Is Ash Good for Carving? (Ultimate Guide!)

Ever wondered if Ash is your ally in carving? Dive in to uncover the secrets of this versatile wood!

Is Ash Good for Carving

Ash is a straight-grain hardwood with light to medium brown in color which is commonly used for furniture making, cabinetry, flooring, and many other woodworking projects.

I have made lots of woodwork using Ash wood. but when it comes to the wood carving field, I was always curious about its carving capabilities.

So, I did some research with the help of wood carving experts and found a lot of info about using ash wood for carving.

Here’s what I found out in investigating: Is Ash good for carving?

Yes, Ashwood is excellent for carving due to its unique open grain and impressive hardness. While it presents a challenge for beginners due to its toughness, with sharp tools and proper technique, Ash can yield beautiful results, making it a favorite among many experienced woodworkers.

But there’s a lot to know!

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    So, in this article, I’ll explore, Is Ash good for carving, how hard Ash wood to carve, properties of Ash wood that are important in wood carving, and describe carving Ash wood using chainsaw or hand tools as well.

    Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.

    Just keep reading!

    Ash wood carving projects
    Ash wood carving projects

    Is Ash Difficult to Carve?

    Carving Ash wood is difficult for a beginner in woodcarving with limited tools.

    To make Ash wood carving easy, users need to be well experienced with wood carving and tools should be well sharpened.

    According to the Janka hardness ratings, Ash wood has a Janka hardness rating of 1,320 lbf (5,872 N) which is greater than many other popular wood types.

    For example,

    As you can see the hardness of Ash wood is no way near to the hardness of popular wood types such as Basswood, butternut, and cherry which are some of the best woods for carving.

    This is because of having the harder and denser wood structure of Ash wood.

    According to the experts, if you want to carve Ash, treat it like Red Oakwood.

    • Go for rough-in work with a deep bevel and grind to a shallower bevel for better details.
    • Always cut small slices and use stop cuts of the wood along the direction of the wood grain. because long slices can cause the wood to split.
    Benefits of using Ash wood for carving
    Benefits of using Ash wood for carving

    The ring-porous structure of Ash wood makes it difficult to carve especially using hand tools.

    This is why power tools are recommended when carving hard and dense woods like Ash wood.

    Ash wood has a medium to coarse texture and straight wood grain which is important in wood carving.

    Even though Ash wood is difficult to carve, people tend to go for Ash wood because of its attractive texture and straight wood grain.

    Ash wood has a moisture content of 50% of its total weight.

    So, to make the carving easy with Ash wood, you should dry the wood and reduce the moisture content for better carving.

    Also, because of being high-density textured wood, Ash wood carvings can easily be polished and expressive in large wood carving projects.

    Did you know fact about carving Ash wood
    Did you know fact about carving Ash wood

    Ash wood Properties that are Important in Wood Carving

    1. High strength and Durability

    Ash wood is one of the hardest and strongest woods on the planet. According to the Janka hardness ratings, Ash wood has a hardness rating of 1,320 lbf (5,872 N) which is significantly higher than many other kinds of wood.

    The compressive strength and bending strength of Ash wood are also, pretty good for any wood carving project.

    • The compressive strength of Ash wood is 7,410 psi
    • The bending strength of Ash wood is 15,000 psi

    Therefore, wood carvings made of Ash wood are extremely hard and strong with great durability.

    Ash carvings will easily last over decades with proper maintenance.

    Ash wood carved heart
    Ash wood carved heart

    2. Shock Resistance

    Ash wood has excellent shock resistance which is pretty much useful in carving sports items such as balls and bats.

    If your Ash wood carves got hit hard, most of the shock force will absorb by the wood itself and protect the carve from splitting and cracking.

    3. Lightweight

    Usually, most of the hardwoods with excellent hardness and density are heavy in weight. Therefore, handling is difficult when carving.

    But surprisingly Ash wood is lightweight and you can easily handle and crave shaped without any issue.

    4. Attractive

    Ash wood has a straight grain pattern with a uniform texture with a light brown hue.

    This nice appearance on the surface makes the Ash wood aesthetically pleasing and an excellent option for wood carvings for decorative purposes.

    5. Safe to Use

    Ash wood is safe for wood carving. It is non-toxic wood and food safe. Therefore, Ash wood cutting boards are widely spreading in the woodworking world.

    Therefore, you can use Ash wood to carve children’s toys, kitchen utensils, and any other equipment without any safety issues.

    Tip for Ash carving
    Tip for Ash carving

    Pros and Cons of Using Ash Wood for Carving

    Nice appearanceEasily split
    High workability with power toolsHard to carve due to high hardness and density
    AffordableOpen grain
    Easy to maintainLow weather resistance
    Shock resistant 
    Safe to carve 

    As you can see, Ash wood is a great wood for carving with lots of advantages. Plus, most of the disadvantages can prevent by applying a proper sealer for outdoor use.

    How to carve Ash wood
    How to carve Ash wood

    Is Ash Good for Hand Craving?

    Ash wood is not recommended for hand carving without a well-sharpened toolset with enough resources.

    Plus, the user should have a good experience of carving Ash wood using hand tools.

    As a woodworker, I generally avoid carving Ash wood with hand tools because of its high hardness and density.

    I never recommend beginners to carve Ash wood using hand tools because they I’ll never know the methods and techniques of wood carving and frustration is the only thing that they get by starting their carving journey by carving Ash wood with hand tools.

    Tip for carving ash wood
    Tip for carving ash wood

    Is Ash Good for Chainsaw Craving?

    Ash wood is an excellent wood for chainsaw carving.

    The wood won’t be split with chainsaw carving and you don’t have to worry about resources even if the user is a beginner or pro at wood carving, chainsaw carving of Ash wood is possible.

    When you’re carving Ash wood using a chainsaw better to carve along its wood grain to avoid wood splitting.

    Is Ash Good for Spoon Carving?

     Ash wood is not good for spoon carving. When carving a spoon there are lots of fine details you have to focus on.

    But with a hardwood like Ash wood which is very hard and dense, it’s so hard to make long slices cuts because the wood will split easily.

    Plus, the open-grained structure of Ash wood has open pores that will retain food, oil, and fats and turn rancid even after washing the spoon.

    Another thing is Ash wood has a ring pores structure and water carrying vessels are not distributed evenly throughout the wood.

    This makes the wood difficult to carve a spoon.

    The high moisture content of Ash wood is not good to carve a spoon. Drying the wood to eliminate moisture is also quite difficult because Ash is a hardwood with high toughness.

    According to my point of view, the time and effort you put on Ash wood can be wasted with a single split, and better to go for an alternative option like Basswood which is known as one of the best woods for wood carving.

    Ash wood carved spoon
    Ash wood carved spoon

    Ash wood Carvings

    Ash wood is mainly used for large wood carving projects due to its high durability and strength. Ash can get some nice shapes with power carving.

    Here’re some common wood carving projects of Ash wood,

    • Sculptures
    • Wall arts
    • Baskets
    • Boxes
    • Crates
    • Sports equipment

    Likewise, Ash wood is a popular option for most wood carvings due to its great qualities.

    Now I’m going t share with you some tips and tricks that I have learned after years of working with ash wood for different wood carving projects.

    The below tips will make your wood carving journey a lot easy.

    Ash wood carved bird
    Ash wood carved bird

    Tips for Carving with Ash Wood

    Carving with Ash Wood can be a challenge, especially if you’re new to the world of woodworking.

    But with the right knowledge, technique, and tools, you can master the art of carving this tough, resilient wood.

    Here are some essential tips to help you get started:

    1. Understand the Nature of Ash Wood

    Before diving into carving, familiarize yourself with the unique characteristics of Ash Wood.

    Ash has an open grain and a Janka hardness that exceeds 1,320 lbs, making it tougher than many other wood varieties, such as basswood.

    For instance, White Ash is similar to Oak in its grain and durability, making it a challenge for novice carvers but a treasure for the experienced ones.

    Example: If you’ve previously worked with Oak, you’ll find some similarities when working with Ash.

    However, the open grain can make carving intricate details more challenging.

    2. Carve Along the Grain

    It’s crucial to always carve in the direction of the grain with Ash.

    This typically involves downward carving, often seen in chainsaw carving.

    This method ensures smooth cuts and reduces the risk of the wood chipping or splintering.

    Example: Consider Ash’s grain pattern similar to a river flow. Carve in the direction the “water” (or grain) flows for the smoothest results.

    Ash wood carved kitchen bowl
    Ash wood carved kitchen bowl

    3. Choose the Right Tools

    Due to its hardness, Ash requires sharp, sturdy tools for carving.

    Chainsaw carving can be especially effective with Ash since it demands straight cuts on hard lumber.

    However, if you’re aiming for hand carving, ensure your chisels and gouges are razor-sharp.

    Example: If attempting a chainsaw carving, remember that lighter Ashwood varieties might show visual “burns” when in contact with the chainsaw, so it’s essential to be cautious.

    4. Adhesive Application

    Ash is compatible with almost all types of adhesives, making it versatile for joint works.

    Whether you’re attaching multiple pieces or bend-laminating, you’ll have no issue with Ash.

    Remember, a successful joinery process can amplify the final look of your carving.

    Example: If crafting a sculpture from multiple Ash pieces, various adhesives can seamlessly combine them, making it appear as one cohesive unit.

    5. Be Prepared for a Color Shift

    When finishing your carving, especially if using White Ash, remember that it can yellow over time when placed under a clear coat.

    To maintain the original color, consider using specialized finishes or sealants.

    Example: Imagine crafting a beautiful Ash sculpture. While initially its color remains pristine, over the years, it might develop a yellowish tint if not appropriately treated.

    6. Alternative Techniques

    If you’re finding Ash a challenge for traditional hand carving, consider other techniques.

    Woodturning is an excellent method for Ash, blending the world of power carving and hand carving.

    It provides a different approach, where the wood rotates on a lathe while you carve.

    Example: If you’ve ever admired those intricate wooden bowls or vases, they might have been crafted using woodturning, a technique well-suited for Ash.

    7. Practice on Other Types of Ash

    Ashwood is diverse, with over 14 different types mentioned in the article.

    Each variety has its unique characteristics, hardness, and appearance.

    For beginners, experimenting with softer types, such as Pumpkin Ash, might be a better starting point.

    Example: Before moving on to the tougher White Ash, hone your skills on the slightly softer Pumpkin Ash to build confidence and technique.

    8. Safety First

    Given the toughness of Ash and the power tools often required to carve it, always prioritize safety.

    Use safety goggles, gloves, and ear protection, especially when using chainsaws or other powerful tools.

    Example: Imagine the kickback from a chainsaw or a chisel slipping. Always be cautious and take safety measures.

    9. Study and Learn

    To become proficient in carving Ash, invest time in learning from experts.

    Watch tutorials, attend workshops, and continuously practice to refine your skills especially if you’re starting wood carving.

    Example: Many experienced carvers often share their techniques on platforms like YouTube, offering insights into tackling the unique challenges of Ashwood.

    10. Patience is Key

    Remember, every wood type comes with its set of challenges.

    Ash might test your patience initially, but with dedication and persistence, you’ll soon appreciate its beauty and resilience.

    Example: Think of carving Ash as mastering a challenging musical instrument. With time, patience, and practice, the results can be extraordinarily rewarding.

    Ash wood carved decorative stick
    Ash wood carved decorative stick

    Best Alternative Wood Types for Carving

    Here’re are some other types of wood that give exceptional qualities in wood carving.

    You can easily skip Ash wood and pick one from them to start your next wood carving project.

    Here’re ash wood alternatives that are best for carving,

    • Pine
    • Basswood
    • Black Walnut
    • Aspen
    • Butternut
    • Sugar Maple
    • White Pine

    Congrats folks! Now you have a clear idea bout, is ash good for carving with its pros and cons.

    Ash wood carved flower
    Ash wood carved flower

    So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.


    What makes Ashwood different from other carving woods?

    Ashwood stands out due to its unique open grain and impressive hardness, which can be both a challenge and a delight for woodworkers, depending on their skill level and carving style.

    Can beginners effectively carve with Ash?

    While beginners can venture into carving with Ash, its toughness might present a steeper learning curve than softer woods, like basswood; however, starting with softer Ash varieties, like Pumpkin Ash, can offer a more manageable introduction.

    How does the grain of Ash affect the carving process?

    The open grain of Ash can make carving intricate details slightly more challenging, but when carved along the grain direction, Ash tends to yield smoother cuts and minimized chipping.

    Do I need special tools to carve Ash?

    While no “special” tools are strictly necessary, due to Ash’s hardness, it’s crucial to ensure that carving tools, such as chisels and gouges, are kept razor-sharp for the best results.

    What changes can I expect in Ash’s color over time?

    Especially in varieties like White Ash, a yellowing can occur over time when a clear coat finish is applied, but this can be mitigated using specialized finishes or sealants.

    Are there alternative carving techniques suitable for Ash?

    Yes, woodturning is a particularly effective method for Ash, offering a unique blend between power carving and traditional hand carving.

    Which type of Ash is the best for novice carvers?

    Pumpkin Ash is softer than many of its counterparts, like White Ash, making it a more forgiving choice for those just starting their carving journey.

    How do I ensure safety while carving Ash, given its hardness?

    Always wear safety equipment, including goggles, gloves, and ear protection, especially when working with power tools, to protect against potential kickbacks or slips.

    How does Ashwood respond to adhesives in joinery?

    Ashwood is notably versatile, being compatible with most adhesives, making it ideal for joint works or bend-laminating in carving projects.

    Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Is Ash Good for Carving?

    In this article, I’ve deeply discussed is Ash good for carving and is Ash difficult to carve with qualities of Ash wood which are important in wood craving.

    Ash is good for carving. Ash is a hard and dense wood with great strength that can use to make beautiful and durable carvings. But the carving tools should be well sharpened because carving Ash wood is difficult because of its high hardness and density. Carving Ash wood needs lots of patience and practice.

    Beginners should practice with so many different types of woods than directly starting with Ash wood.

    Furthermore, I have answered some frequently asked questions about Ash wood carvings with the best alternative wood types for carving as well.

    So, I hope you have gained good knowledge about Ash wood carving in detail.

    So, let’s jump into your next wood carving project with Ash wood to get some practice and be the pro at this game. Enjoy wood carving!

    Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him! Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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