What Makes Aspen Wood for Carving Stands Out?

Out of all the wood species, many woodcarvers prefer Aspen wood for carving because it has a soft quality and a fine-grained texture.

This wood has the least interference for carvers since it doesn’t have solid block wood since no woodworker or sculptor, especially beginners, wants to carve wood that is too hard or has many knots.

Did you know that Grinling Gibbons, a master carver famous for his work in St. Paul Cathedral London in the 1700s, preferred to work using Aspen wood?

The Advantages of Carving Using Aspen Wood

The texture quality is good, but availability is the main benefit of using this wood for carving.

Aspen raw wood supply is huge, and as a result, the price is relatively low. There are huge price differences between Oak and Aspen furniture. Thus, using Aspen wood for your carving medium is cost-effective.

Another advantage of using Aspen wood is its ability to hold paint. You would take four years to repaint using regular paint, and however, when you apply high-quality paint, you can expect it to last for approximately seven years.

This is why you often find the interior finish of Aspen wood in most houses. Most people brush it with varnish to retain the natural color of the wood.

Aspen wood is also suitable for creating wooden art projects by shaping or cutting the wood as pictures or puzzle images.

The Origin of Aspen Wood

The Aspen tree does not stand alone. It is a part of a larger tree group as they share the same root system.

This tree group is called a stand or clone. Utah’s Fishlake National Forest in America has one clone of aspens which is 80.000 years old. These trees are considered the oldest living and biggest plant species worldwide.

Aspen wood lives in Asia, North America, Canada, and Europe.

You can easily identify this tree during the fall since it has vibrant leaves with yellow-gold and white bark. They are also commonly called Quaking Aspens because of their leaves. Its leaves make a fluttering sound when the breeze comes.

The Aspen tree’s height is between 60 to 80 feet ranges. However, it can grow up to 120 feet when planted in ideal soil conditions and on the best site.

Aspen Wood’s Texture

This wood type is suitable for creating carving using light to medium-light weight and straight-grained wood.

Aspen wood is fairly weak compared to other wood species. For wood carving and furniture manufacturing, however, this wood is considered pretty strong.

The unique characteristic of Aspen woods is that they are 100% splinter-less. The straight grain in this tree is very fine with pores.

They are thinly spread, and you can see them clearly with a magnifying lens. These knots are relatively tiny, although it looks bigger than the actual size when this tree is on the discolored part of the wood.

Aspen wood in fresh condition has a white color to a light brown color. The difference between Aspen wood, sapwood, and heartwood is so minimal. Its color changes from light brown to pale gray when further exposed to natural elements.

Does Aspen Wood Have Odor or Scent?

Like most types of wood, Aspen wood has an unpleasant odor when wet.

However, when in dry condition, it doesn’t smell at all. This wood is quite odorless, so it is suitable for wood carving. This is beneficial for woodworkers who have sensitive noses.

Aspen Wood Vs. Pine Wood Hardness

When it comes to density and hardness, Aspen wood is harder than pine.

Pinewood is categorized as softwood, while Aspen wood is hardwood. Thus, hardwoods contain a higher level of strength and hardness than softwoods.

Aspen is a hardwood species, but most companies that sell softwood also sell it. Aspen has creamy white sapwood and heartwood that goes from brown to grayish-white without a clear change. In terms of texture, it has a fine grain and many small holes.

Is Aspen Wood Stronger Than Poplar?

Both Poplar wood and Aspen wood are the same in terms of strength of character.

However, the yellow poplar is stronger than Aspen. But Aspen wood is better in terms of shock resistance than pine wood.

What type of wood is easy to carve?

Limewood, also called Basswood, is the wood most often used for carving.

This species should be near the top of your list if you want to carve, no matter how much experience you have.

It is so soft and crisp that it is perfect for carving intricate designs and works very well with hand tools.

Basswood is soft enough that it isn’t too hard to carve, and the small grain knots make it easy to see the small details.

What is the most complicated wood to carve?

  • Lignum vitae
  • Piptadenia Macrocarpa
  • Snakewood
  • Brazilian Olivewood
  • Brazilian Ebony
  • Brazilian Walnut
  • African Pearwood
  • Australian Buloke
  • Synopsis balansae
  • Schinopsis brasiliensis

Can You Stain Aspen Wood?

Aspen wood is not suitable for staining. Although a wood stain will soak into Aspen wood evenly, your results will not look great. Why so? It is due to the composition of Aspen woods. The wood composition of Aspen affects how well it can process stain.

Aspen trees came from the same tree family as poplar. Poplar wood belongs to the tree family of Populus. So underneath the genus of Populus, you have “Yellow Poplar.” This lumber is used widely for wood carving. Besides “Yellow Poplar,” the Populus genus includes Cottonwood, Balsam Poplar, and Aspen.

Yellow poplar wood cannot take on stains evenly because its grain has many ‘spongy’ sections. These sections make tinted oil finishes, and wood stains soak too quickly into the grain. As a result, your finish will look blotchy.

What Can You Do With Aspen Wood?

Due to Aspen wood’s unique characteristics, it is an excellent ingredient for moldings, carving toys, and furniture, especially for people who are beginning woodcarving work as a hobby or for commercial purposes.

Aspen wood is available in high quantity; thus, this can be an affordable substitute for Basswood, which the beginners in woodcarving would choose due to its softness.

They share the same qualities as they offer fine and soft textures. However, Aspen is fairly stronger. As a result, most wood companies prefer using Aspen wood for different purposes.

Aspens are widely used but not limited to:

  • Cabinets
  • Moldings
  • Paint-grade furniture
  • Light-duty furniture
  • Mill-work
  • Flooring
  • Kitchen utensils
  • And matchsticks

Due to its odorless feature, it is a perfect option for making food containers, baskets, and toothpicks. Children’s toy companies choose this wood for its splinter-less quality.

After heating, they are used as interiors and seats for the sauna.

It is also generally used as roofing in a rural areas in Russia by slicing in thin slats.

What type of wood is good for a beginner to carve?


Basswood is an easy wood to carve for beginners because it is soft but still holds details well. It is a light cream color with brown streaks, and the grain is smooth and even.


Butternut, also known as “white walnut,” is a soft wood that keeps its shape well. Butternut is easy to work with hand tools, but it can quickly dull tools, so have your sharpening stones ready.


Aspen is not quite as soft as Basswood, but it is still easy to carve. This wood is white and has a nice straight grain. It is good for making fine details.

White Pine

White Pine is another good choice if you are just starting to carve by hand. The best way to carve White Pine is with a knife, in relief, or in the round. It is not as good for chip carving because the grain is straight and the wood is soft.

Black Walnut

Black walnut is popular but costs a bit more than the other options. Walnut has a beautiful natural finish and a rich, dark brown color.

Even though this wood is strong and heavy, it has a straight grain and is not too hard to work with.