8 Best Wood for Carving Signs

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Carved signs play a prominent role in the world of sign-making. They have the edge over painted or printed signs because they are more appealing to the eye. If you have a flair for woodcarving, you would do well to make a foray into this specialized but rewarding area of woodworking.

You can create carved signs as gifts to your family and friends. Alternatively, you can make it into a lucrative business venture. If you want to commercialize your sign carving business, you should probably invest in equipment like a router and a lettering jig.

Whether you intend to make hand-carved signs or use machinery, your choice of wood is critical to your final results. Here, we take a closer look at the different aspects of wood for sign-making. You need to choose your wood carefully to create smart-looking signs.

Best Types of Wood for Carving Signs

Your choice of wood for carving signs is a crucial factor in sign-making. The wood you select is dependent on several factors like the type of lettering you plan to use, the size of the board, and the final location of your sign. Let’s take a closer look at the best wood for carving signs.


Pinewood (Image: decar66)

Pinewood is the cheapest and easiest option if you want uncomplicated wood for making signs. You can efficiently work on this wood thanks to its softness. The light color of pinewood and its delicate grain create a pleasant impression after finishing. The occasional knots add a rustic appeal to the wood. A drawback of pinewood is that it tends to form hairy burrs after carving, which gives you extra work in cleaning it up after you are done with carving.


is poplar good for wood carving

Poplar is a good choice of wood for any carving because it is one of the softest hardwoods. It is also readily available, and it is a cheap wood. The thing about poplar is that it doesn’t have intricate and interwoven patterns like some of the more expensive woods like cherry, walnut, and oak. The wood can be made more attractive by finishing it with a stain. You can give poplar the appearance of practically any type of wood, and this adds t the overall look of the wood.


Redwood tree
Redwood tree (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Redwood is another good choice for carving signs. You will probably find this wood to be the single best choice. You may find second growth more difficult for freehand carving because it tends to develop burrs. But you won’t find these burrs as severe as you get from pinewood. The tight grain of old growth makes it easier to carve, but it is costlier than an already expensive wood.

Another challenge about using redwood is that it appears in the endangered species list. Due to this reason, it is not readily available, and using this wood may not be a socially responsible choice. Hence, you need to confirm your source if you want to comply with environmental-friendly requirements.


Cedar trunk (Image:

Cedar, mainly western red cedar, is another species of wood suitable for carving signs. This wood contains fewer knots and is a softer wood that can be hand-carved or machined easily. It is also relatively cheaper wood. You can get variations such as eastern aromatic cedar, chest cedar or white cedar. They are all soft and easy to carve. An added advantage of all these varieties of wood is that they fare well if left outdoors.


Cypress (Image: James St. John)

Cypress is a species of wood that has been and always will be suitable for carving. So, the logical conclusion is that it makes good raw material for carving signs. This light-colored wood has a scattered rustic-looking grain which appeals to the eye.

Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)

MDF (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Surprisingly, MDF is a good choice form making signs. Some say that it’s only suitable for indoor signs. If treated with a sealant correctly, MDF signs can survive well outdoors as well. You can find many outdoor signs made of MDO (MFD overlaid on plywood). The key to making MDF durable for outside use is to add a sealant correctly. MDF cuts and carves very neatly, especially if you machine-cut it with a router.


Plywood Veneers
Plywood Veneers. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Here is another surprise – plywood. This material serves particularly well as wood for carving signs. The secret to carving good signs out of plywood is to use a router with sharp tools and selecting the correct speed. Edging is also a challenge with plywood carved signs as the edges don’t finish very well. You can counter this problem by painting the edges black or adding some trim.

More Expensive Varieties Like Oak, Maple, Walnut, and Cherry

Walnut wood
Walnut wood (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Oak and Maple come in a vast price range depending on the grade that you choose. We generally consider these woods more expensive than most other types of wood. They are hard and tend to succumb to insect attacks if not treated with some form of insecticide. Despite all this, you can make good signs of these two varieties of wood.

Cherry Wood
Cherry Wood (Image:
CG Masters)

Walnut and cherry are some of the most expensive varieties of wood in the world of woodworking. But sometimes, you may need to spend a bit more for signs to be used in particular settings. For example, you would want to create classy-looking signs at a luxury hotel location or resort. You can bring out the grain well with these woods by applying an appropriate finish to them.


In this post, we have covered a wide range of wood from which you can carve signs. We even touched upon MDF and plywood, which many woodworkers look down upon as quality woodworking material. You will find many types of wood suitable for carving signs. Although we have mentioned quite a few here, you can find several more by doing a bit of experimentation.

Choose your wood carefully according to the types of wood that we have mentioned in this post. It would be best if you had some well-sharpened gouges and chisels, to be able to carve some great signs. Get your wood for carving signs today, and make a difference with some impressive signs that you can carve for your friends and family. Or, you can make a comfortable income out of your sign carving business.