I found some posts with tools to start with but now I am trying to figure out what type of wood to start with. I imagine a soft, easy to carve wood is best and probably cheaper?

  • Welcome to Woodworking, but please see this previous locked Question Woodcarving where do i start? paying particular attention to the third Comment.
    – Graphus
    Nov 2, 2022 at 18:41

3 Answers 3


Basswood is generally the most recommended wood to start with. White pine should also work, but the details may not be as fine. Other good carving woods include butternut (also known as white walnut), aspen, and black walnut, although its price is rather high right now. If you live near a specialty woodworking store like Rockler or Woodcraft or similar, they should have a whole carving section including a variety of wood blanks, including basswood. You can also order blanks of various sizes online.


My understanding (I'm not a wood carver) is that Basswood (at least in the US) is generally a good wood for carvers, it tends to not have a lot of character itself, fairly white, so can take most stains easily, not a lot of difference between summer wood and winter wood on the grains. It's pretty soft and easy to carve. and at least around MN and WI fairly easy (cheap) to get your hands on.

I've also been told Butternut is another carvers favorite, fairly soft but it does have a lot of color and it is generally not very cheap, at least compared to woods like basswood. My wife's Uncle carved me a little squirrel out of butternut and it was a gorgeous piece.


Another wood to consider is Honduras Mahogany (not Luan, aka Philippine mahogany). This wood cuts smoothly and is very dimensionally stable. It's the staple for acoustic guitar necks. In addition to using it for 30+ guitar necks, I've carved tigers and swans for dulcimer heads with mahogany. I made plans to sculpt a 2/3 life size leopard for which I would have chosen mahogany, with ebony spots, but life got in the way.

If your piece is larger, without much fine detail, you may consider Sugar Pine. I haven't worked with it much but know that, at least historically, it was the choice of "pattern makers" which I think referred to patterns to make moulds for casting.

  • Honduran mahogany softer than basswood? I didn't even need to look that up for my Spidey sense to go "No way!" :-) And I presume this isn't just a typo where you meant to type harder because going by the published Janka hardnesses it is over twice as hard!
    – Graphus
    Nov 8, 2022 at 18:44
  • My mistake! I was reading basswood as boxwood. In that case I withdraw my support of basswood as a worthwhile carving substrate.
    – bpedit
    Nov 9, 2022 at 19:29

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