Woodworking Plans & Tutorial

How to Soften Wood for Carving? [The 8 Practical Ways]

Nowadays create the shapes and writings on the Wood have a special place in the houses and the rooms and become one of the most famous and popular handicrafts, with devoted followers worldwide.

This is, in fact, a carpentry technique that necessitates the use of cutting equipment and qualified experts in this field who can be employed in a variety of ways and called woodcarving.

You’ll end up with a hand-carved sculpture or a decorative piece as a consequence. To continue, lets to know what does woodcarving means.

How to Soften Wood for Carving?

What is wood carving?

The technique of changing the form and appearance of Wood for various tasks and wood decoration is known as wood carving.

Carving on Wood is one of the many applications of Wood nowadays. Carpenters utilize multiple techniques to modify Wood for this purpose, but bending the Wood is the most difficult.

Only competent woodworkers with specialized equipment can carve Wood to create complicated and artistic shapes.

How to prepare the Wood for carving?

Do you want to create something extraordinary? So stay with us until the end since this article will discuss preparing Wood for carving.

We must mention that this is not as difficult as you believe!

You consider the best preparation strategies and approaches, such as:

  • Choose a Non-Toxic Wood Piece.
  • Store the Wood in a good situation.
  • Moisture Content in Wood.
  • Repairing a Cracked Piece of Wood.

Now that you’ve learned the basics of wood carving and how to prepare Wood for carving, we’ve decided to teach you how to soften the Wood. So let’s get started!

How to Soften Wood for Carving?

Eight excellent methods for Softening Wood for Carving

As we indicated at the beginning of the article, carving on Wood is one of today’s handicrafts, and the prerequisites for this job must be met first.

One of the most significant aspects of carving is the softness of the Wood.

As you can guess, cutting and carving dry and bony Wood is a time-consuming and painstaking process.

Join us to continue the post to overcome this problem, save time, and produce beautiful and excellent work.

On the other hand, softwood carving is always easier, offers more precision and flexibility, and reduces common carpentry errors.

Here are the eight most common methods for softening Wood for carving:

  1. Immerse it in water.
  2. Water can be used to steam it.
  3. Rubbing alcohol should be used.
  4. Ammonia or other chemical agents can be used.
  5. Sanding
  6. Oiling
  7. Eclectic Heating Rod
  8. Fuming or Ozonizing

Now let to explain every step separately with their pros and cons:

  • Number one: Immerse it in water

The first and most straightforward approach is preparing the Wood and making engraving easier.

It’s as simple as submerging the Wood in water and waiting. Soaking the Wood in water allows it to restore moisture and become more flexible and easy to carve.

Plant cells absorb water and swell and become more resistant, extending the life of the Wood.

The majority of experts advocate soaking the Wood for an hour or two in water. To make it softer, you may need to moisten it more.

However, it would be best to be cautious about how long you soak it. Excessive soaking might weaken the Wood or cause black mold to grow.

Efficient Wood softening in water can take a long time and require a lot of patience.
It’s possible to do it at home. It has the potential to compromise Wood’s strength and rigidity.

It takes less than a day to finish and produces soft and flexible wood fibers to work with

Number two: Water can be used to steam it

Softening Wood with water vapor is the second scenario, with various applications in softening Wood.

Carpenters use this process to bend and shape Wood. Water vapor is used in this method to simulate soaking.

Wood fibers absorb moisture and become more flexible in this way.

This approach usually speeds up the process because the Wood is in touch with water for a shorter period.

Steaming wood aids in the preservation of its shape and strength to a large extent. If you steam the Wood for longer than necessary, it may lose its shape forever.




The shape of steam-softened Wood is preserved. Smaller wood pieces are not suggested.
Longer-term wood preservation is preferable. In non-straight-grained Wood, it may produce fractures and splits.
  • Number three: Rubbing alcohol should be used

Alcohol spray is the best and most usual way for carpenters to soften wood for carving. Keep the spray bottle by your side and spray on the sections that need softened.

A little spray bottle, rubbing alcohol, and water are all you’ll need. You can use a 50 percent isopropyl alcohol combination straight from a bottle or a 70 percent or 99 percent version mixed 50-50 with water.

This is because rubbing alcohol lowers the surface tension of water, making it easier for the liquid to permeate into the Wood.

If you merely use water, it will sit on the Wood’s surface and evaporate over time. Pure alcohol will disappear and never be absorbed by the wood if used alone.

So do the steps below:

  • In a 50/50 ratio, combine water and rubbing alcohol.
  • Pour the created mixture into a clean spray bottle.
  • Apply the solution to the Wood’s surface with a spray bottle.
  • Before carving, let 30 seconds for the Wood to cure.


It’s simple to put together. It is possible to do this at home If not done correctly, water stains may result
It takes only a few minutes to finish
  • Number four: Ammonia or other chemical agents can be used

Other often-used compounds to soften Wood include ammonia, the most common chemical agent used to soften and bend Wood. In terms of efficacy, ammonia ranks first among all emollients.

No treatment other than ammonia will be successful if you utilize the most challenging woods, such as lignum vitae.




In comparison to other cleaning methods, it makes the Wood more flexible The fumes of ammonia are harmful to the eyes and lungs, and this operation should not be performed at home.
If done poorly, the texture of the wood fiber may be damaged.
  • Number five: Sanding

Sanding is another technique for softening Wood for carving. Make sure you sand it in different directions. This lessens the crushing while maintaining a smooth and healthy engraving surface.

Begin at the end of your piece of Wood and sand to two-thirds of its length with a light touch.

Then flip the board over and sand the new side with increasing pressure until you’ve reached halfway.

Continue sanding the board until it is smooth on both sides, which should take about 12 inches.

It takes a while to apply sandpaper to the Wood to soften it, so do not rush. Because of its time, skilled engravers realize how vital their work is.




Scratches or cuts in the Wood can be eliminated with sanding, and the surface of the Wood can be smoothed to eliminate minor flaws. If the Wood is sanded too much in one area, it will become uneven and deformed.
Because the wrong movement can create permanent damage to the Wood that may not be repairable, sanding should be done parallel with the wood grain and principles.
  • Number six: Oiling

Oil is one of the substances that can be used to soften Wood. To engrave and preserve it on Wood, use mineral oil or baby oil to soften it.

You may want to use it only on the parts you want to engrave, so apply a significant amount on the details and wait for 2 to 3 hours for the oil to soak into the Wood. When the Wood is dry, like a sponge, it absorbs oil and is hydrated.

Note: If you want a speedy outcome, you should soften the Wood using another method, such as steam or moisture, because the oil takes a long time to sink deep into the Wood. This requires soaking your Wood in oil for several days or even weeks. If you want quick results, I recommend combining at least two approaches. Steaming takes roughly 5 minutes for every inch of thickness you want to soften.


Mineral oil is used to lubricate the blades. As a result, not only will you be able to cut Wood more readily, but the tool will also stretch less during cutting If you want to get a quick result, this method is not suggested
  • Number seven: Eclectic Heating Rod

This is a quick and straightforward method for softening Wood for carving. A metal rod is heated over a flame to do this.

This can swiftly heat the Wood, but be careful if you wish to engrave Wood that has already been heated in another means, such as with water – you don’t have to keep going until it catches fire! Using brass or copper rods yields the best results.


Efficient You cannot use every rod that you have in your house. It may be because of danger. Should use brass or copper rods yields the best results
It’s possible to accomplish it from the comfort of your own home.
It takes less than a day to complete and results in soft, supple wood fibers that are easy to work with.
  • Number eight: Fuming or Ozonizing

Two typical methods for softening Wood for carving are foam and ozone. A combination of ammonia and HCL gas is used to fume.

This material can be used to soften end grains and tough knots. On the other hand, oxidation is incredibly effective at softening all types of Wood, central hardwoods like oak, mahogany, and walnut.

After oxidation, it takes roughly 48 hours to prepare your fresh-picked pieces for engraving!




Ozone generators are available for purchase online or in-home appliance stores. You might also borrow from a family member who works in the medical field. The use of ozone and fumigation is neither cost-effective nor environmentally friendly, and it is also exceedingly unpleasant and hazardous.

How to determine if the Wood has softened sufficiently?

We’ve covered the best ways to soften your hardwood object before engraving it throughout the text. After completing each one, determine whether the Wood is pliable enough to carve.

The first remedy is to paint your nails on a stick; if your nails stick to the surface, they are not soft enough.

However, if your nails do not get trapped or pressed hard with a wooden stick and the piece breaks, it indicates that it is soft enough.

The crucial thing to remember is that if you’re unsure if your Wood is soft enough, soak it for another 12 to 24 hours before proceeding.

How to Get Rid of Extra Moisture from Wood after softening?

Finally, after everything is ready for carving, the extra moisture from the softened Wood must be removed.

This is one of the most critical procedures to complete before beginning to engrave, and if you skip it, you will end up with a fault, and the tool handle will eventually disappear.

The most popular and straightforward method for removing excess moisture is to keep it at room temperature overnight and let any remaining water or chemicals evaporate naturally.

But what if this process is done a little faster on occasion? What is the solution? Please stick with us.

  • Place the piece of Wood on a surface that allows air to circulate it, such as a ventilator or a dryer, and rotate it regularly.
  • To evaporate the remaining water, use a low-temperature hair drier and blow hot air to dry it.
  • Place an electric fan in one of the room’s corners and direct the airflow towards the Wood until it dries.
  • To expedite the process, set the Wood on anything that allows for adequate air circulation and will enable it to dry over a heat source such as a fire.
  • Put the plank of Wood within your car to direct sunshine and close all of the windows – the heat inside the vehicle allows surplus water to evaporate, which is quite helpful.
  • If none of those above choices are accessible, lay your stick in the open air on a surface with sufficient air circulation and leave it there until the moisture evaporates. Make sure it isn’t overly exposed to the sun, as it may dry up and crack.


During the studies about this topic, there were lots of concerns that users and customers have, so we decided to bring up the questions with their answers for you below:

1. What May Be Used To Soften Wood In Water?

Various chemicals, such as caustic soda, magnesium hydroxide, or sodium bicarbonate, can soften Wood in water.

2. What Effect Does Heating Have On Wood Softening?

One of the variables that cause the Wood to soften and become simpler to carve is heat.

3. What Are Wood Softening Tools Needed?

Before softening the Wood, you can cut it with a handsaw or a saw. To drill to determine if your Wood is soft enough, you’ll also need a flexible steel ruler and a sharp item such as a razor.

4. What is the best way to soften Wood for turning?

The Wood can be heated with a hot plate, a soldering iron, or a vehicle lighter. If none of these choices are available, you can speed up the process by placing your piece of Wood near an electric fan.


Woodcarving is a centuries-old art form still used as a source of fun and as a professional art form today.

One of the essential measures when carving Wood into anything attractive, such as a sculpture or bowl, is how to soften the Wood so that your tool is less resistive when working on it.

I hope you learned how to soften Wood for carving in this article. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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