To those who grow their interest in carving wood, you find that at each level you reach, there is more knowledge needed, or you get to be curious about other things concerning wood, that will help you perfect the skill. As I was learning about wood carving the question; what is the hardest wood for carving? Crossed my mind and I went on research to find out the knowledge I was seeking.
There are two classifications of wood which are; hardwood and softwood. When wood is classified as hardwood, it does not necessarily mean that it is hard to carve. All hardwoods have broad leaves, and most being deciduous, the leaves change color and shed during the winter. These trees include maple, oak, walnut, and box.
To avoid confusion, soft woods like yellow pine are hard to carve and the reason why most challenging woods for carving are found in hardwoods is because most of them are close-grained with fine pores, making it harder, heavier, and more durable than most softwood.
List of The Hardest wood for Carving
Sugar Maple wood
Sugar maple is the hardest wood on my list with a Janka of 1450 lbf and I would say that is not for beginners with limited tools. It is a very good wood for carving with an even grain. This wood is perfect for wood carving. Avoid using the Japanese hand saw on it because it will finish all its teeth.
It may be hard for you to carve with a knife, but gouge and mallet or use of power tools will make your work easier. It has nice even looking and this makes the projects curved by this wood beautiful.
The density of this wood is quite a bit more than the other woods used for carving giving it higher janks.
Old mallets were made of burled hardwoods that were very resistant to splitting and chipping and sugar maple is one of the woods used. It does not take the kind of stress of regular hammer is and you are just mainly using it for fairly controlled bows on the chisel.
Oak is a very popular wood for carving and has a range of features almost ideal. The oak tree wood is one of the toughest woods for carving with a Janka of 1360lbf higher than its relative read oak which comes out at 1,290 Janka.
The grain is very defined and straight and has an uneven texture, carvers who prefer hardwood, love it when making details. This wood’s grain has some features that make it quite unique, for example, white oak’s water resistance lies in the pores, and is totally sealed off by tyloses. But red oak does not have the same cellular growth and the pores are open.
Another characteristic of white oak is the rays that run alongside the grain and they tend to be much longer than red oak. White oak can take on virtually any hue, from light beige through brown. It’s not always easy to differentiate the types of oak based on color alone because the same oak tree can have different colors throughout, and this oak stains very well, meaning a piece can look as dark as walnut or even brighten up a room when stained a vibrant view.
This type of wood does not only have a good aesthetic appearance, but it is also durable and has high workability.
This wood is best carved by use of a chisel or a power tool because it might be hard to carve using your hands and the carving knife only.
This is another popular hardwood and you should carve it using sharp tools and a mallet or power tools for the best result. Walnut has a rich color and grain that has made it popular for a wide range of products.
This wood has a shock resistance, it is strong and stable which makes it good for carving. When carving using power tools, wear protective gear like goggles and a mask, And have adequate ventilation.
It has a straight grain and generally does not generally require a filling. Staining walnut isn’t really necessary unless a color is uneven.
If you choose walnut for curving remember these tips:
- Deep cuts along the grain may cause the wood to pop out.
- The Walnut’s grain varies from very open to almost closed, depending on where it grew, and each performs differently where open-grain walnut carves easier and closed-grain are harder to carve.
Black Walnut trees commonly reach heights of 100-inches or more with 3-inches in diameter trunks, and this helps in yielding a copious amount of consistent, straight grain.
This wood won’t put undue strain on your machinery or muscles when hand-working it, holding crisp details from a router bit, carving knife, or other cutting tools.
It has a sweet smell but, don’t inhale too much because the dust can irritate lungs and nasal passages, and some carvers have reported several allergic reactions.
Walnut also accepts finishes with ease and it is normally used for its natural dark color.