best type of wood for carving UJ Ramelson

The Best Wood for Carving

Wood carvers are a special bunch. Let’s face it, it takes a lot of patience to work a piece of wood to your exact specification, and in today’s world of instant gratification, wood carving just doesn’t fit the bill. However, those of us who love it are always trying to improve. Part of improving is having the best wood carving tools and the best medium i.e. wood.

UJ Ramelson is a family-owned woodworking supply company. We’ve been offering the best wood carving tools since 1937. We have built a reputation as a company for the best wood carving tools, such as chisels, knives, hammers, and more. We also offer jewelry engraving tools, oyster knives, woodcarvers’ aprons, and so much more. Below, we’ll go over a few of the best kinds of wood for carving. Contact us today to get started!




Basswood is a very popular wood for hand carvers because it is soft. Softwoods hold details extremely well, so it is great for chip carvers and relief carvers. This wood is white, so it’s perfect for painting. It is non-toxic, which is good if you have dogs that like to chew wood and great for making cutlery. The best supplies are from Wisconsin and Minnesota. You can get these in shops, but it’s best to order online. You’ll pay less overall and have more of a selection. Basswood is great for the beginning wood carver as it is soft and easy to work with. Related to Basswood and equally as good is Northern White Pine or Sugar Pine.

If you like whittling, basswood may not be your cup of tea. It’s usually too soft, so mistakes are easy to make. Stains and glosses do not hold well with this type of wood for wood carvers. This wood is excellent for beginning wood carvers because it is soft and not prone to as many insects as other types of wood. You can use more wood carving tools on Basswood, including carving knives, chisels, mallets, and gouges for a very versatile assembly of woodworking projects.


Balsa is very soft and very light wood that is often chosen for kids’ woodworking projects. It can be found in almost every local hobby store, lumber yard, or arts and craft store. Like with any woodworking project, or any type of undertaking you do in the real world, sometimes your project is only as good as your tools and equipment. For Balsa wood, you need great quality wood carving tools such as those available from UJ Ramelson; otherwise, the low density of the wood can be extremely difficult if your carving knives are dull. Balsa wood cannot hold nails, but it can be stained and finished. Popular woodworking projects include models, dollhouses, ornaments, and statues. This wood can splinter easily.


Cottonwood is another softwood, so it’s great for beginners as well. Its bark is fun to make cool shapes from and is usually left unpainted. Cottonwood is often sourced from the Midwest.


Butternut usually always makes the list of the most popular wood to choose for wood carving. It has a very rich color and grain similar to Walnut but lighter in color. Butternut is a tree that is often attacked by insects, so most of the wood that you will get will have holes in them. This only adds to the overall character of the wood and of your piece. It is able to be finished, stained, and glued, so butternut makes a great all-around wood. It is popular for relief carving or sculpture. Butternut is second to Basswood in popularity; however, fungus in the United States is attacking Butternut trees, making this wood harder to come by.



Walnut is a popular choice for carving when it comes to hardwoods. However, it’s hard to carve with hand tools. You will need sharper tools and a mallet for the best results. Power carvers (those who use powered wood carving tools) love Walnut for their woodworking projects. As most of you know, walnut is a favorite for furniture due to its beautiful color and grain, which makes it a great choice for your carving needs as well. It is also good for making cutlery.


It’s hard to beat mahogany when it comes to beauty. The rich red color of mahogany is recognized anywhere, and you most definitely can make some extremely beautiful pieces with it. Mahogany is a relatively strong wood, but can split, especially if you are using power tools. It can be stained and will usually have a reddish color.


It’s so hard to definitely say what the best types of wood are for woodcarving. After all, everyone has their own preferences, skill sets, and what they want their piece to look like. This is one of the beautiful things about wood carving. There are so many different mediums to use that you literally have the best of both worlds.

In general, softwoods are preferable for beginners and smaller, hand-held tasks. Hardwoods can be difficult to carve and are preferred for larger projects such as furniture and cabinetry work.

UJ Ramelson has been offering the best wood carving tools since 1937. Our third-generation, family-owned wood carving supply company specializes in making 100% American-made wood crafting tools, such as chisels, mallets, knives, and more, all from hand. We have combined our age old traditions with advanced technology to continue to serve our clients with the best woodworking tools that are long-lasting, easy to use, and beautiful.

Our customers love our woodworking tools, and we strive to give the best customer service. We stay abreast with trends and technology and incorporate them into all that we do. From eye punches and Intaglio printmaking tools to carving sets and stained glass tools, we’ve got everything you need to succeed. If you have any questions, reach out to our friendly staff, and browse our immense selection of hand crafting tools online today!