Popular woods to carve
Cottonwood is a regional favorite wood for carving (in the Midwest). It is softwood with a straight grain. Indians would use Cottonwood roots for carving dolls. It may be difficult to get in some areas.
Walnut (a.k.a. black walnut, American walnut) is almost exclusively used in gunstocks. Walnut has dark brown heartwood with tan sapwood. It is straight grained but can be very curly. Carving on walnut is usually done with a chisel and mallet.
Mahogany (a.k.a. Honduras Mahogany, American Mahogany) is a a reddish colored wood. It has a relatively straight grain. It is a suprisingly strong for its light weight. It is well suited for carvings that have thin sections. It is easily worked with hand tools or power tools. If it is finished clear, the wood will darken with age.
Jelutong is a soft wood that is imported from the Philippines. It is straight grained. Jelutong has “latex pockets” in the wood. However these “latex pockets” can be easily removed and filled with wood filler. Some people consider it easier to carve than Butternut or Basswood. The main disadvantage is the fuzzy fibers that lift up when using power tools on it.
Tupelo (a.k.a. water gum) is a soft wood grown in swampy areas of the United States. It has a good looking grain pattern, which looks good with a clear finish.
It doesn’t have the fuzzy fibers like Basswood or Jelutong.
In a similar way to carving stone a sculptor must choose a piece of wood that is suitable for the type of sculpture they want to create. Different woods act in different ways so it is important to understand what wood you are using. The techniques involved in sculpting a piece of wood are based on using the correct tools for the job. One of the websites which I have studied is http://www.carvingpatterns.com/tools.htm which has a pictured list of some of the tools that are needed for carving wood and what each one does. A sculptor starts by taking the bigger bits of material off and then chisels in using smaller tools for the detailed areas. Depending on what finish is needed the last stage can involve sandpaper and a layer of sealant such as