Hard or soft wood?

Before we delve into some of the different species of wood for carving it's worth explaining the difference between hard and soft wood.

Generally, the harder the wood, the more force is required to push carving tools through it. Many woodcarvers find that using mallet tools for carving hardwoods allows for better control. A mallet provides a short, high-impact blow to the tool which moves the tool in a more controlled stroke.

Detailing on a wooden carving, especially small ones or using a softer wood, can be done with palm tools as the cuts being made are small and do not require a lot of force.

Types of wood


Also known as Basswood, Limewood is one of the most popular types of wood used by many carvers. It is a soft wood and is creamy and white in colour. Being extremely soft and crisp makes lime easy to work with and perfect for creating intricate carvings. Limewood also has a tight grain making it less likely to break at the edges, which is useful in woodcarving, (especially when you are just starting out) and gives a clean smooth finish. Plus, it's easily available and affordable making it a great go-to option for beginners and perfect for practising and honing your skills.


A classic choice for many woodcarvers, oak is great for outdoor and large projects. It is a hard wood and its strong, sturdy properties make it more suitable for larger projects rather than intricate work. Because of its hardness, porous nature and vulnerabilities while shaping, oak is not a good choice for beginners because of the degree of difficulty when it comes to making accurate cuts.


Another popular wood chosen by many woodcarvers and a great choice for furniture makers is walnut. It is a hard wood and its magnificently rich, dark brown colour is very attractive and shows beauty on its own without the need to apply wood stain. It has a fine but still open grain making it easy to carve beautiful objects emphasizing the wood's natural, beautiful movements.


Maple has a similar but slightly straighter grain than Limewood with a fine texture, meaning it gives a better finish. However, because it is a hard and dense wood beginners may find it difficult to work with. With the right skill set and tools, maple wood can be used to create beautiful sculptures and is the ideal choice for many woodcarvers.

More great woods for carving...


Cherry is a hard wood and has a beautiful, natural warm colour. With similar properties to lime, it has fewer holes or other uneven places making it easier to carve your sculpture. Cherry wood is also great for woodburning and makes adding finishing touches easy.


A great all-rounder with similar properties but slightly harder to Lime wood. Sycamore is also a great option if you are looking to add colour stains.


Also known as Tulip wood, Poplar is an excellent wood for carving. It has a straight, uniform grain which is easy to work with.

N.B. Any wood with fruits or nuts generally makes a good carving material because the grain should be tight and the piths should be hard.

This should give you a good idea of the different types of wood available and which type of wood is best for carving at your level.

Where can I buy wood for carving?

Generally speaking, if you are looking to carve small projects, small wood blanks are easily accessible from a variety of online stores. We supply a few different sizes of lime wood blanks perfect for any level woodcarver along with a range of woodturning blanks, which can be used for carving.

When it comes to larger projects, contacting your local carving and/or woodturning club is a great way to find out where you can source timber locally. Or equally, you can try searching for a local timber merchant or sawmill who should be able to help source your timber blanks. If you are looking for something specific then are also a number of companies that are able to cut and size timber to your specifications.

New to carving?

Welcome to the world of carving! If you are looking for some extra guidance on how to get started in this simple yet satisfying craft then this useful guide will help you.  Alternatively, pop into your local store or contact our friendly experts!