October 15, 2021

Carving Fig Wood | A Genius’ Guide

Are you thinking of carving fig wood? Fig wood is a tough and durable wood that can replace mahogany, red cedar, and other high-quality woods. It originated in the Mediterranean but has been used as a wood species for thousands of years. It is an ancient species of wood that was used hundreds of years ago by the Egyptians and the Romans. There are several places in Europe where fig wood is harvested and used to make furniture and other wooden items. In this post, you will learn more about carving fig wood.

Characteristics of fig wood

The fig plant is a small Bush that is one to 12metres long. Fig wood belongs to the hardwood family. You feel the hardness when splitting and notice that it is yellow. The smell is odd. The fig wood is ideal for spoons. More than 700 species of fig trees grow in warm climates. It is for furniture and artwork and is not big enough for flooring. 

Tools needed to carve fig wood

 Carving knives

Carving knives are versatile tools that come in different sizes. The knife is for tracing an outline of the wood, and you are allowed to add as many details as you can. Carving knives work on both hard and softwood. 

More practice in controlling cuts is required. Make sure your knife stays sharp for accurate and smooth cuts. A set of carving knives is there to meet your specific needs, and the carving knife is a requirement for a beginner and amateur. 

Wood carving mallet

Pick a shock-absorbent mallet that creates the pressure you need without too much force that is difficult to control. Use the mallet to hit the end of the chisels and gouges. Each strike makes the cutting-edge move a predictable amount. It enables you to make deeper cuts by pushing the carving tool. It prevents the carving tool from getting out of control when you strike. 


A variety of chisels complements high-quality knives. They come with different tips depending on the size and shape of the cut you want to make. Some chisels look almost like a screwdriver and have a flat, beveled edge. However, that does not make it hard to differentiate between the two. 

Other models have a v-shaped tip or are for a specific purpose. It is for pairing, which means it will shave off a thin piece of the fig wood rather than remove a large piece of wood. A chisel with a beveled edge cut at an angle is called a skew or corner chisel.


A gouge comes with a similar handle to a chisel and moves the same way when carving; the only difference is the rounded tip. Gouges remove the wood when pushed or hit with a wood carving mallet. It also works on hollowing out small or large sections or creating curves in the wood. 

You are allowed to remove wood quickly. When you stab a gouge side by side enough times, it will create a circle. Two types of gouges curve upward at the end for relief carving. A figure is carved into a flat piece of wood but does not extend far beyond the flat surface. 

A fishtail gouge has a flat, beveled edge, and the end of the blade separates it from the rest of the gouges. It has an advantage since it can get into smaller, hard-to-reach places.


The veiner and a gouge have the same shape, and you might mistake one tool for the other. The difference that comes with the veiner is that it has lingered sides. When you stab it into a piece of wood, it makes a U-shape. 

A veiner is also called a U-Gouge. It creates a hollowed-out vein or thin groove in the wood when hit. It is ideal for lines and small details in the project’s design. Large U-gouges are called fluters, and they carve large grooves.

Bench knives

Although bench and carving knives have similarities, they differ in many ways. They differ in appearance and purpose. Bench knives have a larger gripper handle and a smaller blade that is less than an inch long. It allows you to safely and accurately get closer to the wood and carve out smaller pieces and intricate details. It also removes larger pieces in detailed work.

How to cut fig wood

Identify the best fig tree for your wood carving project. Look for wood that turned brown in the most recent season than wood that is several seasons old. Look for wider parts since they do not limit your projects.  

That prevents rotting quickly. Inspect the wood; the cuts should be long enough to get nodes above and below the soil line. Cut each bottom at an angle and the top flat across. Cut the top as far above the highest node as possible. It is worth seeing How to carve Mulberry Wood.

How to use a fig wood

Fig wood makes bowls and spoons. Besides using fig wood for carving, it is for smoking food, bringing a nice flavor to food. As much as it is soft, it is not for high-traffic areas, and it does not last long.

Sanding the wood

As much as sanding allows good adhesion to the mineral oil, some users prefer scraping their fig carvings. Beeswax and mineral oil or a mixture of both give a nice finish to the bowl. Both methods give you a smooth finish and more shaping with a scraper. 

A bit of experience is required. Making a finer piece comes with scraping, but that is if you have a proper scraper. Raising the grain and sanding it gives you a smoother finish. Raise the wood by wetting it and then smooth it again should keep it from rising after washing it a few times. A mix of mineral oil and beeswax keeps it from sweating. Use light coats of mineral oil or two heavier coats, and let it dry completely between coats.

Is fig wood suitable for carving?

Fig wood carves nicely. It makes carvings such as spoons and bowls. Although it is not as soft as basswood, it is darn close and has some decent grain. Using basswood tools such as a knife and a small gouge is ideal. 

Now you are left looking for an excellent finish. The bowl holds contents well and comes with a sheen when you put a good finish. If you cannot have a finish, sand with 400 grit. That slightly brings the grain and leaves a lighter finish if you hate to darken the wood too much. 

Mineral oil is ideal for finishing since it is food-safe and does not darken the grain much. You can raise the grain and sand it to a finer grit before putting any oil, preventing fuzzies when washing it.

Is fig wood toxic?

The wood has poor stability, and that makes it challenging to dry. The plant contains a toxic, sap-like substance, and the substance is known as ficin. It is toxic when consumed or when it comes into contact with the skin, eyes, or mouth.

Is fig wood a hardwood?

A fig tree is a hardwood similar to oak and hickory. The denser wood composition qualifies the hardwood family, which makes it ideal for furniture, flooring, musical instruments, and veneers.

Other fig wood uses

Fig wood can also be used to make:

  • cutting boards
  • countertops
  • serving trays
  • decorative bowls
  • wooden spoons
  • carved signs
  • jewelry
  • coasters
  • magnets
  • keychains
  • ornaments

Fig wood is a beautiful, unique wood that can be used for a variety of different projects. With its smooth grain and beautiful figural patterns, fig wood lends itself to both functional and decorative items. If you are looking for a unique woodworking project, consider carving fig wood into something special.

Non-carving uses for fig wood

Fig wood can also be used for a variety of projects other than carving. It can be used for smoking meat or fish as it imparts a subtle fig aroma.


In summary, developing a carving project using fig tree wood is a rewarding experience. The wood is soft, easy to carve, and much stronger than it looks. With patience and a piece of fig wood, you can create a one-of-a-kind piece of art.

David D. Hughes

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