Woodcarving is one of the oldest art forms common to all cultures, from the Stone Age. wood was the medium used in producing masks, statuettes, religious objects and general decorative items. Likewise, it was used in Oceanic art for the carving of ceremonial canoes, in totem pole culture of American Indian art and the Aboriginal art of Australia, to name a few.
As a material for sculpture, wood has both advantages and disadvantages. It can be carved more thinly and precisely than stone or animal bone because of its fibrous strength. Hardwoods are more difficult to sculpt but possess greater lustre and endurance, while softwoods are easier to shape, but less durable. Whatever the species of wood is used, it remains an anisotropic material.
The sculptors carve their most delicate lines with the grain rather than against it as the wood is strongest in the direction of the grain. The selection of wood depends on the product that we are about to make. If we are to carve kitchen wares like spoons or bowls, we need to choose the ideal wood, probably a hardwood which does not absorb moisture, is durable and does not break easily.
Some of the ideal woods for carving; a guide from Exotic Wood Zone.
One of the popular woods for carving, perfect for beginners. It is very easy to work with as it is a softwood. It has no scent, light cream coloured, streaks of light brown and has a smooth even grain. Basswood is ideal for small and large sculptures as it often warps. It is best for creating wood art from bowls, decorative plates to spoons.
It can be carved both along and across the wood grain and is most often used in kitchen wares as it is odourless, allergenic free and food safe.
Walnut is a great option for carving a denser, studier craft. It is best to cut with the grain using a mallet as it has a hard texture. It is dark and has straight woodgrains. Walnut wood is durable and moisture resistant. It also has a natural, clean finish which makes it easier during the finishing process to bring out a finished look.
Wood of walnut has a rich colour range from very dark, almost black to very creamy colours.
While considering between a hardwood and a softwood, mahogany is the best option for carving as it is great for any wood carving technique, including chip carving. Mahogany is a new growing trend among the woodcarvers.
It has straight wood grains with a reddish brown texture and requires not much work in adding wood tint or other colours to it. It is also incredibly stable and durable for a long time.
A sturdy and stable wood with high durability, is straight grained which makes it possible to carve along and across the grain structure. It is ideal for chip carving but difficult to whittle. It can slightly change its form when dried but once it does, it becomes sturdy.
The cherry hardwood is the best option for making decorative items, it comes with a pinkish brown tint and stain resistant.
Maple being a hard and dense wood, it is one of the difficult woods to carve. It has a trickier grain structure which makes it a choice for making exceptional properties. Since it has asymmetrical wood grains, it requires proper planning before beginning the project and is carved along the grain.
Maple wood can change its forms when it comes in contact with moisture, so it is best used for interior wood art, musical instruments, baseball bats to name a few.