While many woods can be used for
carving, there are some clear favorites. Here are a few:
- Cedar -
Cedars are strong, aromatic softwoods that
are capable of enduring outdoor elements, the most common of
which is the western red cedar. Western red cedar can
sustain wet environments without succumbing to rot, and as a
result is commonly used for outdoor projects such as patios,
outdoor furniture, and building exteriors. This wood can be
easily found at most home centers in the USA and Canada for
a moderate price.
- Fir -
Within the USA fir, also known as Douglas fir, is
inexpensive and common at local home centers. It has a
characteristic straight, pronounced grain with a red-brown
tint. However, its grain pattern is relatively plain and it
does not stain well, so fir is commonly used when the
finished product will be painted. While commonly used for
building, this softwood would also be suitable for
- Pine -
White pine, ponderosa, and southern yellow pine are common
species used in furniture-making. White pine and ponderosa
are typically used for indoor projects, while Southern
yellow pine is recommended for outdoor projects due to its
Ash - This hardwood is
relatively easy to work with and takes stain well, but its white
to light brown color with a straight grain is visually appealing
on its own. However, ash is much more difficult to find than
other common woods, and will not be found at the local home
center. Larger lumber yards should have it in stock.
Beech - Hardwood of the
European species Fagus sylvatica is widely used for furniture
framing and carcase construction, in plywood, musical
instruments (drum shells and piano blocks) and turned items like
Birch - Whether yellow or
white birch, these hardwoods are stable and easy to work with.
Despite this, birch is prone to blotching when stained, so
painting birch products is probably best. Birch is easily found
at many home centers and is a relatively inexpensive hardwood.
Cherry - Popular and easy to
work with, cherry is in high demand for its reddish-brown color
and ease of staining and finishing. Cherry likely will not be at
the local home center, but should be at a lumberyard for a
somewhat expensive price. This hardwood is a very common
material for furniture, and is resistant to normal
wear-and-tear, but it is best for indoor pieces.
Mahogany - A hardwood,
mahogany has a trademark reddish-brown to deep-red tint and is
known as "one of the great furniture woods". However, mahogany
is not typically grown in sustainable forests, and thus runs a
steep price at local lumber yards.
Oak - With two varieties,
red and white, oak is known to be easy to work with and
relatively strong. However, furniture makers often opt for white
oak over red oak for its attractive figure and
moisture-resistance. Depending on the kind needed, oak can
probably be found at a local home center or a lumberyard for a
bit pricier than other hardwoods.
Maple - With strength,
sturdiness, and durability, maple is a common material for
furniture for the bedroom and even china cabinets. Maple is
moisture-resistant and frequently displays stand-out swirls in
the wood grain, an aesthetically pleasing differentiator from
other hardwoods. While most commonly a lighter color, maple also
can take stains and paint well.
Jean-Pierre Dalbera from Paris, France, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons