How Good Is Lime Wood for Carving (+3 Bonus Project Ideas)

Choosing the perfect wood for your woodworking project can pose a challenge, but lime wood may save you some time. Not only do you need to take into account what you plan on using the finished item for, you will also need to consider how easy your wood of choice is to carve.

Lime wood is one of the most popular woods for woodcarving. Not only is it easy to find, it’s also extremely easy to carve. Though it’s a hardwood, it is soft and crisp and takes details very well.  If you’re a hand carver, this should be your wood of choice. It’s great for intricate projects, and its malleability and budget-friendliness mean less experienced carvers don’t have to worry about ruining blanks when they work. 

If you’re getting started with lime wood, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Not all projects are appropriate for this – the softness of the wood means that it shouldn’t be used for projects that will see hard use, like a deck for your home, and carvers may find they prefer woods with more vibrant colors for some projects. Additionally, it shouldn’t be used for high-impact carvings, such as deep chip carving.

Understanding lime wood better ensures that you’ll be able to use it when appropriate and not have to worry about redoing a project because you used the wrong wood.

What are Some of the Features of Lime Wood?

As mentioned above, lime wood:

  • Is soft and malleable, which means it’s a good choice for intricate carvings. This workability is due to the fact that lime wood has a close grain structure, which makes it far less likely to split when being worked.
  • Takes finish well and can also be glued to other surfaces if necessary.
  • Has a Janka rating of 700. The Janka rating indicates how much impact a piece of wood can take and indicates how durable a species of wood is. While this isn’t a particularly low rating, it does mean that lime wood shouldn’t be used for high wear projects or projects that require you to dig deep into the wood. 
  • Ranges in color from pale white to cream, with little to no growth rings visible. While this is undeniably pleasing to the eye, more experienced carvers may prefer to work with woods with a richer color, like black walnut, apple wood, and cherry.

Are Lime Wood and Basswood the Same Thing?

If you’ve ever gone shopping for lime wood, you’ve probably found that you’re directed to basswood instead. Indeed, basswood is often used interchangeably with lime wood, and most people think that they are the same thing. 

However, this isn’t the case. While very similar, there are some differences between these two types of wood. 

The main difference between them is where they come from. The wood you know as lime wood comes from the European Lime, a naturally occurring hybrid between the Tilia cordata and Tilia platyphyllos plants. This tree, as the name indicates, is naturally found in Europe. 

Basswood, on the other hand, comes from the Tilia americana plant. Naturally found in North America, it is from the same genus as lime wood. However, the two woods differ slightly in terms of strength and hardness, and depending on where you live, they may also be priced differently. Lime wood has a much higher Janka rating than basswood (700 to basswood’s 410), which means that it is much stronger and more durable than its American counterpart.

3 Projects To Try Lime Wood

Due to lime wood’s ease of carving, it’s recommended that you hone your skills at hand carving using this wood. Some projects you can experiment with include:

Spoon Carving

Like basswood, lime wood is one of the best options to use when carving spoons. Once you’ve got a wood blank of the right size, draw the shape of the spoon you want to carve. If you’re a more experienced carver, you can experiment with more intricate designs, like lovespoons. 

When the design is in place, start carving out the bowl of the spoon to your preferred depth. Then, cut out the shape of the spoon from the blank. If you’re clamping your spoon to the table to make carving easier, remember to leave a little extra wood at the end of the handle so you can continue doing so. 

Start with the details – define the shape of the back of the bowl, and carve the handle. Sand down your finished spoon so that the imperfections are covered up and complete with a food-safe finish or oil. You can also refer to this video as a guide:

Bowl Carving 

Another popular project idea with lime wood is carving a bowl. Start with a wood blank that’s big enough for the size of the bowl you want, and draw the shape of the bowl on top. 

Next, use your hand tools to remove wood from the “bowl” of your bowl, creating a hollow of your preferred depth. A hook knife is the perfect tool to use, as it’s great at carving out hollows.

When carving, make sure your blank is attached to the table using a vise. This prevents it from moving, making it easier and safer for you to carve. 

 Once you carved the “bowl” to your preferred depth, you can remove the excess wood on the side of the curved edge. Then, sand down the sides to get a rough idea of what the final shape of your bowl will look like. 

If you would like to know more about bowl carving, visit our Ultimate Guide On Power Carving a Bowl


Now, you can start carving the sides of the bowl, creating the curved shape of the bowl. Alternatively, you can leave it as it is for a more square or rectangle-shaped bowl. Once you’ve got it to your preferred shape, sand down the final product to get rid of any imperfections and make it look more visually pleasing. 

Then, complete with a wax or other finish. If you plan on using your bowl in the kitchen, make sure the finish you choose is food-safe. You can also refer to this video as a guide to carving a bowl with hand tools:

Once your bowl is ready, you can also paint the outside with lacquer. Here is a reference for what such a bowl can look like: 

High Relief Carving

As mentioned above, lime wood is great for intricate projects like high-relief carving. However, keep in mind that such projects are usually relatively complex and should only be attempted by intermediate and expert carvers. 

Before you get started, you will first have to draw the pattern you want to carve on paper. Then, transfer it to your wood blank or panel, using carbon paper to make the process easier.

One of the problems in working with wood paneling is that it splinters easily while cutting. First, carve out the objects that make up the pattern and add all the detail necessary. This could lead to pieces of paneling being discarded that’s why you need to take some precautions to avoid splintering.

After the precautions, You can start carving the design. For high relief, you want the objects to project between 1.5 to 2 inches from the background. Once you’re satisfied with the way the objects look, you can clean up the background and make it look more attractive. Finally, finish with oil or wax

If you’re planning to hang the finished item around your home or at your door, drill a small hole at the top. Alternatively, attach a subtle metal wall hook to the back of the carving. You can refer to this video as a guide, though your carving process will depend on the design you are carving:

Where Can You Find Lime Wood for Carving?

If you live in an area where lime wood is a native plant, you may be able to find green lime wood from a local lumberyard or may even be able to forage it yourself. However, this option isn’t available to people who don’t live in Europe. 

If you live outside Europe, you should easily be able to purchase lime wood blanks online. Sellers are available on both Etsy and Amazon. I personally recommend the WOWOSS 4 Pack Kit from Amazon. The pieces are unfinished and made of premium wood, making them perfect for most projects. Alternatively, you should check with your local woodshop to see if they have any lime wood blanks for sale. 

That said, if you still can’t find lime wood for sale, basswood is similar enough that you can use it instead. It’s as easy as lime wood to carve, so you won’t have to worry about added difficulty in you’re a new carver. 


Lime wood is one of the easiest woods available for carving. No matter whether you’re a beginner carver or have hundreds of projects under your belt, the convenience of using lime for your projects simply can’t be beaten. That said, make sure that your lime wood item will not undergo a lot of wear and tear or have to deal with heavy use, as the wood’s softness means that it isn’t durable enough to be used for such projects.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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