Woodcarving has secured an erroneous negative opinion for itself due to the challenges aspiring woodcarvers face with getting started. This opinion is that the craft of woodcarving is extremely difficult and demands all your energy.

This is true…only if you use the wrong type of wood for your carving jobs.

Woodcarving requires the woodcarver to understand wood and choose the right type of wood for the right task. In this post, we will discuss how to make the right choice, as well as, the types of wood for carving available to you.

Choosing the Right Types of Wood for Carving

Before starting as a woodcarver, you must understand the basics of wood and the different types. Choosing the right wood for a particular project is part of the basics. Now, to choose the right type of wood, here are the tips you must keep in mind:

  • Let the function determine your choice of wood – The purpose you intend to put your woodcarving skills to the test for is important in choosing the right wood. When carving domestic items that must be able to absorb moisture, then hardwood is the best choice due to its natural waterproofed state. If the item is a bowl, then further considerations of its use must be made. For example, if you intend to put oil in it, then a bowl made from oak must be crossed out because it will be stained.
  • Decorative pieces are different – If you intend to craft a decorative piece with limited physical use, then making use of softwood is your best option. Softwood is much easier to carve using traditional tools than hardwood.
  • Ensure the wood is safe – Pieces of wood emitting strong smells should be avoided, as well as, toxic wood that can cause allergies. If a piece of wood shows outward signs of defects, it may mean that its interior part is defective. Thus, you are expected to look out for these signs and avoid using any defective pieces when found.

The 7 Types of Wood You Should Know


This wood type gets its name from the type of trees it is gotten from. The fruitwood is a product of the apple, pear, and cherry tree. Fruitwood is fine-grained and excellent for producing domestic items such as bowls and spoons. It is generally recommended that you carve fruitwood while it is a bit green as it becomes extremely hard as it dries up which makes it susceptible to cracking.

Wood for carving
Image Credit: hoppydaysbrewingsupplies.com.au

The features of fruitwood include:

  • Hardness as it dries up which makes fruitwood a hardwood.
  • It is close-pored this means it does not absorb water and is great for carving kitchen utensils.


The popular oak wood from the popular oak tree is one of the hardest types of wood out there. This means carving oak will definitely be a task you would need to spend more time executing. It is highly durable and aesthetically-pleasing to look at which is why it is used to produce furniture, wine barrels, and other items that require durability to function properly.

oak wood for carving
Image Credit: demetz-patrick.com/

The features of oak wood include:

  • Highly waterproof which makes it an excellent choice for producing wine caskets and barrels.
  • It is categorized as hardwood which means carving a piece of oak requires some effort. Thus, it is not advisable to use oak wood for ornamental pieces.


In terms of woodcarving, basswood is the Holy Grail for woodcarvers and by far the most popular wood used. This is one of the most prominent types of wood for carving. Its popularity is based on two very important factors. One; it is the easiest wood you can work with and two; the wood produces a natural aesthetic finish. These features make it an excellent choice for carving domestic utensils as well as, decorative pieces.

Other features of basswood include:

  • An odorless wood that is comfortable to work with which means you do not have to worry about your workstation smelling for a while.
  • Anesthetic and natural finish which means woodcarvers can work across or along the wood grain without having to worry about it spoiling your tools.
  • A softwood that is really easy to work with and accepts wood stains excellently if you intend to make spoons or bowls with it.

Black Walnut

Although basswood wins the popularity trophy, walnut takes its spot as the most popular hardwood used by woodcarvers. It is popularly used for whittling and it has natural straight wood grains which means you must cut it following the grain. Walnut has an excellent finish when carved and you may not need to do any post-processing after using it.

The features of this wood type include:

  • Walnut is relatively waterproof which means you can use it to make domestic items that come in contact with water.
  • Walnut produces a little odor but its odor level is tolerable.


The natural aesthetic look of mahogany is making it one of the hardwoods carvers turn to when carving decorative pieces. Mahogany is reddish-brown hardwood with straight wood grains. Unlike other hardwoods, mahogany can be carved across or along its wood grain depending on your requirements.

Its features include:

  • Relatively odorless and accepts stains well which means you can use it to make domestic utensils.

White Pine

There are pine and white pine woods and the former is really hard to carve while the latter is softer and easier to carve. White pine is commonly used for making furniture and decorative pieces due to its durability.

Its features include:

  • Enhanced durability and hardness which makes it possible for you to use a chainsaw to cut through it.


This is a softwood which means it is easy to carve compared to other alternatives. When carved, you get a pinkish finish and it does not require extensive post-processing work.

Butternut is also less expensive when compared to basswood which makes it an excellent option for you to consider when in search of softwood.

  • It takes stains well which makes it a good option for making kitchen utensils
  • It is also an excellent option for whittling.

Best Types of Wood for Carving


Other notable mentions include cherry, red oak, and Tupelo. These wood types also have a lot to offer every woodcarver looking to experiment with wood.