What are the best woods to sculpt? What criteria should I follow to choose the type that best suits my characteristics?

There are many types of woods and several methods for classifying them. However, it is necessary to go beyond a classification between hard or soft woods and to know the individual characteristics of each one in order to be able to choose the best woods to sculpt.

It is necessary to know their textures and how they will behave during the sculpture process.

Today, wood carving is largely a hobby. There are fewer and fewer professionals and, although there are exceptions, not many are able to live exclusively from this activity. However, as a hobby, it is a very lively activity, just look at the number of people who ask questions about the subject in forums, send videos, etc.

The type of sculpture we make can largely determine the choice of wood. Those who use hand tools exclusively will look for light woods. Those that combine with power tools will have a greater preference for harder wood.

Classification of carving woods

  • American linden tree. There is almost unanimity on which is the best wood to carve. The linden wood is high with the crown. It is a kind of light hue, straight grain and very fine grain. This also makes it an ideal option for beginners. It is not normally an expensive wood and is abundant in Europe and North America.
  • Poplar. It is a little harder than linden wood, although it is soft and easy to work with.
  • American White Walnut. It is also an ideal option for beginners. It is lighter than traditional walnut and also lighter.
  • Nut. It is usually the wood used when looking for a result not only of quality, but also with “cache”. It is denser than other woods and darker, also much more expensive. Sharp tools must be used. It is not the best option for beginners.
  • cherry. It is not an easy option to work with, on the contrary, it is moderately complex. However, its reddish color is very attractive. It is recommended that the cherry wood be well dried before starting, as it decreases. However, once dry, it is very stable. Power tools can burn.
  • Oak. It is a very versatile, strong and resistant wood. It is a complex wood for carvers, although it allows to appreciate the details very well.
  • Sycamore. It is a light, moderately hard and resistant wood. It has always gone unnoticed, but it allows you to appreciate the details much better than oak or cherry. It is clear with silver tones.
  • Box. Only available for small parts. The result is usually very good. Its main use in this area is that of models.

How to choose the best wood to carve?

So far we have mentioned some of the best woods to carve, but we may not always have them available for purchase and we will need to use some others. Or we may even be able to access some of them, but for some reason it is not in compliance.

There are 4 main factors to evaluate:

  • Price. This is an obvious factor. Some woods are overpriced, and much more if we are learning to carve wood and a large percentage will be lost with the learning itself. It is best to make a short list of prices and availability in our environment, and see how much we can invest depending on the project. Remember that some woods, depending on where you are, can be imported and have a high price. Although we can always resort to buying wood to carve into small pieces or blocks over the Internet, their sizes can be small, but for learning and for small jobs it can be very useful.
  • Color. Of course, the color must be determined by the nature of the project or part we want to make. However, light wood can always be darkened, while the reverse is not the case. Therefore, although the result of darkening or staining is not perfect, it is a possibility that exists and allows you to choose from a wider range of woods.
  • Durability. In this case, we must take into account many other factors: density, hardness, resistance to rot and insects. In general, denser woods are more difficult, although there are exceptions. If what we are going to sculpt is not decorative, but an object for everyday use, we are interested in using hard wood, but the greater the hardness the more difficult the process is and the greater the wear of the tool. The idea is to try to find a balance. As for resistance to putrefaction and insects, one should consult the technical data sheets on wood and evaluate the information contained therein.
  • Workability. Softwoods are easier to work with, there is no doubt about it. However, a little carelessness with the tool can mark them, and also you cannot obtain pieces or small thicknesses as the wood allows.