UJ Ramelson how to choose woodworking wood

How to Choose Your Wood for Carving

Wood carving is a hobby or a profession that those who do it absolutely love. After all, it’s extremely challenging, it will test your patience, and the results are something to admire. Whether you sell your amazing creations or you keep them for your own enjoyment, woodworking is a tangible hobby that yields items of use, whether those are bowls or spoons, or decorative, such as gnomes or figurines.

That being said, some woods are better than others for certain projects, so you want to be able to get the best material for your woodworking projects.

UJ Ramelson offers the best wood carving tools at the best prices. From wood crafting knives and chisels to jewelry engraving and gunsmithing tools, our woodcarving tools are handmade right here in the USA. Our family-owned business employs the best craftsmen, and our mission is to ensure our customers’ needs are taken care of. Below, we’ll go over some quick tips on how to choose the wood for your woodworking projects. Browse all of our wood carving supplies online today!


Go For Purpose

Not all wood is created equal, and some woods work better for woodworking projects over others. Thus, you’ll want to choose your wood based on your project. For example, if you are making a cutlery set, you’ll probably want a hardwood of sorts that will absorb little moisture. Cutlery also needs to be durable and not susceptible to warping. However, if your woodworking project involves whittling, it truly doesn’t matter which wood; it’s just a personal preference based on the look you are going for.

Go For Skill Level

In terms of skill level, softwood is always going to be easier to carve than hardwood simply due to the nature of the material. Thus, beginners should stick to softwood. It’s easier to carve and less frustrating. It’s also more forgiving when mistakes are made because they are easier to correct.

For those with experience, softwood is also much nicer to your top-notch wood carving tools that you just received from UJ Ramelson. Hardwoods will dull your wood carving knives very quickly; whereas, softwoods will not. Another consideration when working with hardwoods is the fact that it is easier for your wood carving knife to slip from your hand. This can cause injuries, especially to the beginning wood carver who is less experienced with pressure and force.

Go For Safety

Many woods that are popular for carving are safe to carve and non-toxic. However, some woods are toxic, and therefore should be avoided when carving items for food and the like, such as bowls, spoons, forks, and more. If you have kids or pets who might for some reason get a hold of your wood carvings, you should avoid these as well. In addition, some wood carvers do have an allergic reaction to the wood materials itself. Thus, UJ Ramelson recommends that you do your research before you buy. Basswood, oak, and pine are among the safe woods to whittle.

Go For Clean

Wood with surface imperfections, while showing character and can be super useful in their own right, often has deeper, underlying issues that can affect the end result of your wood carving. Trust us, the last thing you want is to spend hours making a cool creation, only to discover a crucial part cannot be carved due to internal wood rot. There may also be imperfections in the color from termites or beetles. You’ll also want to avoid large cracks as well.

Go For Scent

All wood carries a smell, some of which we love, such as pine scents. That being said, some woods do not smell as alluring as pine; in fact, some smell downright awful and can emit unpleasant odors that can be so bad that they give you headaches. If you are carving items to sell at trade shows, online, or the like, you also don’t want a heavy smell to your woodworking projects. Again, you could spend hours carving only to discover you hate the smell. Avoid these woods for your carving purposes.

Go For Finish

At the end of the day, you want a woodworking project that fits you and your needs. For example, many people avoid cutting across the wood grain. It’s frankly easier to wood carve in the direction of the wood grain. For softwood, this makes carving wood a snap. However, when you do carve against the grain, you can get a refined, more polished look. Softwoods work well when carving against the grain, which makes Basswood a popular choice. Many types of wood have different grain patterns in a tree. For example, maple trees are known to have a rippling water effect from wood from the bottom of the tree that has been compressed. This is choice wood amongst professional wood carvers. Other choice pieces can be found in Maple or Birch trees where the truck begins to branch out into its main branches.

Worthy Considerations 

With so many different types of wood to choose from, finding the right type for your skill and project can be more challenging than you think. With all the natural options we have, you probably are wondering which woods are best for your wood carving needs. For high-quality carvings that require little effort, pine and basswood are the ideal choices. Let’s take a closer look at these, all well as a few of the other options you have when it comes to the best wood for carving.


As mentioned, Basswood is one of the easiest wood types to carve and is highly recommended for beginners. It is soft and forgiving, which means it won’t take a toll on your tools and holds wood stain well. Basswood is also one of the best types of wood for whittling or to achieve fine details in relief carving projects. Basswood can be carved both along and across the wood grain, but wood carving enthusiasts recommended carving along with the grain for the best results. This type of wood is a great choice for carving kitchenware, such as spoons, bowls, and plates. 


Pine is another type of wood that is easy to carve, making it a great choice for beginners. Pine is typically used for lumber, but is renowned in the realm of wood carving for its ability to hold its shape well. It has a medium grain texture and it is easy to shape and fashion.

Black Walnut

While tougher than both basswood and pine, the rich grain and color of black walnut wood can result in some beautiful carvings. It’s one of the best types of wood for carving, mostly popular for the aesthetic appeal that it offers. Because walnut is harder compared to other alternative types of wood, make sure you are using the best wood carving tools and keep them sharp to avoid putting too much strain on your hands. 


One of the strongest types of wood, oak is incredibly popular for its durability, which is why it is used for woodworking projects that involve crafting furniture. It also boasts a gorgeous stark grain and a rich color that makes your work even more appealing. 


Mahogany is becoming more and more popular among woodcarvers. The reddish-brown texture with straight wood grains makes it an interesting choice for a wide variety of projects. Even though it is a hardwood, it is very easily carved. Mahogany has a very faint scent and can be carved using both hand carving tools as well as power tools. 


If you’re looking for affordable carving wood, butternut is a great choice. It’s very similar to basswood in that it has coarser grains and is easy to shape and work with. This wood type tends to have few defects and is fairly inexpensive compared to hardwood prices. It’s the perfect wood type for those on a budget as well as those who are just getting started with woodcarving.

Mahogany is becoming more and more popular among woodcarvers. The reddish-brown texture with straight wood grains makes it an interesting choice for a wide variety of projects. Even though it is a hardwood, it is very easily carved. Mahogany has a very faint scent and can be carved using both hand carving tools as well as power tools. 

Choosing the best wood for carving heavily depends on your skills, tools, and what you are planning to create. Each wood type is ideal for a different project, as they all feature different characteristics. For beginning woodcarvers, a softer wood like basswood is a wise choice. For more projects that require more durability, however, you can’t go wrong with hardwoods such as oak or walnut. The best way to find which wood type is best for you is to try them all and see which ones you prefer most.


UJ Ramelson offers the best wood carving tools in the industry since our founding in 1937. Our family-owned business is now in its third generation of producing the finest wood crafting tools, supplies, and jewelry engraving equipment. All of our items are made from the highest quality products right here in the USA. Each wood carving tool is handmade using the finest steel, so you know you are getting the best of the best. We engineer our wood carving knives for longevity. We believe we do an excellent job in blending age-old traditions with advanced technologies so that we can continue to offer our customers the top-notch wood carving supplies they have come to expect. Browse our website today!