Whether you are an architect, a ceramicist, or a freewheeling artist who subscribes to no labels, it can be helpful to keep a good supply of ready-to-sculpt blocks in your studio. Available in all kinds of material, from wood to foam, these blocks provide a low-stakes way to visualize ideas in 3D, create preliminary models, or just experiment. The best blocks strike the right balance between durability and ease of carving, and they should be unchanging in form and structure—blank slates, essentially. Below, we’ve found five of the most user-friendly blocks for your shaping needs.
1. Sculpture Block Polyurethane Foam Carving Block
This polyurethane foam from Sculpture Block is carefully designed for shaping with a range of artists’ tools, such as chisels, sandpaper, saws, and common pottery tools. Compared with other foam blocks, the unique structure doesn’t easily fall apart in chunks, holding its form as you sculpt to your heart’s content. Soft enough to peel away so you can create details, yet sturdy for long-lasting results, the foam can also be decorated with paint and glue. It does tend to release some dust during the carving process, so you might want to protect your lungs with a mask.
2. Kingcraft Basswood Carving Blocks Kit
If you prefer to work with wood, choose this five-pack of carving blocks. Each is made of natural basswood, a popular choice of wood carvers who favor this creamy white wood for its softness and easy workability. We like this set, as it includes two sizes of wood: four rectangles with a small base as well as a wider, chunkier rectangle. Suitable for woodworkers of all levels, these pieces stand out for their consistency, with each block offering neatly edged, uniform surfaces without any knots, cracks, or other blemishes.
3. JoePaul’s Crafts Basswood Carving Blocks Kit
This pack of basswood, like Kingcraft’s product, comes with five pieces of wood in two sizes. The pieces are modest, making them ideal for small hands or for making practice models. Sustainably harvested from the Midwest and then kiln dried, the wood is very soft, easy to grip, and holds fine lines well. However, these pieces are not as consistent in their quality as Kingcraft’s wood; you might encounter some imperfections, flakiness, and knots.
4. Sculpture House Soapstone
Another favored carving material that has a more polished look than wood is soapstone, a rock with a majority makeup of talc. This option from Sculpture House stands out for its colors, boasting deep green shades embellished with cream-colored veins. Seeing different markings reveal themselves is part of the fun of carving this material, and because these are high-quality soapstones, it’s improbable that you will encounter any unwanted deposits or striations as you work away. Note that each stone is hand cut, so the sizes will vary slightly.
5. Silverlake Large Craft Foam Block
This chunk of foam resembles Styrofoam but is actually made of expanded polystyrene (EPS), a white structure molded from puffed-up resin beads. It’s easy to cut with a variety of tools, including a hot knife, a chainsaw, and a computer numerical control (CNC) router. EPS is an excellent choice for making suspended sculptures, as it is incredibly lightweight, even if the final artwork takes up a lot of space. It’s also very easy to transport. We like Silverlake’s option, as it offers a very clean, super-white surface both inside and out, so you can cut, sand, coat, and finish without encountering any surprises.