One of the most tedious and frustrating aspects about the art of wood carving is not the amount of money spent on tools.
It’s not even when you accidentally cut your finger and have to retire yourself out of commission for weeks until it’s healed.
Want to know what the most tiresome thing that we all have to deal with is?
Wood that damages knives.
Chipping, rolling, bending: all are damages we have or will encounter if you choose the wrong wood for your carving tools.
So what wood should you be using instead?
Well, basswood is famously known for being incredibly versatile and the easiest to carve wood with. But there’s more reasons than that to pick this type of wood for modeling figures with.
Here are 7 reasons you should consider basswood as the best wood for carving:
Why Basswood Is The Best Wood For Carving
It can be a little intimidating jumping into this craft, mostly because there is so much information and safety precautions to know before hand, or you can just learn as you go like I did. A lot of this information can be found in the guides on this website.
Anyways, here are the 7 reasons why basswood is the best wood for carving:
1. Blade Will Hold Edge Longer
Tom just started wood carving and bought a flexcut knife and a block of red oak wood.
He is excited to begin carving and jumps right in by choosing an owl for his first project.
Tom is following all the introductions from a tutorial he found but notices something he didn’t expect to happen after roughly 15 minutes of carving.
His blade became very dull and can hardly make cuts anymore.
Hardwoods like Tom’s red oak, which is not the best wood for carving when you are first starting out, require an intensive and frequent amount of sharpening to continue a project. Although it is good practice to consistently sharpen your knives, it can be impractical for beginners who are learning basic cuts and techniques.
Basswood is a softwood used by even veterans of this art, and here’s a big reason why this is:
Longer edge retention
By having longer edge retention it allows an expanded duration of carving time without dulling the blade.
So save yourself the trouble Tom had encountered.
2. Fine, Even Grain
Grain in wood can be a pesky thing if it isn’t even and parallel.
You’ll often hear that carving with the grain is the ideal way to cut wood. Well, basswood also offers another way to cut wood that comes in handy a lot.
Cutting across the grain.
The fine grain provides a platform to perform smooth and practically effortless cuts.
Often times, on most woods, cutting across the grain requires strenuous tension from your knife to achieve such a feat, but lucky for you basswood is very forgiving.
3. Easy Workability
Become familiar with basic and advanced technical cuts with both whittling and chipping, it is a godsend. But these cuts aren’t so easy on just any type of wood.
This is another reason why basswood is the best wood for carving.
It’s soft and light nature makes maneuverability with a knife feel like you’re slicing through butter. Perhaps the best wood for carving and practicing the basic/advanced cuts is basswood. Even when you completely butcher a cut you’ll be able to correct your mistakes.
If Tom had known this, he would have seen much more success with his first project.
4. No Allergens or Toxicity
Roughly 5% of the world’s population is allergic to some form of wood with the most popular reaction being dermatitis.
Dermatitis is an allergic reaction which causes the skin to become red, swollen, and sometimes develop blisters. The result is unpleasant but definitely manageable.
Basswood is not known to derive this condition.
5. Zero Smell
Want to know what kills a project?
Even if it is carved with hours of dedication devoted to fixing every little bit of imperfection?
Don’t believe me? Here’s an example.
Have you ever noticed how many different scents and smells the health and beauty market has for lotions?
Vanilla, lavender, apricot, mango. This list is endless.
Want to know what the highest demand of lotions are?
A simple google search helped me here. I went to google and typed in “scented lotion”, a whopping 585,000 results came up.
Want to know how much “fragrance free lotion” has?
That’s over 2 million.
Smells are very important, mostly because people are often times allergic to it. Other reasons could be that they don’t like the lingering smell it leaves, perhaps too strong, irritates the nasal cavity, etc.
Same can be applied for wood.
Several types of wood have a lingering stench which permeates the surrounding environment and can be a little disorienting. A couple of these include:
- Eastern Red Cedar
- Spanish Cedar
- Incense Cedar
- Brazilian Rosewood
However, basswood leaves no trace of scents.
6. Perfect For Staining
The pale complexion of basswood sometimes doesn’t leave much variety for color, so often times people enjoy staining their finished project. Which is not only held really well by this softwood, but ads depth and a polished look to it as well that gives it a more professional appeal.
It’s a little odd to think we need to buy wood for a project when it’s so readily available to us when we walk outside.
You might also get away with going to a local lumber craft store and seeing what they have to spare or are going to throw away. Chances are it won’t be in conveniently shaped for optimal carving so you’ll need to start a little rough if that’s the case.
Another great option is heading over to amazon for basswood blocks.
I’m not discouraging using any other types of wood. In fact, it’s greatly encouraged with this art.
But I’d certainly be lying if all woods support these reasons I listed in this article. Which is why basswood is the best wood for carving.