Woods for Carving

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Woods for Carving

Members of the Woodcarving Illustrated Message Board choose their top carving woods


Carvers today can choose from a variety of woods, but it can be difficult to know which wood to choose for a specific project. We surveyed the members of the Woodcarving Illustrated Message Board to find their favorite woods and have highlighted the main qualities of a few of the most popular choices.


Basswood carves easily with hand tools and the fine even grain holds details well. “It is an extremely utilitarian wood, being used for both decorative and functional purposes,” said relief and fish carver Al Archie. “It’s easily finished, in either stains, paint or various oils, stable when cured, safe for food storage and serving, and fairly non allergenic.”

Chart based on polled responses from www.woodcarvingillustrated.com.


Butternut carves easily with hand tools, but has a beautifully figured grain. “Butternut is my favorite wood to carve and I don’t throw any away, no matter how small the scraps,” said ship carver Bob Squarebriggs. “The color is beautiful. It can splinter and chip, so you have to be careful and pay attention to the grain and your cuts.“


Carvers turn to tupelo because it doesn’t fuzz when power carved or char when woodburned. The interlocking grain makes it a strong light wood, but the grain tears when hand carved. “I prefer tupelo because it bends better when carved into thin pieces,” said wildlife carver Paul Guraedy.


Carvers like walnut because of its dark rich color. Carvers usually use mallets to carve the hard wood. “Walnut is a very clean carving wood,” said professional carver Mark Yundt. “It finishes up very well. If you carve it with sharp tools, it looks like it has already been finished.”

This article was first published in Woodcarving Illustrated Fall 2008 (Issue 44).





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