What Is The Best Wood To Carve?

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You want hobby to fill your time, or teach the kids some mindfulness and connect with nature. Especially for younger beginner whittlers, making it easier to get into will make it easier to develop a love for it as time passes.

That’s why we are giving you our best woods for whittling. These are classified as “softwoods” and will be an excellent introduction to wood carving of all types, and later as you hone your skills, you’ll be able to successfully use hard woods.

We’ve highlighted the following choices, as they are all softwood with a fine grain which means you can focus on your creativity and technique rather than your hand strength!

Pine wood

Probably the most readily available in hardware stores. The grain is straight with an even, medium texture. Easy to work with when gluing and finishing, and has a faint, resinous odour while being carved/cut.

As the most commonly stocked lumber in stores, you ‘ll never have to order it in especially so it’s a quick, easy and inexpensive to get started with whittling. A lot of beginners use pine for flat carving of reliefs and simpler projects.

Pine Wood Mantel Wood Carving
Pine Wood Mantel Wood Carving

The downside with pine, though, when its dried, it loses some of the finer detail, and also becomes harder to carve into. Not only that, while fresh pine holds more detail during initial stages of carving, whittlers will commonly have to deal with the occasional flow of pine sap as they work with it. This can add time and a bit more cleaning than is needed sometimes!

Overall, it’s cheap, plentiful, and easy to get hold of, and a good starter wood but one of the most underrated aspects of Pine? Its aroma when it’s being cut, make a few cuts and you’ll like you are sat right in the middle of a pine forest if you try hard enough.


The softest wood here, it is best used for craft and decorative rather than whittling objects to be kept and cherished in the long term. It can be very grainy  and has a tendency to get fuzzy edges when using dull cutters, so its extra important to make sure your knife or whittling tools are sharp to get the best results from it.

Balsa Wood Boat

That being said Balsa is a fantastic choice for newbie whittlers. Because of its softness, its often the go to wood for  pre-cut frame models such as those used for small-scale frame model of vehicles and structures, like model boats, planes and automobiles. Great for proofs of concept if you will.

Balsa wood, because it is used for several different purposes, and that it is indigenously grown in Central and South America so is easily available and affordable in the Americas.


Our outright favourite whittling wood!

Easy to work with as a beginner, being very soft and light. Perhaps the most suitable wood species for hand carving, and our favourite! Basswood also, sands, glues and finishes well

Basswood is almost certainly the most popular wood associated with beginners whittling.  Indigenous to northern hemisphere, it was later discovered by Europeans settlers explored the  Americas that species of basswood also grew there, and native Americans were using it for the same purpose – to carve, build structures, and boats. Ever wonder why there are so many Pinterest boards on carving totems? Now you know why!

Basswood is the best pound for pound wood for carving. Its soft enough to be cut by a small knife for intricate patterns and also shaping of the wood with larger slices able to be taken off as well. Its tight and very uniform grain makes it perfect to not worry about knots irregularities. The beginner can literally pick up some basswood and get started immediately. Its ease of handling means the newbie will quickly be able to see results and start to foster their burgeoning lifelong love for wood almost immediately.

Because of this, craft suppliers not only offer carving blocks en masse, but also pre shaped blanks so that you can carve quickly and easily and end up with a wonderfully presentable gift

Anything You Can Find: Start at the source if you have to, go find a fallen branch or twig and start with carefully trying different cuts, and see what develops. If anything, if you have no plan, no design, you can still literally “whittle away” the time just relaxing and shaping a branch, and handling something made my nature and away from technology. There is no one who won’t benefit from that! Enjoy!