practice woods then Basswood, Butternut, Poplar, Black Walnut, and Cherry.

The very very biggest thing is keeping your tools sharp and doing it often and cutting down hill.

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View bruc101's profile


1260 posts in 3744 days

#6 posted 01-09-2017 04:38 AM

What are you going to be carving?

-- Bruce Free Plans

View Karda's profile


1324 posts in 756 days

#7 posted 01-09-2017 05:12 AM

thanks every body for your advice, I want to carve spoons forest spirits for now, keep it simple at first right now i am working on a simple knife hande to get used to the knife and the wood

View KevinMyhre's profile


34 posts in 709 days

#8 posted 01-09-2017 07:19 AM

Starting out I’d stick with basswood or butternut. You could also try cottonwood bark.

View Karda's profile


1324 posts in 756 days

#9 posted 01-09-2017 07:26 AM

ok, I did’t know you could carve bark

View Planeman41's profile


21 posts in 726 days

#10 posted 01-09-2017 02:12 PM

I find Aspen to be an excellent wood to hold detail. It is harder than Basswood (more like Poplar), has almost no grain like Basswood, and is a creamy white. Presently it is available at Lowe’s, but not in blocks. The only negative to Aspen is it doesn’t take stain very well so using water colors for painting may be a problem. I haven’t tried water colors on Aspen though.

-- Always remember that that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View Lazyman's profile


2636 posts in 1590 days

#11 posted 01-09-2017 02:30 PM

I got some carving tools for Christmas and I am about to give carving a try. Bradford pear is a common wood I find on people’s trash piles around here from tree trimmings that I use for turning bowls. Anyone have any experience or advice about using it for carving? Is it best to let it dry first?

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View rwe2156's profile


3171 posts in 1683 days

#12 posted 01-09-2017 03:13 PM

For chip carving: basswood, butternut are my two top choices. I buy them rough from hardwood supplier and mill myself. If you can’t do that, you will have to pay top $$ for project sized blanks.

For mallet carving you can use any type wood. When just starting out, stay with the soft woods like basswood.

For spoons, figures and the like you need a billet of wood which will be harder to find in basswood, butternut, etc.

Eastern pine is also a good choice for practice.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Underdog's profile


1229 posts in 2238 days

#13 posted 01-09-2017 03:25 PM

Bradford Pear is similar to Maple. If you can carve a hard uninform grained wood like Maple, then go for it.

But for carving I find the softer woods much easier…
Softer woods I’ve carved are Basswood, Walnut (related to Butternut), Alder and Poplar. ( I’m not a fan of Poplar at all though.) I’ve also carved some kind of conifer like Cypress or Pine that I’ve found in the “4×4” stickers that come under our bundles of plywood. I’d recommend it if I could figure out what it is…

Harder woods I’ve carved are Maple and Cherry. If you stick with small stuff these are ok, but you GOTTA have a sharp knife.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View bruc101's profile


1260 posts in 3744 days

#14 posted 01-09-2017 03:28 PM

75% of my caving work are outdoor wood signs and I use only Cypress. I have a friend that uses all of my Cypress end cuts and carves in the round. I also use Cypress to carve wood spoons and any other cooking utensils.
Any other carving I do is usually on furniture and cabinetry with a variety of woods.

I think if you’re just starting out carving follow some of the advise already mentioned such as Basswood, Butternut and if you have access to it give Sugar Pine a try. White Cedar also carves well and carves just about like Cypress.

Don’t even try to start caving without having SHARP CHISELS, or it could be one of the most frustrating things you’ve ever tried.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View Karda's profile


1324 posts in 756 days

#15 posted 01-10-2017 12:44 AM

thanks for your advice and insights

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