Discover the qualities and specifications of the main wood species recommended for carving with gouges and chisels. All wood species can be carved, but it is preferable to use power tools for woods that have higher densities.
Linden (density .41):
Very soft white wood, with ideal grain for carving, recommended for beginners and experts. This is excellent for enhancing shapes because its colour intensifies light to dark contrasts. Linden is ideal for projects that will be painted because it is easy to carve and its grain is very subtle. This wood is also ideal for carving faces and small sculptures that require very fine grain which will not distract from the beauty of the work.
Grey Ash (density .45):
This is a very soft, light brown wood that is a little more brittle than linden. The grain is very pronounced, similar to that of oak. Grey Ash is ideal for all projects where visible grain is desired.
Pine (density .42):
Pine is a relatively soft resinous wood, appreciated for its yellowish tint and often pronounced grain. However, it can be brittle and have knots that are very hard to carve. Pine is ideal for beginner projects because it is readily available and inexpensive. Compared to linden and grey ash, pine will resist rotting and is therefore an excellent choice for outdoor projects.
Tupelo (density .50):
Tupelo grows in the bayous of Louisiana . It is widely used by carvers working with power tools, because the wood fibers tend to crush and are not easily cut when using manual gouges and chisels. Tupelo vaporizes to a fine dust and is easily carved with power tools. This wood's best feature is that it can be carved in different directions and that the grain is almost invisible, thus providing a higher quality finish. For example, decoy carvers (fowl in particular) use this type of wood when very detailed plumage is required. Because tupelo is white and has no visible grain, wax or oil finishing will not enhance it very much. This wood is best used for projects that will require painting. This will provide a finished piece with lots of subtle, smooth and colourful details.
African Mahogany (density .53) or Brazilian Mahogany (density .60):
Mahogany is also a species of wood that is easily carved even though it is denser than the woods previously discussed. Mahogany is a rich orange-brown in colour and seems to shimmer under various types of lighting. The grain is quite rich and spectacular, and enhances the aesthetics of any piece.
Pear Tree (density .70):
Pear wood is also an excellent choice for carving. Because of its high density, good quality gouges and chisels and mallets are required. Pear wood grain is not very visible; its colour is flesh tone pink which gives excellent results for carving the human form It is best to sharpen gouges and chisels prior to working with pear wood.