The type of wood you use for carving is significant, whether you are just starting to carve wood as a hobby or want to try other varieties of wood for more experience.
Your preferences may differ according to your skill level. However, both beginners and experienced wood carvers will surely find a type of soft wood for carving.
This article contains a list of the softest woods known around the world. We wrote listed a few best softwoods for carving according to availability, level of softness, grain, and price.
- What is the best softwood for carving?
- Balsa wood
- Silver fir
- Butternut (White walnut)
- Black walnut
- White pine
- What is easiest wood to carve?
- Sugar Maple
- White Oak
- List of best woods
- Which wood is ideal for carving?
- Can you carve softwood?
What is the best softwood for carving?
Now that we know the main difference between softwood and hardwood, let’s look at the best wood types of carving wood.
Down below we will look for the most popular options and compare their properties.
Balsa wood is one of the softest and easiest woods known in the market for wood carving. It is a porous wood type with a distinguishable white color.
Balsa is the easiest wood to carve due to its simple structure, which is great for beginners.
Professional carvers claim that it is so soft that balsa doesn’t need special carving tools to be carved.
On the other hand, balsa has a very low density compared to others and is a very fragile wood type. Therefore, you will need to be careful to snap it. If you fail to control your grip, it might split into pieces. It also breaks easily after a fall.
Due to this fact, we encourage you to use your hand tools or sharp knives carefully when working with balsa for safety reasons.
Balsa is accessible in craft stores and hobby shops but is expensive compared to other wood for carving available in the market.
Silver fir is also on the list of the softest carving woods in the world. Despite being less common among the carvers it still makes the best wood to make carvings.
Silver fir is straight-grained wood easy to manipulate and shape. It has a smooth, silvery grey bark. It is a fine wood for making detailed figurines or intricate ornaments.
Additionally, it can withstand cold and moisture. Silver fir is included in our list as a great wood for carving because it carves beautifully and looks great when finished.
Butternut (White walnut)
White walnut is extremely durable and is a very soft wood for hand carving. Butternut has a white outermost layer and a light brown inside with brown streaks.
A beautiful blend of faint colors and intricate patterns gives butternut a very aesthetic and unique look.
Despite being among the softer than other woods, butternut is still pretty coarse which results in the quick dulling of your tools. Therefore, you will need to use only sharp carving knives when working with them.
Aspen is one of the hardwoods but with a softer and straight grain. The color varies from paler whitish color to light brown.
It appears very luxurious and is great for small projects. Since it is a pretty dense wood type, it can hold a shape.
On the other hand, aspen is not suitable for big projects. The aspen trees grow fast and thus are easy to find in local hobby shops. Good quality and durability make aspen a good wood for carving.
Black Walnut is the best wood for carving, but a bit more expensive than the previous types of wood. Black walnut wood is sturdy and heavy and has a straight grain and is fairly easy to carve.
Walnut comes in rich, dark brown color with a perfectly natural finish. If you want to level up your wood carving skills, give it a try to black walnut!
White Pine is another best wood for those just getting into hand carving.
It is another wood that holds structure well with a medium grain and light creamy color.
White Pine is perfect for relief carving, whittling, or carving in the round. However, it is not well suited for chip carving due to its soft texture with straight lines.
According to woodcarvers, there is a possibility of pine cracking and drying out. If you are choosing pine wood for carving, dry it out slowly, or seal it after a few days.
Cedar wood is another example of the easiest types of wood on our planet and is enjoyable to carve. It comes in different kinds and colors. The most popular types of cedar wood are red, white, and yellow.
One of the specific qualities of yellow cedar is it emits a beautiful smell when carved.
Cedar wood is not too expensive, but when compared to other types of wood, you can end up overpaying. Nevertheless, this is wood with lots of properties.
On top of that, it is carved with knives or hand tools. Even if it does not have the best price, you will find that its benefits are somewhat worth it.
What is easiest wood to carve?
Basswood is a holy grail of carvers. It is pretty soft in structure and less grainy than other types of wood. It makes basswood the best wood for carving.
Basswood is great for beginners as it is easy to manipulate with power tools and knives. The pattern on basswood is almost exceptionally smooth, and it is easy to carve.
If you want to compare basswood with another wood you are considering using, very often, basswood makes the best wood.
White wood with soft bark. Less dense than other trees and relatively lightweight. Moreover, it comes with a low price and easy accessibility.
On top of that, cottonwood is suitable for carving detailed ornament pieces. The softness of the wood allows carvers to reshape the material but holds its structure just fine.
Hand tools like chisels and gouges work perfectly well with cottonwood. Thus, it is also beginner-friendly.
Cottonwood is easy to carve, even for beginners. Thus, it proves to be a great wood for carving.
Although classified as a hardwood, mahogany still makes up a good carving wood. Its reddish color makes it a great option for various projects such as interior molding or creating furniture.
Mahogany is less liable to shrink and warp over time.
The bark of the wood is resistant to splitting. Therefore, it holds its shape perfectly.
In addition, mahogany weighs less than other types of wood, which make it easier to mill and cut.
Maple is a very light-colored wood. The wood looks pristine and beautiful. One of the main reasons maple is a popular wood for carving is that it’s long-lasting. It has natural resistance against humidity and pests.
On top of that, maple is sturdy and does not easily dent. If you clean and maintain the wood properly, the carvings can last for decades.
Maple is coarse and very hard, which might be valuable if you are planning to make furniture. On the other side, a high density of wood requires a bit more effort to shape.
Maple often requires special tools to get the wanted results. Thus, it is not suitable for beginners and might not be the best wood to work with.
One of the sturdy and long-lasting types of wood. It is one of the most popular woods for carving. A wide range of features makes it almost ideal for woodcarving.
Oak serves as a great material because it has considerably valuable peculiarities. It is resistant to a variety of outdoor factors and is exceptionally durable.
Additionally, oak is suitable for relief carving, whittling, or carving in the round and works with other types of power tools.
This wood has a faint yellowish color and a medium to coarse structure. It has remarkable properties of withstanding moisture, humidity, and decay.
The high density of the wood makes it possible to serve for many years.
There is one thing to remember when working with this wood – it has to be shaped and cut with special tools. However, with enough experience, you will have no trouble working with it.
Cherry is known for its pinkish-brown color and is one of the most beautiful woods. Cherry is softer than other hardwoods, one of the less harsh woods for carving.
You can reshape it with a table saw, woodworking hand, or power tools.
Cherry often has wavy knots, which result in the fast dulling of carving knives and power tools. It makes it one of the types of wood difficult to work with.
List of best woods
Down below, we discussed kinds of woods that are often not included in the common list but are very suitable wood for carving.
Almost the softest wood with a pleasant soapy cut. Birch has a lovely light color with a shine.
Sturdy, water-resistant wood with a beautiful olive-green color. Acacia is simply perfect for handcrafting.
Pear is comfortable to work with due to its solid structure and durability. Additionally, items made from pear have an outstanding look with yellowish and white colors.
Timber with a luxurious and lush look is often ignored by some carvers due to its cost. However, the hawthorn’s qualities make it ideal for delicate carvings.
Beechwood is tight, solid, and heavy with an even texture. The timber has a distinct glossy and fair creamy color.
Which wood is ideal for carving?
Balsa is by far the most ideal for carving, but it does not imply it is the best wood for everyone. Some woods differ in color, smell, durability, availability, and more.
Although they share similar characteristics of being on the softer side, we prepared the best options down below from the softest to harder ones.
Can you carve softwood?
Woodcarving is a very satisfying and uplifting hobby, which has the potential to progress into something more. It is one of the oldest crafts around the world and is both a useful and entertaining type of art.
Another advantage of this craft is you can find materials to work with almost anywhere. Every wood type on the planet is proper for carving.
While there is an enormous variety to pick from, it can occasionally be overwhelming.
Before we begin looking for the best options, we would like to introduce you to the main peculiarities of softwood compared to hardwoods.
Firstly, softer wood is extremely easily manipulated due to its flexible nature and lesser density.
Secondly, it is very lightweight but durable which makes this type of wood extremely enjoyable for hand carving.
Thirdly, the price of the material is lower compared to others.
Additionally, softwood is sourced from around the globe and develops in a shorter amount of time. Therefore, it is very available.
As the saying goes “a coin has two sides”, the low density of softwood makes it less suitable for bigger projects.It is less resistant to fire.
Most softwoods produce sticky sap, which can be irritating.
Despite some drawbacks, softwood is still a great material for a range of wood carving projects. Basswood is known as the most popular choice among woodcarvers.
To conclude the final thoughts, wood carving is a satisfying hobby to have. However, the results of your work are defined by the qualities of the material you chose.
Although they share similar characteristics, some woods differ in color, smell, durability, availability, and more.
If you don’t want to waste your money on unfinished projects, you could also try to soften the wood you already own.
There is more than one way to soften wood that you can find in different sources.