What are good starting woods for a beginner?

I know next to nothing about woods, how hard or soft they are, etc… SO I’m wondering what are some good woods for a beginner to start messing around with. I ordered some Soft Maple from Inventables, but got a back order email, so was thinking of stopping at Home Depot on my way home.

Most easily accessible and cheap wood is okay to start with.
MDF aslo (be prepared, MDF is dusty)

My best training advice is to just carve something and then ask because you have a experience base line :slight_smile:

For 1/8-1/4" bits stay within the feed rates Easel suggest for simplicity. Before adapting those remember my best training advice :wink:

You’re pretty limited by selection (at least in my area), but Poplar and Select Pine would be good for playing around with and making some basic stuff. Both are very forgiving and you can get them in a variety of thicknesses at HD.
I agree with @HaldorLonningdal about just going for it…plenty of opportunity to fine tune.

Normally I am a “just go for it” type of person, but after the amount of money I’ve spent this year on lasers, cnc, software, materials, I didn’t want to have to start replacing bits because they broke because the wood I chose to start with was to hard… :slight_smile:

I was going to avoid MDF… I know it’s cheap, but it is really messy and looks horrible… but it might be better for my wallet… I have some 1/4" cherry hardwood already (was going to use it for the laser, but decided I didn’t like how it looked)

Thanx for your feedback. Hoping to do my first carve in the next couple of days, I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’d slow down with the Carvey. In softer wood, I run an 1/8" end mill around 700mm/min with a depth of 1.5mm. It should be known that all of the settings depend on the wood & end mill though. I’d cut much shallower (.2mm) when you first start. The Carvey, with its “smart” clamp, has the ability to misjudge the top of your workpiece.

1 Like

Good catch Neil, I missed that I was replying to a Carvey-thread! My bad!

If you have a Lowes near you, they have maple and poplar as well as pine. You should check out a hardwoods store which will be relatively cheaper to some degree and have more options. Basswood is a hardwood that is used by hand carvers as the grain is very fine, has a non distinct grain to it, and it isn’t much denser than pine. It is a fairly economical wood too.

Most home center pine isn’t as dry as a hardwood store might have. You’ll find the home center pine boards will occasionally warp due to further drying indoors. Poplar takes paint well. Maple and pine and poplar are considered woods that wouldn’t require grain filling.

Your harder and denser domestic woods would be things like oak, northern ash, maple and hickory and walnut to some degree. Other than maple, they have large pores which depending on your application you may want to fill before applying a finish.

Walnut, Mahogany, and imported exotics from other locales tend to be pretty pricey. You’ll probably find that pine and poplar are your cheapest options.

1 Like

Best starter wood (in the continental US): pine. Cheap, easy to come by, forgiving to carve.

I tend to have problems getting clean edges on poplar, but it’s pretty similar to pine.

When you want to start going to “nicer” woods, look for oak. Again, easy to come by, and relatively cheap (more so than maple, walnut, etc.).

MDF is super easy to carve as well, and not terribly expensive, but at least in my area it’s difficult to find in anything but a 4’ x 8’ sheet (you’ll need at least a circular saw to break it down).