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How to Use Wood Carving Tools


Hand carving wood into intricate shapes and designs is a fine art requiring only a few basic tools to get started. As you develop your carving ability and desire to create more complicated pieces, you can grow your tool collection and continue learning new techniques. Use the tips and information below to learn how to get started with this craft and how to use wood carving tools to bring your designs to life.

How Do You Start Hand Carving Wood?

To get started with wood carving, you’ll need a good knife for basic cuts and/or a beginner’s toolset for variety. You will also need the right type and size of wood. Before planning any designs, however, you will want to simply get familiar with your tools. Learn what kind of cuts they make, what angle to hold them at, and how much pressure you need to apply when using them. 

What is the Easiest Wood to Carve?

Begin with a block or two of wood that you can practice making cuts on. Softer woods like balsa, pine, or basswood are easier to carve and work with. Harder woods like oak are much more difficult and sometimes break around the edges when attempting finer details.

Wood Carving Tips

After practicing with your knife on a block of wood, try using different tools like gouges, chisels, and veiners to create different designs. Use the tips below to learn how to use wood carving tools and create intricate works of art.

Sketch Your Design on Paper

Before making any cuts, create a plan for your project. Draw out what you would like your design to look like and determine which tools you will need and where to make cuts.

Choose Your Wood

Determine which type of wood will work best for your design, which type of wood you are most comfortable working with, and which look you prefer for your project.

Gather Your Tools & Prepare Your Work Space

It is always helpful to have a clean and functional workspace when beginning any project. Make sure you have plenty of room to work, all the tools you may need are within easy reach, and every blade is sharp.

Sharpen Your Blades

A sharper blade will cut through the wood more easily, as well as more accurately. A dull blade will be more difficult to push through the wood, requiring more pressure and increasing the chance of injury or mistake.

Plan Your Design on the Wood

Hold your woodblock of choice and use a pencil to lightly mark key areas for making cuts. It is up to you how many details to include in this part of the process. However, at a minimum, you will want to make sure you have enough space to fit the entire design on the wood as you progress, and that everything will remain correctly proportionate.

Wear Safety Equipment

Safety goggles are a great way to protect your eyes from stray wood chips that fly unexpectedly toward your face when carving. It is also important to protect your hands with Kevlar work gloves. If you switch hands when carving, wear gloves on both hands; otherwise, be sure that at least the hand holding the woodblock is protected.

Cut Along the Grain

Carefully carve a piece of wood out of a corner of your block, completing the cut completely to avoid breaking off more of the wood, and look for the dark lines of the grain. 

Remove the Outside Part

For this step, you are essentially just getting rid of the excess parts of the wood that you will not need. For example, if the top of your design is round, you can remove the corners before focusing in on details. Make sure you do not remove too much during this step, but get close enough that you will be ready to start on the smaller cuts.

Start Carving

Now it’s time to pull out your knives, chisels, veiners, and other tools for the detail work. You can also use a small vein tool to draw out the lines of your design and use this as a guide for other cuts. 

Start Small

Once the outside part of the wood is removed and you have a working outline in place, start making small- to medium-sized cuts. Remember that you can always remove more if needed, but cannot put wood back. However, for some designs, it is possible to work with pieces of wood that have been properly glued together. 

Use Mallets

When using chisels and gouges, don’t forget that not all the force needs to come from your hands alone. Mallets are a great supplemental tool to help you get your tools to cut the way you want them to. This is particularly useful during large projects or when working with harder woods.

Different Styles of Wood Carving

When you are comfortable with your tools and have completed a few basic projects, you may wish to start experimenting with different types of wood carving. Try the styles below to see how to use wood carving tools for a variety of different projects.

Whittling

Whittling is a form of wood carving that can be done using only a sharp knife blade. Projects are typically smaller in size, and knife strokes are often still visible on the finished product.

Carving in the Round

This type of wood carving creates a more detailed and realistic finish. It can be varying sizes and uses several different tools to make all the necessary cuts. Knife strokes may still be visible, but the overall finished effect is cohesive and more lifelike.

Relief Carving

With a relief carving, the back of the wood remains flat, while the front becomes a three-dimensional image. Many types of tools may be employed and this type of carving is typically hung on a wall when completed.

Chip Carving

Chip carving may be used as a portion of a larger project and can also be used alone. Essentially, gouges and chisels are used to chip pieces of wood from the flat surface and create intricate designs and patterns. Chipping is a simple wood carving skill to learn. However, creating an entire piece from chip carving requires a keen attention to detail, lots of practice, and a large amount of skill.

Holding The Wood In Place

One of the most important things when wood carving is safety. When carving, you do not want your wood block moving left, right, up, or down. This can cause injury and possibly waste money due to unusable wood. It is important to have some sort of holding device like a clamp or a custom piece like the one in the video below.

Get Started With Schaaf Tools

Learn how to use wood carving tools to create a variety of incredible carving projects with help from Schaaf Tools. Our products are carefully selected to provide you with everything you need. We also provide learning resources with tips and tricks for carvers of all skill levels to help you develop your ability and get the most from your tools.

Contact Schaaf Tools for more information and to start a new and exciting hobby today.

2 comments


  • Levi Armstrong

    It’s great that you mentioned getting started with wood carving, you’ll need a good knife for basic cuts and/or a beginner’s toolset for variety. My mom loves art and really got into wood artworks that she wants to try out herself. I’ll share this with her later when she visits for dinner. Thanks. http://woodengravingservices.com


  • Rick Johnson

    how much is this going to coest iam new to this


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