By L.S. Irish
This list is by no means a complete list of possible woods to use in your carving hobby, it is simply a listing of the woods that I have used and with which I have had experience.
Basswood (Tilia americana) also called American Lime
Soft creamy white wood that is easy to work and glues into larger block very well. It has no figuring, with a fine straight even grain, the sapwood is almost white. Carves well and is excellent for detail work. Very light weight. Basswood is used in carving, turning, and toy making.
Butternut ( Juglans cinerea) also called White Walnut
Much lighter in weight than black walnut, this wood has a medium fine straight grain than is a golden brown tone to a reddish brown at the sapwood. If you use an oil finish to the carving the surface takes on a light oak tone. Excellent for high relief with some fine detailing. Used in furniture carving, and veneering.
Mahogany, Honduras (Swietenia macrophylla)
Mahogany has a reddish tone that deepens beautifully over the years. It is a strong yet light wood with a straight and even grain. Shaves well and takes extremely fine detail. Used in furniture making, veneers, carving, and turn work.
Jelutong (Dyera costulata)
A soft wood much like butternut that has a silvery gray sheen when finished. Fine textured and straight grained. Jelutong often contains sap channels throughout the the wood, yet these can add to the mystic of the carving. Used in carving and pattern making.
Walnut (Juglans nigra) also called Black Walnut and American Walnut
Extremely durable wood that will accept relief carving. Most carving work is done with a chisel and mallet. The grain is medium coarse yet straight. Walnut burls can have very interesting figuring within them. The color of walnut can change quickly from deep reddish brown to creamy white. Used in furniture making, furniture carving, turning, and carving.
Obeche (Triplochiton scleroxylon) also called Wawa
An extremely soft wood with a very featureless graining. Obeche is easily indented with any pressure and requires careful treatment in pattern tracing and handling. Carving knifes need to be finely honed for the best cutting strokes. Exceptionally light weight. Used in model making and three dimensional carving.
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
A hardwood similar to walnut in it’s ability to be carved. Has a very interesting, distinct grain pattern that is straight. Mediun to heavy weight wood that is creamy tan with darker brown grain lines. Smells wonderful while you are carving. Used in furniture making, furniture carving, and carving.
Quaken Aspen is a light weight wood that is classified as a hardwood and is fun to carve. Tough, yet is not heavy to carry. It is a neutral wood that is light in color, and accepts stain readily. Sands easily and nicely. Rough sand with 220 grit and fine sand with 400 grit. Good to carve with knife, Dremel tool, and/or wood burn. A common wood that is easy to find and functional as a light weight walking stick.