carving redwood

Can You Carve Redwood?

There are various types of wood that can be used for carving, but one of the most popular is redwood, if you can get your hands on it. Redwood is a softwood that is known for its ease of carving, strength, and beautiful color. Carving redwood is popular because of its straight grain and low density, which make it easy to carve with sharp tools.

The Redwood Tree Itself

Redwood trees, those towering giants that seem to touch the sky, come in two main species: the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), also known as the California Redwood, and the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), also known as the Sierra Redwood.  Both of these varieties are only found in the state of California, thanks to the very specific climate and elevation they require for growth.

California Redwoods, the tallest living trees on Earth, call the coast of California their home and can grow up to 380 feet tall. Imagine stepping off the side of the road along the Pacific Coast and stumbling upon these majestic beauties!

On the other hand, Giant Sequoias are like nature’s gentle giants, residing in the Sierra Nevada mountains. You’ll find these magnificent trees putting down roots in the heart of California’s wilderness. Outside of the west coast, redwood lumber can be difficult to find, but if you can get some it’s a lot of fun to carve with and a nice soft wood that beginners will like.  

As a cousin of redwood trees, western red cedar is a convenient alternative and readably available throughout the United States.

Is Redwood Good For Carving?

Redwood is an excellent wood for carving.  This versatile wood has several characteristics that make carving redwood a dream for both beginners and veteran carvers. Its softness and fine grain make carving easy, allowing your tools to glide through the craft wood effortlessly.

Whether you’re crafting intricate details or bold shapes, redwood’s smooth texture and responsive feel ensure a positive carving experience.  Redwood has a Janka Hardness rating of 420 lbf, this means it has similar softness to both white pine and basswood. Check out our article on other easy to carve woods too!

carving redwood

Tools and Techniques for Carving Redwood

Essential Carving Tools

As a woodcarver, having the right tools is essential to achieving your desired results. When it comes to carving redwood, you have several options to choose from. Here are some of the essential tools that I use:

  • Chainsaw: A chainsaw is an excellent tool for roughing out large pieces of redwood quickly. It is also useful for removing large sections of wood that you don’t need.
  • Angle Grinder: An angle grinder with the proper wood carving discs is a versatile tool that can be used to shape and smooth out your redwood carving. It is especially useful for creating intricate curves and removing larges amounts of wood.
  • Chisels: Chisels are a must-have tool for any woodcarver. They come in different shapes and sizes, and you can use them to remove small sections of wood and create fine details.
  • Mallet: A mallet is used to strike your chisels, helping you to remove wood quickly and efficiently. It is essential to have a mallet that is comfortable to hold and has good, balanced, weight.

Carving Techniques

Carving redwood requires a different approach than other woods due to its softness and straight grain. Here are some techniques that I find useful:

  • Whittling: Whittling is a technique that involves using a knife to remove small sections of wood from your redwood carving. It is a great way to create intricate details, small figures, and shapes.
  • Chip Carving: Chip carving is a technique that involves removing small chips of wood from your redwood carving to create patterns and designs. It is a challenging technique that requires patience and precision.
  • Relief Carving: Relief carving is a technique that involves carving a design into the surface of your redwood carving. It is an excellent way to create depth and texture in your carving.

Types of Redwood Carvings

When it comes to redwood carving, there are a variety of options to choose from. Here are some of the most common types of redwood carvings:


Old growth redwood is a popular choice for creating sculptures due to its softness and straight grain. It is easy to carve and can hold intricate details well. Sculptors can use hand tools, power tools, or carving chainsaws to create their desired designs. Redwood sculptures can be found in a variety of settings, from public parks to private gardens.


Redwood can also be used to create beautiful and durable furniture pieces. As a conifer it has a natural resistance to decay and insects, redwood furniture can last for many years with proper care, more on this below. Common redwood furniture pieces include tables, chairs, benches, and even beds. Redwood furniture can be left natural or stained to match a specific decor style.

Decorative Pieces

Redwood carvings can also be used as decorative pieces in homes and gardens. Small carvings can be used as paperweights or bookends, while larger carvings can be used as centerpieces or wall art. Redwood carvings can also be used to create unique and personalized gifts for loved ones.  A redwood burl makes a beautiful bowl or centerpiece on your table.

Overall, redwood is a versatile and beautiful wood that can be used for a variety of carving projects. Whether you’re a professional sculptor or a beginner woodcarver, redwood is definitely worth considering for your next project.

carving redwood
Example of an artist chainsaw carving an octopus

Safety Measures When Carving Redwood

When carving redwood, safety should always be a top priority. Here are some safety measures I take when carving redwood:

Protective Gear

To protect my eyes from the dust produced by carving using power tools, I always wear protective eyewear like goggles. Safety glasses and goggles cover every area from which dust or flying debris might enter your eyes.

I also wear a mask when doing power carving to avoid inhaling fine dust particles that hang in the air, long after you take off the mask. A mask can also protect against the sawdust produced by hand-carving.

Sharp Tools

It is important to remember that a tool is always safer when sharp than blunt. When hand-carving, I make sure that my tools are comfortable when used to avoid fatigue and make me carve for a longer period.

Good Dust Control

I always make sure to have good dust control for sanding or power carving, sawing and so on. A dust collector or shop-vac can help keep the dust levels down.  It’s never good to inhale dust from your wood working projects, especially resiny dust from conifer trees.

Safety/Carving Glove

A safety or carving glove can help protect your hand from cuts and give you a better grip on your tools. I also like to use a carving apron whenever possible to further protect myself.

First Aid Kit

I always keep a good first aid kit for cuts nearby when carving. You never know when you’ll need it, but when/if you do you’ll be thankful you planned ahead!

By following these safety measures, I can enjoy carving redwood without worrying about getting injured.

Maintenance and Care for Redwood Carvings

Maintaining and caring for your carved redwood pieces is essential to keep them looking beautiful and lasting for years to come. Here are some tips to help you keep your redwood carvings in top condition:

Clean Regularly

Dust and debris can accumulate on your redwood carvings, making them look dull and dirty. To keep them looking their best, wipe them down regularly with a soft cloth. You can also use a soft-bristled brush to remove any dirt or debris that has accumulated in the crevices.

Protect from Moisture

Redwood is a natural material that is susceptible to moisture damage. To protect your carvings from moisture, keep them away from areas with high humidity or moisture. If you plan to display your carvings outdoors, make sure they are protected from rain and direct sunlight.

Apply a Finish

Applying a finish to your redwood carvings can help protect them from moisture and other environmental factors. A semi-transparent stain is an ideal choice for maximum protection of any redwood carvings. It will help prevent cracking and rotting, especially when exposed to water.

Store Properly

When not in use, store your redwood carvings in a dry, cool place. Avoid storing them in areas with high humidity or moisture, as this can cause damage over time. If you plan to store them for an extended period, wrap them in a soft cloth to protect them from dust and other debris.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your redwood carvings remain beautiful and in excellent condition for years to come.

Learning to Carve Redwood

Carving redwood can be a rewarding experience for both beginners and experienced carvers. Here are some resources to help you get started:

Classes and Workshops for Carving Redwood

Attending a class or workshop is a great way to learn the basics of carving redwood. Many woodworking schools and community colleges offer courses on woodcarving that cover the fundamentals of carving, including tool selection, sharpening, and finishing. Some classes may even focus specifically on carving redwood. My local Woodcraft store offers a variety of woodworking classes.

In addition to classes, there are also many informal carving groups that meet regularly to share techniques and tips. Joining one of these groups can be a great way to learn from experienced carvers and get feedback on your work. Search around Facebook to find one.

Online Resources for Carving Redwood

If you can’t attend a class or workshop in person, there are many online resources available to help you learn to carve redwood. YouTube is a great place to start, with many instructional videos available that cover everything from tool selection to finishing techniques.

There are also many online forums and communities dedicated to woodcarving, where you can ask questions and get feedback on your work. Some of these communities even offer virtual carving classes or one-on-one coaching.

When learning to carve redwood, it’s important to start with simple projects and work your way up to more complex pieces. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – they’re a natural part of the learning process. With practice and patience, you’ll soon be able to create beautiful works of art from this versatile and beautiful wood.

What’s Next?

Redwood is a great wood for carving due to its straight grain and softness. When it comes to finishing a redwood carving, there are several options to consider. Some popular finishes include oil-based finishes, wax finishes, and varnishes. It’s important to choose a finish that will protect the wood and enhance its natural beauty.

Overall, redwood is a versatile wood that can be used for a variety of carving projects. It’s important to take the time to choose the right piece of wood for your project and to use proper carving techniques to ensure a successful outcome. With the right tools and techniques, anyone can create a beautiful redwood carving.

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