What Wood is Best for Carving? 10 Easiest Wood to Carve

Wood carving is a specialized field of woodworking that involves handcrafting wood into various shapes. Wood carving has been one of the oldest crafts globally, making it functionally beautiful and artistically charming.

People from the ancient periods have used wood for various purposes. Even though digitalization and invention have advanced over the years, we can never erase wood in our lives.

Wood carving is incredibly appreciated and can serve as a hobby that might eventually turn into a career. Nearly every wood can be carved, which makes this craft a considerable abundance to choose from.

Wood carving requires malleable but sturdy woods for different carvings, such as relief carving, whittling, and chip carving, including the production of sculptures, furniture, and the likes.

Wood comes in other species, and it’s essential to know each of their characteristics that will determine the Wood’s texture and qualities to see if it will be easy to carve.

Hardwood Vs. Softwood

Generally, all types of wood are divided into two which are

  • Hardwood
  • Softwood.


This type of wood is trees with broad leaves that mostly grows in different climate zones. These types have a great variety of appearance, density, and strength.

Hardwoods can be used in buildings and furniture. High-density hardwood is long-lasting and has excellent fire resistance. It grows relatively slowly, making it more expensive than any other type of wood.


  • Great fire resistance
  • Decay resistance
  • Easy to maintain
  • High density.


  • Grows slowly
  • Expensive
  • Difficult to cut.


Softwood is produced from trees with needle or cone-like leaves. It is different from hardwood by its way of water transportation inside the tree.

Also, its structure is more straightforward than that of hardwood. It is generally less dense compared to hardwood. Furthermore, it is mostly used in carving and comprises 80% of timber because it grows faster and cheaper than hardwood.

Due to its lower density, it is more resistant to insect attack. It decays quickly and has low fire resistance. The production of sticky saps also affects the comfort of working with them.


  • Grows fast
  • Less expensive
  • Easy to cut
  • Resistance to insects.


  • Poor decay
  • Low density
  • Low resistance to fire
  • Difficult to maintain

Wood carving can be done on both hard and softwoods. Not all hardwoods have high density and difficulty working with softwood; not all softwoods are soft and suitable for hand carving.

Top 10 Easiest wood to carve

For any carving that you want to do, you need suitable wood. Each wood has its unique texture and wood qualities that differ from the other. Let’s look through the top 10 easiest wood to carve and discuss their properties regarding wood carving.

Basswood is one of the easiest types of wood to carve with, and perhaps you’re a beginner, you can start with the kind of this wood.

The wood is soft and best for carving, making it suitable for almost all whittling projects. It takes stain well, making it extremely easy to sculpt it to bring out the most exquisite relief carving details.

1. Basswood

Yes Basswood! You might be wondering “is basswood good for carving?” Basswood is the most popularly used wood type for carving because it’s softness makes carving less stressful.

Basswood is one of the few kinds of wood where you can carve against the grain, although you would do well to carve along the grain. Being odorless, light cream is easy to color and work on the texture, making it get the number one priority in the woods. I

t’s a perfect choice for spoon carving, including caricature carving. Being malleable skilled Carver’s and beginners can use this wood efficiently with only a knife needed.

Intricate designs can be easily made with the use of a hammer, gouge, and chisel. Chip carving is not advisable since it’s soft, but other carving methods are excellent, significantly whittling with a knife.

2. Oak

The wood of the oak is solid, heavy, durable, and long-lasting. The wood color might be light brown, yellow, and ash grey, depending on how old the tree is, but the color is always beautiful.

Oak is one of the most durable, strong wood that is resistant to decay and fungus. It is an all-time favorite amongst woodcarvers. It’s renowned because of its strength, durability, and vibrant color.

The fine uniform grain stands out due to its close pores when the wood is polished. Large carved oak items look wonderful and always appreciated. It polishes well, and the sculptures can be finished with bee wax.

White oak is used to make whiskey barrels, which are used to ferment whiskey and wine. It is commonly referred to as the whiskey barrel wood. Although oak gives fantastic results, it’s considered difficult to carve because it is challenging.

Oak has been used through the centuries for construction, flooring, and even historical carvings.

3. Aspen

If you’re probably looking for another softwood to carve with; aspen would probably be a perfect fit. Aspen is very soft, even softer than basswood.

It has a delicate, light, straight-grained wood that doesn’t split easily. While carving, you need to keep an eye on your blades because it might fuzz a bit when you’re using blunt blades.

4. Butternut

It is also called white walnut or oil nut. It’s vibrant; tan color makes it ideal for beginners in carving.

The soft, straight-grained texture makes it easy to carve and gouge beautifully. It’s almost as easy to use as basswood making whittling with a knife very easy and used by carving professionals.

Its visible grains adds beauty to projects, making them less complicated to work with. Its texture makes it suitable for beginners. Due to its tendency to develop fungus quickly, it isn’t easy to find nowadays.

5. Pine

Pine is considered a hardwood to carve, but white pine is way easier to carve. It has a yellowish, reddish-white color that darkens over time to red-brown. White pine is similar to basswood regarding carving, but it has a lot more stubborn grain.

They are mostly used as lumber for construction as well as furniture making. However, the softer version of this wood white pine is suitable for carving since it adequately retains its shape.

For best results, white pine needs to be carved when it’s still a bit green asides that, pine is quite durable. It is ideal for carving with a simple knife. However, it’s softness and grain texture makes it less appropriate for chip carving. White pine is a good wood as it is easy to shape and fashion.

6. Mahogany

This wood has a medium hardness making it suitable for different carving techniques. Whatever method is used, mahogany always brings satisfaction.

Mahogany is mostly used as a base material due to its reddish shade, which gives it an attractive finish that doesn’t need much fuss. It is suitable for chip carving showing aesthetically pleasing results.

7. Black walnut

Its rich grain and dark color of black walnut make it popular among woodcarvers. However, black walnut is challenging to carve because it’s tough, making it easy to crack. They are mostly used in relief, wood, and chip carvings.

To carve, you’ll need to use tools of excellent quality and keep them well sharpened and properly maintained to reduce the strain and stress on your hands and wrist. It’s not wood for beginners. It does not need much post work after being worked.

8. European lime

A right choice for beginners as well as professional carvers. It is pale white, cream; it has very subtle growth rings, fine and even textured making it an excellent choice for carvers when we can produce sharp tools, intricately detailed work.

9. Cherry

Dense hardwood with a pinkish brown tint and wavy grains makes it ideal for chip carving and hard to carve. This wood is preferred for tiny products by lots of woodcarvers because it’s a beautiful reddish-brown color and its structure of material readily accepts dying.

The grains are wavy, making it hard for hand carving, but after the work is done is comes out beautiful, revealing fantastic grain patterns.

This wood is perfect for natural finish sculpture. When dyed, it can have blotched results, and a sanding sealer has to be used before staining.

10. Balsa

It is a lightweight softwood that is suitable for whittling. It’s ideal for crafting and modeling. Balsa is ideal for beginners as it is easy to whittle and can be crafted into dollhouses, ornaments that turns out perfect.

Balsa wood splinters easily, which means you’ll have to sand the edges to round them off to avoid splintering.


Wood comes in various characteristics, textures, and colors whether you use it in construction, furniture, or carving. Different types of wood vary, so as their applications. As a beginner, it’s advisable to start with softwoods like balsa, basswood, and butternut.

Get accustomed pretty well before moving onto woods that are not hard like mahogany, getting your carving skills sharpened.

So far, the top 10 easiest wood to carve has been discussed. An amateur or a professional in wood carving won’t have a hard time knowing the set of woods they need to use for their work of art.