Wood Carving Techniques

The article lists the most popular woods used in wood carving and some techniques for working with them

While you can make a wood carving out of any type of wood, here are some of the more popular woods used in woodcarving. Along with the name is a short description and traits of each wood.

Basswood (a.k.a. Lime) is by far the most popular wood used in carving. It is relatively soft. It is easy to work with hand tools. It is white in color with fairly close grain pattern. It is hard to distinguish between the heartwood and the sap wood. The only problem with basswood is that there is no gain pattern in the wood making it look bland if you use a clear finish. Most wood carvers will paint their finished basswood carvings.

Butternut (a.k.a. white walnut) is also a popular wood for carving. It is soft and easy to work with hand tools. It has dark brown heartwood and a beige sap wood. Butternut has a beautiful grain pattern, which looks good with a clear finish.



Cottonwood is a regional favorite wood for carving (in the Midwest). It is softwood with a straight grain. Indians would use Cottonwood roots for carving dolls. It may be difficult to get in some areas.

Walnut (a.k.a. black walnut, American walnut) is almost exclusively used in gunstocks. Walnut has dark brown heartwood with tan sapwood. It is straight grained but can be very curly. Carving on walnut is usually done with a chisel and mallet.

Mahogany (a.k.a. Honduras Mahogany, American Mahogany) is a a reddish colored wood. It has a relatively straight grain. It is a suprisingly strong for its light weight. It is well suited for carvings that have thin sections. It is easily worked with hand tools or power tools. If it is finished clear, the wood will darken with age.

Jelutong is a soft wood that is imported from the Philippines. It is straight grained. Jelutong has "latex pockets" in the wood. However these "latex pockets" can be easily removed and filled with wood filler. Some people consider it easier to carve than Butternut or Basswood. The main disadvantage is the fuzzy fibers that lift up when using power tools on it.

Tupelo (a.k.a. water gum) is a soft wood grown in swampy areas of the United States. It has a good looking grain pattern, which looks good with a clear finish.

It doesn't have the fuzzy fibers like Basswood or Jelutong.

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