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What wood?

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  • What wood?


    I haven't carved on wood since I was a kid making a derby racer, but I decided I wanted to start up again. I haven't even touched a knife to wood yet, and I have a first question.

    Does it matter what type of wood I am using right now? My thoughts are that there are a lot of basics I need to learn, and there is a lot of scrap wood around the house, ie, firewood, etc, so I can't see buying a nice piece of wood when it will probably end up in the fireplace anyway.

    Is any type of wood okay?

    Thanks in advance for your reply.


  • #2
    Re: What wood?

    Hi Mike

    I'm new to carving myself, but I do a lot of work with many different kinds of wood for my scroll saw projects. In reading up on the subject, I have learned that basswood or butternut are good woods for carving. If neither one of these are readily available, you might try either white pine or sugar pine. I'm told that we want to avoid yellow pine (the stuff 2 x 4's are made of) because it is difficult to carve, and the sap content quickly dulls tools. I hope this helps!


    • #3
      Re: What wood?

      Billb pretty much summed it up. You can certainly carve on 'fireplace' wood but the frustration of working with hard or coarse grained woods may put you right off of carving. The softer woods as BillB mentioned are good to learn on as well as make your grand works of art with. Basswood can be purchased at a number of woodcarving supply stores, many of whom have web sites. Do a search on 'Woodcarving supplies' or 'Carving wood' and take your choice. And stay away from craft stores for your wood unless you have more money than brains.


      • #4
        Re: What wood?

        Start with basswood. Butternut is great, and shows nice grain when you finish it, but it's harder to find than basswood. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. It starts as a piece of wood and ends up as a piece of wood; it's your time and effort that count. Even if you fail, you've learned a lot. You can always 'cheerfully start over'. It's better to have carved and made a mistake than never to have carved at all.


        • #5
          Re: What wood?

          I agree with all of the above,however you never said what kind of carving tools you have. If you don't have much experience sharpening tools, or if you are using low grade tools then you should stick to the soft woods like basswood.
          This will help prevent painfull slips (gashes in hands and fingers) because you won't have to use as much force as you would on hardwoods.
          A word of advice, buy a carving glove FIRST, the money you save in medical bills will buy a very good set of tools or some good carving stock.
          Got a friend who carves? If you do I'll bet he has some scrap basswood laying around.
          Carve safe


          • #6
            Re: What wood?

            If I am knocking out a gag gift or an antique decoy, I use anything from firewood to barn beams, but for a realistic wildlife piece I only use 'good' wood. A friend of mine does all his carving on 'found' wood and has some real decent projects. If you are looking for consistancy in your results, you need to start with good wood... basswood or tupelo.


            • #7
              Re: What wood?

              Much to my surprise, CWP (Clear white pine, or cabinet grade pine) carves reasonable well. This can be had at lumber yards and can be glued up to make carvable blocks. Not as good as Basswood or Sugarpine but not bad.


              • #8
                Re: What wood?

                My first carving (attempt) was on yellow pine, it almost made me give up on the first try. Before using firewood you need to learn to dry it or your project will most likely split.
                Also, firewood or the like usually carves harder, meaning you will dull your tools quicker. If you haven't learned to sharpen yet, this could cause you to give up. And nobody wants to see this happen.
                When learning to carve, a soft wood is better, and it will be easier to learn to make the different cuts as well as add the detail. Something you may not do on an old chunk of wood.


                • #9
                  Re: What wood?

                  just about the time someopne tells you not to use such-and-such a wood, someone else will show you a masterpiece carved from it.  That said I would recomend staying away from course hard grained wood, eg.:  ash, oak, yellow pine, douglas fir...         that said I have found some nice wood in peoples fire wood stacks (and yes I am nosey enough to look) including linden, buckeye, and walnut.   And now that all that is said, get yourself some good tools, someone to show you what sharp really means and how to get there, and a good piece of northern basswood.  Oh yeah, lest I forget Grumpy's advice, a safety glove.   :P

                  Best of luck,



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