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Good woods for carving, and woods to stay away from?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by tjk art, Apr 10, 2014.

  1. tjk art

    tjk art

    Apr 10, 2014
    Hey guys, I'm just curious of your personal preferences of woods you like to use, vs. ones you would absolutely recommend staying away from?

    I have been woodworking and sculpting for years, but would consider myself a novice when it comes to exotic woods.
  2. There are no bad woods. Just bad tools, techniques and applications. A poor woodworker will screw up a piece of wood and then claim that species is horrible. Stay within bounds of experience and equipment. Don't take experience learned on alder and expect it to work on wenge.
  3. There may well be no "bad woods" for carving, but some sure as hell are easier than others.

    Not surprisingly, the easiest woods to carve are ones with even fine grain, with the other variable being hardness. Bass is the most forgiving wood for carving, and the one most people start with. Mahogany is a little harder, but also carves well. Myrtle is pretty hard, but carves nicely. I hear butternut carves well too, but I've never worked with any. All the fruitwoods have nice grain for carving but are also quite hard.

    Edit: Oh, the only ones I'd stay away from are balsa (crushes easier than it cuts), woods with wild weird grain like lacewood, and the very hardest woods, only because they are so hard, not because they don't carve well.
  4. I've carved Basswood,Mahogany and Poplar and they carve well just keep in mind there are many types of mahogany,Santos Mahogany would carve much much harder than Phillipine or African.I also did some relief carving in cherry that turned out well but it was noticeably harder than the others.If you've been woodworking for a while,you already know how crucial keeping your chisels sharp is!!
  5. tjk art

    tjk art

    Apr 10, 2014
    I was planning on using power tools for most of the carving.

    I really wanted to try mostly basswood, with an accent line of maple sandwiched between two thin slices of walnut. But mahogany sounds nice...
  6. Basswood is probably the easiest to carve and isn't expensive(at least here).It doesn't have very interesting grain and is soft but if you're painting it I'd recommend it especially to start with.
  7. I was warned about attempting to carve and shape red oak, but mostly found that if I used a modicum of care and sharp tools, all went very well.

    So just about any wood - with a few exceptions - are OK if the weight and aesthetic values are to your liking.