Is Maple Good for Carving? Here’s the Truth!

Curious about carving maple wood? Ever wondered why it’s a preferred choice for many artisans? Let’s dive into the fascinating world of maple carving and uncover its secret charms together!

Is Maple Good for Carving

Maple wood is one of the most popular hardwoods on the planet.

It is used for high-end furniture, cabinetry, flowing, and kitchen accessories. I have made so many woodworks with Maple wood.

When I was a beginner in woodcarving, I was wondered

But when it comes to woodcarving, I have always wondered, about the use of maple wood in wood carving since I was a beginner.

So, I went for experts’ advice and found lots of valuable info about this amazing wood.

Now with years of experience, let me share, Is Maple good for carving?

Yes, maple is good for carving due to its hardness, durability, and smooth grain pattern. However, its density makes it challenging to carve by hand, making it better suited for mallet or power carving. Both hard and soft maple varieties can be used, each offering different carving experiences.

But there’s a lot more to know about Maple wood carving.

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    So, in this article, I’ll walk you through is Maple good for carving, why Maple is hard to carve, properties of Maple wood that are important in carving, Hand carving, chainsaw carving of Maple wood, and many more.

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

    So, let’s jump in!

    Maple wood carving projects
    Maple wood carving projects

    Is Maple Hard to Carve?

    Carving Maple wood is not hard when you have enough tools and they’re sharpened well. Maple wood is hard and dense.

    Therefore, carving Maple wood can be difficult for beginners with limited carving tools.

    Overall, Maple wood is pretty with straight grain with wavy potential and with a uniformly fine texture.

    Carving soft Maple is so much easier than carving hard Maple (Sugar Maple) because soft Maple is less in hardness and density than hard Maple.

    Softwoods are easier to carve than hardwoods.

    So, according to the Janka hardness ratings which are used to measure hardness levels of different woods

    • Hard Maple has a hardness rating of 1,450 lbf (6,450 N)
    • Soft Maple has a hardness rating of 950 lbf (4,226 N)

    As you can see according to the Janka hardness ratings hard Maple is significantly harder and denser than soft Maple.

    Therefore, carving with soft Maple is so much easier than carving with hard Maple.

    In the wood carving world, Basswood is known as one of the most softwood that is easiest to carve.

    Basswood has a Janka hardness rating of 410 lbf (1,824 N). As you can see when the wood becomes soft, it is much easier to carve.

    Even though soft Maple is no way near to the hardness of Basswood, it has some significant qualities that will give great wood carving results.

    However, I recommend you begin the carving project with Maple wood with a sufficient well-sharpened toolset.

    If you’re a beginner in wood carving it’s better to start with a softwood like a Basswood, Cedar than directly starting with a hardwood like a Maple to get better results with learning.

    Because even the soft Maple is hard to carve for especially if you’re a beginner due to lack of practice.

    Read to know, 10 Best Wood for Carving (Expert Picks!)

    Benefits of maple wood for carving
    Benefits of maple wood for carving

    Maple Wood Properties That Are Important in Wood Carving

    1. Durable and Long-lasting

    Maple wood is a strong hardwood with excellent resistance to environmental elements like insect attacks, moisture, and many more.

    Maple wood carvings don’t dent so easily and have excellent durability. Therefore, wood carvings made from Maple wood will easily last more than a decade if you keep them clean and properly maintain regularly by applying a quality finisher.

    No other softwoods are more durable than Maple wood and it is excellent for huge wood carving projects as well.

    2. Beautiful Appearance

    Maple wood comes in a range of warm colors, and you can pick one as your wish.

    Reds, neutral beiges, chromatic grays, and browns are popular shades of Maple that decorate your beautiful wood carving creation.

    Maple wood takes stain so well. Therefore, if you want to add dark color to carvings, you just need to pick and apply a dark stain on top of it.

    Plus, the carvings made from Maple wood dry quickly and result in a nice and smooth appearance.

    3. Affordability

    Maple wood is an affordable hardwood that is used for carvings. Normally hardwoods are expensive and unable to carve due to high density.

    But Maple wood is able to manage both factors by providing affordable wood with good carving capabilities.

    Did you know fact about maple wood carving
    Did you know fact about maple wood carving

    4. Safe and Cause No Allergies

    Maple wood is 100% safe for woodcarving. You don’t have to worry about touching and handling Maple wood with bare hands.

    It doesn’t cause skin irritations or respiratory problems like some other wood types.

    Spoons, bowls, and many other kitchen utensils can carve using Maple wood and they can use apart from decorative purposes because Maple is a non-toxic food-safe wood.

    Nowadays baby toys are also carved using Maple wood because of their safety factor.

    5. Diverse Grain Patterns

    Maple is famous for its diverse grain patterns, which include birdseye, curly, fiddleback, and tiger.

    These unique and naturally occurring designs can add special effects to your carving, creating an aesthetic appeal that’s not easily achieved with other woods.

    The tiger grain, for instance, creates a striking pattern that gives an illusion of a 3D effect in a carving, adding depth and dimension.

    However, it’s worth noting that wilder grain patterns can make the carving process a bit challenging.

    But don’t let this deter you – the end result is often a stunning piece of art that showcases not only your skill but also the beauty of the wood itself.

    Now you know why maple wood has become this much popular in the woodcarving world.

    Maple wood kitchen bowl carve
    Maple wood kitchen bowl carve

    Tools for Carving Maple Wood

    Carving maple wood is an art that requires the right tools to achieve those beautiful, intricate details.

    This hard, dense wood demands specific carving tools to shape and mold it into your desired masterpiece.

    Let’s dive into the toolbox and discover which instruments are best for this task.

    Carving Chisel

    The carving chisel is a fundamental tool when dealing with maple wood.

    This flat-bladed tool is beveled on both sides of the blade, unlike ordinary woodworking chisels, which have a bevel on one side and a flat back.

    This special design aids in making precise cuts and carvings in the hard maple surface.

    Chisels with a skewed edge are particularly useful when carving maple.

    These are ideal for cleaning out tight corners where there’s little clearance, ensuring your design doesn’t lose its accuracy even in the trickiest parts.

    Carving Gouges

    Carving gouges are a real game-changer for maple wood carving.

    These tools come with varying blade curvature degrees, which are designed to produce both concave and convex shapes and surfaces.

    For instance, a #2 sweep gouge has a relatively flat blade, while a #9 sweep is semicircular.

    The higher-numbered gouges are perfect for cutting channels and deeper details, allowing you to carve out intricate designs on your piece of maple.

    Maple wood carved bird
    Maple wood carved bird

    Carving Knives

    Carving knives, being incredibly versatile, are essential for a multitude of tasks such as whittling, chip carving, letter carving, and detailing.

    The variety in blade shapes allows you to choose the one that best suits your carving needs.

    For example, if you are crafting a maple leaf design, a detailed carving knife with a pointed tip would help you define the intricate leaf veins and edges accurately.


    When it comes to adding finer details and decorations to your carving, V-tools are your best friend.

    Named after the V profile of the blade, these tools make a crisp, angled, V-shaped cut, ideal for detailing.

    V-tools come in standard V parting tools, and in 30 and 45-degree variants, allowing you to choose the perfect one based on the level of detail required in your design.


    Last but not least, we have the veiners. These tools possess a tight U-shaped profile, ideal for adding finer details, like the veins on leaves or deeper grooves in your design.

    If you’re working on a maple leaf design, for instance, a veiner would be an excellent tool to carve out the veins, giving your work a realistic and eye-catching touch.

    Maple wood carved wizard
    Maple wood carved wizard

    Is Maple Good for Chainsaw Carving?

    Maple wood is excellent for chainsaw carving. With a chainsaw, you don’t need to worry about tearing up the wood when carving.

    The grain of the Maple wood makes chainsaw carvings so attractive.

    So, always make sure to carve along the direction of the wood grain for better results.

    Normally softwoods work better than hardwoods with chainsaws because softwoods yield to creative impulses with a small kickback.

    But surprisingly Maple wood carves beautiful things with the chainsaw.

    Because of the durability and hardness of Maple wood, chainsaw carving of Maple wood is able to carve huge things which are nice in spite of having been dead for decades.

    I have carved huge woodcarving projects by Maple using chainsaw that finished with epoxy coating and polyurethane coating for better protection.

    Soft Maple (Silver Maple) is great for chainsaw carving than hard Maple (Sugar Maple) because of its less hardness and high resistance to prone.

    Tip for maple wood carving
    Tip for maple wood carving

    Is Maple Good for Hand Carving?

    Maple is not good for hand carving. Mallet or power carving is recommended with Maple wood.

    Carving Maple wood with hand carving tools is possible but difficult due to the high hardness of the wood.

    The woodcarving tools must be sharp and only an experienced woodcarver can hand carve Maple wood in the right way. Because the grain pattern of Maple wood is not straight always.

    Some hard Maple species create a tendency to blotch when they’re finished and display various densities with variations in different parts of the wood when the wood is carving.

    On those occasions, splits and cracks can possibly happen and you’ll have to make cuts sharp and carefully.

    As wilder the wood grain becomes, it is harder to carve especially with hand carving tools.

    This is why you should be experienced before carving Maple wood with hand-carving tools.

    Is Maple Good for Spoon Carving?

    Maple is great for spoon carving. Hardwoods are not very porous and have a fine grain that will be more durable, resist moisture, and stain well.

    Therefore, spoon carving with hardwoods like Maple is good.

    The handle of the spoon should be thick and dense. So, if you use softwood for that task, the spoon lacks the strength.

    By using Maple hardwood you’ll be able to make a deep serving spoon with a thin design.

    Plus, Maple has no toxicity, and it is food-safe. Therefore, Maple is popular for carving kitchen utensils like a spoon.

    Both Silver Maple (Soft Maple) and Sugar Maple (Hard Maple) are great to carve a spoon. But soft Maple is better because of its less hardness than hard Maple.

    Even though Silver Maple is not really a softwood, it carves the spoon perfectly with a sweet unique scent with a gorgeous grain pattern.

    At the end of the process, it will make a strong attractive spoon as you wish.

    Maple wood spoon
    Maple wood spoon

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Maple Wood for Carving

    High durabilityProne to cracks
    Easy to sand and finishSensitive to heat and humidity
    Great appearanceFades over time
    AffordableDifficult to carve using hand tools
    Eco friendlyCarving tools need to be sharpened well
    Easy to maintain 
    Dust resistant 

    As you can see, there’re lots of advantages of Maple wood for carving, and disadvantages can easily eliminate by practice and using power carving methods.

    Alternative Wood Types for Carving?

    Being hard and dense is the only drawback of Maple wood which makes it really hard to carve.

    Here’re some popular wood types that can replace Maple wood for carving.

    1. Basswood
    2. Pine
    3. Black walnut
    4. Paper birch
    5. Butternut
    6. Cherry
    7. Red oak
    8. Mahogany

    Sometimes, when the wood is too soft, it can be full less resistant to environmental elements like moisture, bugs attacks.

    Also when the wood is too hard, it can be full of knots. So, it’s better to go with neutral wood options which are easier to carve while having good durability.

    With practice, you’ll be able to carve any wood type in the world without any hesitation because when you’re a pro at the game you just have to make little adjustments according to the type of wood and that comes naturally comes in handy.

    Maple wood carved cat
    Maple wood carved cat

    Is Sugar Maple Good for Carving?

    Sugar Maple (Hard Maple) is a great wood to carve. but you should have well-sharpened carving tools and a lot of practice to carve Sugar Maple due to its high hardness and density.

    Chainsaw carvings are power carving is excellent woods to carve Sugar Maple.

    According to the Janka hardness ratings, Sugar Maple has a hardness rating of 1,450 lbf (6,450 N) which is a little bit too much for small woodcarving projects.

    But for huge projects, Sugar Maple is a great option to go with.

    Personally, I don’t recommend beginners to carve using Sugar Maple because of its difficulties to carve and less user-friendliness.

    You can learn lots of new things and carving techniques by going for softwood like Basswood then sticking on to hardwood like Sugar Maple.

    Carving Sugar Maple need lots of patience and practice.

    Is Soft Maple Good for Carving?

    Soft Maple (Silver Maple) is an excellent wood to carve. according to the Janka hardness ratings, soft Maple has a hardness rating of 950 lbf (4,226 N) which is softer than hard Maple.

    Therefore, carving is a lot easier with soft Maple than going for hard Maple.

    Being less hard and dense than hard Maple is a plus point for soft Maple.

    Because even though soft Maple is named as soft, it also has a great amount of strength and hardness that are pretty much useful in woodcarving.

    Congrats folks! Now you know all you need to know about, is maple wood good for carving with its pros, cons and characteristic features.

    Maple wood carved bear
    Maple wood carved bear

    So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.


    Can I carve maple wood to make it appear aged?

    Yes, you can carve maple wood to make it appear aged. Techniques such as adding depressions, oiling the end grain for darkening, and staining can give the wood an older, more antique look.

    How does understanding the grain of maple wood aid in carving?

    Understanding the grain of maple wood is vital for successful carving. The grain lines, which are a byproduct of the sawing pattern used when the mill first cuts the boards, can affect the carving’s direction and overall outcome.

    What kind of maple is best for carving?

    Both hard and soft maple varieties are suitable for carving, but they present different challenges. While hard maple is extremely dense and can be more challenging to work with, soft maple is a bit easier and could be a better option for beginners or for hand carving.

    Can you carve green maple wood?

    Yes, green maple wood can be carved, but it might not yield the expected results on large carvings, and it could split as it dries. It’s typically best to use cured maple wood for carving projects.

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

    In this article I have deeply talked about is Maple good for carving and why Maple is hard to carve.

    I have gone through properties of Maple wood that are important in wood carving, hand carving with Maple wood, and chainsaw carving with Maple wood with its pros and cons.

    Maple wood is an excellent wood for carving. Maple has a fine texture with straight grain and can be a beautiful wood for many different patterns of carving. But Maple wood is can be difficult to carve with limited tools because of its high hardness and high density.

    So, I think you have gained good knowledge about is Maple good for carving and how it can be used to carve various wood carving applications.

    So, let’s begin your next woodcarving project with Maple wood with practice and practice. Have fun 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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