Is Oak Good for Carving? (According To Experts!)

is oak good for carving

Wood carving is an ancient type of art that people used to do as a hobby or as a profession. Wood carvings are mainly used for construction, making materials, and decorative purposes because of their long-term durability and nice appeal.

However, it is important to know the characteristics of each wood before carving them. Some woods are not good enough for carving due to various factors such as strength, hardness, etc.

When it comes to Oakwood, even though we use it for many construction purposes, I was always wondered, Is Oak Good for Carving?

Here is what I found:

Yes, Oak is good for carving. Oak is a popular ideal wood for carving because of its great properties. Because of being strong and sturdy Oak wood carvings has long-term durability. But carving with oak is not simple as carving with basswood or pine due to various factors.

But there’s a lot more to know about the carving with Oakwood.

In this article I have discussed properties of oak wood that are useful when carving, is oak difficult to carve, safety tips, examples for oak wood carvings, and much more.

So, let’s get going!

Is Oak Difficult to Carve?

In terms of the durability of your oak wood carvings, they second to none. I have a wood-carved owl that made of oak wood more than 10 years ago and it’s still fresh as new.

This is why oak carvings are common in churches. You just have to apply the coating once per year. This is because oak wood is hardwood.

But when comes to handling wood carving, Oakwood is difficult to work with.

Especially when you’re working with white oak to make cuts and curls to get nice shapes is difficult. This is because of its high hardness.

If you don’t have enough experience with oak wood, safety gloves, and thumb guard are highly recommended.

It can give injuries to the user because the blade spillage is can mostly happen because of being hard and dense wood.

Proper handling is very much important when carving with oak wood because your carving tools will damage many times if you don’t handle the wood properly.

The reason for being difficult to carve apart from its hard and dense, Oakwood has a large porous structure, which can be difficult to get the smooth surface that pretty much important in wood carving.

The appeal we wish is hard to gain with oak wood. So, to get the smooth surface your tools need to be sharp well.

You need to have mastered the skill to carve with oak. I don’t recommend oak wood for your first project in wood carving.

Oak Wood Properties that are Important in Wood Carving

1. Safe and cause no Allergies

Oakwood is 100% safe for carving. In terms of safety, you can use oak carvings for any purpose. Oakwood is non-toxic and food-safe.

There you can use oak wood to carve kitchen utensils, baby toys without any issues.

2. Beautiful Color

The appeal is an essential factor in wood carving. Oakwood has a wide range of colors from light beige to red and brown.

White oak is more beige in color and red oak is rosier. Oakwood can bring natural beauty to your wood carvings which makes them attractive than most other woods.

3. Durable

Oakwood is known as one of the strongest woods on the planet. Many oak wood carvings are still freshly can be seen in ancient churches.

4. Easy to Finish

Oakwood carvings can easily wish by applying beeswax, linseed oil, or Danish oil. This will extra protection to your carvings.

The porous structure of oak wood makes the finishing oil penetrate more and dry quicker than most other woods.

Is Oak Good for Hand Carving?

It’s quite frustrating to hand carve with oak wood. The wood is so much hard and dense, so, if you’re a hand carver, you need a lot more power than carving other regular woods like basswood and pine to carve oak wood.

Wood carvings get more attractive when there are high in details. To get highly detailed wood carving, you need deep cuts, short cuts, curls, and other complex shapes.

If you’re a hand carver it’ll be a difficult task to a place deep cuts in oak wood. So, sharp your tools well before going for hand carving with oak wood.

Is Oak Good for Carving Spoons?

Oak is not good for carving spoons because of its porous structure. Oakwood stain easily and water can easily penetrate through its porous structure. So, it absorbs moisture easily.

Because of having a porous structure that will retain food, oils, and fats and soon the look will turn racial that doesn’t go away even after washing.

Also, bacteria and other harmful things can trap inside the pores. This is why oak wood is not recommended for carving spoons.

The same theory applies to cutting boards as well. Oakwood is not good for cutting boards.

Oakwood Carvings

Oakwood mostly uses for carving large projects like furniture. Oakwood is great for interior and exterior usage. So, if you’re looking for wood for a bigger project, oak wood is a great choice.

Here I have listed some oak wood carving projects,

  • Wall art.
  • Pendants.
  • Carve Oak box
  • Gouge rack
  • Signboard
  • Flowerpot
  • Rings
  • Sculptures (animals, humans, plants)

Likewise oak wood is a popular choice for most wood carvings due to its great qualities.

Wood Types Better than Oakwood for Carving

Due to several drawbacks of oak wood such as porous structure, moisture absorbance, poor workability, too high and dense, people tend to use the second-best options rather than going for oak wood for carvings.

  1. Basswood

Basswood is an excellent choice for carving due to its workability. This is known as the easiest wood to carve for beginners.

Basswood is a common choice for most beginner wood carving projects.

It is softwood that stains well with good strength.

2. Pine

Pinewood is also a great alternative for oak wood due to its workability. It can retain its shape adequately. Popular for carving chainsaws.

3. Black Walnut

In terms of hardness black walnut is. So much similar to oak wood. Black walnut is better for wood carving due to its less porous structure than oak wood.

They are totally food safe and can use to carve spoons, cutting boards as well.

As a summary, Is oak good for carving, I have listed everything we have discussed under the following table.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Oakwood for Wood Carving

Advantages of Oak for CarvingDisadvantages of Oak for Carving
High strengthPoor workability
High durabilityAbsorb moisture easily
Food safeNot good to carve a spoon
Non-toxicTools get damaged easily

As you can see, there is an averagely same number of advantages and disadvantages of using oak wood for wood carvings.

Even though oak wood has several drawbacks, it is still one of the most popular woods in the wood carving world.

I highly recommend Oakwood for carving for anybody that interested in wood carving. First, you have to do simple carvings and get the experience.

This will teach you the techniques of how to handle tools, how to get basic shapes, how to do stuff with zero injuries etc.

Eventually, when you become a pro at this, you can take oak wood for bigger wood carving projects with ease.

Workability will not be an issue, because you have nice practice. Strength and durability are the keys when it comes to wood carving.

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

In this article, I have widely discussed is oak good for carving, is oak difficult to carve, what are the great properties of oak wood that make it perfect for carving, what are the drawbacks of oak wood, and what are the common wood carving projects of oak wood.

Oakwood is one of the popular woods among woodcarvers due to its strength and durability.

Practice makes you perfect. So, keep practicing with oak wood carving. One day you’ll be a star in oak wood carving.

I hope now you have a clear idea of whether you select oak wood for your next carving project or not.

My advice is to try every single wood you meet to make carves and get the experience. It is so much valuable for you in near future.

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 and Facebook.

Leave a Comment