Choosing your wood
Which wood you use for your relief carving is determined by the method of carving you will use, the purpose of the carving, and where the carving will be displayed.
For your first projects in relief carving I would strongly suggest basswood. With its fine, tight grain and clean white coloring it is the primary species for easy cutting, deep shaping, and fine line detailing. Basswood is perfect for letting you to learn how to use your tools and how to make your cuts. It is readily available at most large craft stores in both pre-routed plaques and in shapes as boxes, wall hearts, and even canister sets. Basswood, as any carving wood, can be purchased through mail order wood store in planed boards of varying thickness, widths, and lengths.
Butternut has a distinct tightly packed grain line with a silvery grey-brown tone. As basswood, butternut cuts smoothly with minimal pressure from your carving tools. This wood is available for purchase as planed boards and can be ordered through most mail order wood stores.
Sugar Pine is a beautiful wood surface to work. It has a fine, tight grain much like butternut and few heavy sapwood areas. As all pines it has a white coloring to the surface when freshly planed, but as the wood ages it will take on a golden-orange patina. Sugar pine should not be confused with the more common species of white pine.
English walnut, black walnut, maple, birch, and poplar are common woods used by relief wood carvers. These are all harder woods and require careful, controlled pressure when cutting.Yellow and red cedar are often used for outdoor use as signs or door plaques. Learn more about carving woods, visit Woodcarving Basics.