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What Tools Do I Need for Wood Carving?

The fine art of wood carving involves the use of many different tools and techniques. With practice, you’ll learn to use each one and probably find a few favorites. Until then, what tools do you need for wood carving? Start with a good wood carving knife and work your way up to other tools from there. Learn more below about some of the tools you’ll need in your toolbox as your skills improve.

What Are the Best Tools for Wood Carving?

There are several types of tools you will want to become familiar with if you plan to take up wood carving. As you progress in your skills, you can experiment with new tools or different styles of these tools, as well as add to your wood carving tool set


Wood carving knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are used for paring, whittling, and other cutting.


Similar to a knife, a chisel is a handle attached to a flat blade. With a chisel, however, the tip is used to make cuts, and the tool is pushed or hit with a mallet to make a cut.

  • Paring Chisel - used for paring, or shaving off small pieces of the wood.
  • Mortise Chisel - used to carve out mortise joints (where two pieces of wood. connect at right angles and one-piece inserts into a groove in the other).
  • Skew Chisel - also called a corner chisel; blade at a 45-degree angle.


Gouges are similar to chisels, except that the blade is curved instead of flat, like a scoop.

  • U-Gouge - has a curved, half-circle blade for scooping out wood.
  • V-Gouge - has a v-shaped blade tip.
  • Short Bent Tool - has a straight blade with a deep curved end for shaping recesses.
  • Long Bent Tool - has an upward bend along the length of the tool and is used for relief carving.
  • Veining Tool -  has the smallest u-shaped edges for grooves and outlines.
  • Fishtail Tool - has a light, thin blade with a tip that is wider than the shaft
  • Fluter - has a wide, curved blade for hollowing wood.


    Rifflers have a grip in the middle, with a different sized filing edge on either end. They are great for getting into small and hard to reach areas and smoothing out edges.


    Mallets are used in conjunction with gouges and chisels. A wood carver hits the gouge or chisel with the mallet to make deeper cuts. 

    Finger Protection

    It is important to wear a leather thumb guard, cut-resistant work gloves, or other finger protection designed for woodcarvers, especially if you are new to the craft. It will reduce the chance of injury when wielding sharp blades.

    What Are the Best Wood Carving Tools for Beginners?

    If you have never tried any kind of wood carving before, you will likely want to start with a simple carving knife. Get used to how the tool feels in your hand, how it moves through the wood, and the amount of pressure you need to use. Gradually try different cuts and then different types of knives and wood until you are comfortable using wood carving knives.

    The next step is to invest in a good beginner wood carving tool kit. This way, you can try out a variety of tools and learn what each one does. A beginner tool kit typically includes several types of chisels and gouges to get you started creating beautiful carvings. Once you feel confident with these tools, you can add additional detailing tools like veiners and fishtail tools.

    Can You Make Wood Carving Tools?

    It is possible to make your own wood carving tools if you have the right materials and skills. Some advanced wood carvers make or modify their tools to get them exactly how they want them or add personal design touches to the handles. 

    One of the most common items that wood carvers make themselves is a leather strop used to sharpen their blades. You will want to invest in a quality blade sharpener for when your blades get extremely dull, but a good strop will keep your blades sharper longer. 

    What Tools Are Needed to Start Whittling?

    Whittling can be considered a component of wood carving or its own separate craft. Either way, it generally refers to the smaller, finer details in carving. Although you can get started with a simple carving knife, if you plan to perfect your whittling skills, you will want to use a few different blades. 

    For example, tools designed specifically for whittling are also called palm tools because their handles are shorter, rounder, and fit securely in the palm of your hand. This allows you to hold the blade more steadily when making small cuts. Palm tools can include knives, gouges, v-tools, and more, but the blades are smaller and thinner than carving knives. 

    A hook knife is also a great tool for whittling. The curved blade is used for details and spoon-shaped carving, but the sharp tip can also be used to make scratches for drawing where you intend to make cuts later.

    What to Look for When Buying Wood Carving Tools

    Even as a beginner, you will want to choose tools that are durable and will last a long time. Look for the following features when comparing wood carving tool kits.

  • Quality Metal - Look at the material the wood carving tools are made from and choose a set with high quality metal.
  • Variety - Choose a wood carving tool set that includes a variety of knives, gouges, and chisels of different sizes.
  • Sharpness - Sharper blades glide more smoothly through the wood, making them both more accurate and safer to use. Purchase pre-sharpened blades so you know what they should look like later on when you sharpen them yourself.
  • Good Grip - Look for blades with handles that are easy to grip and do not slide around in your hand. This will give you more control and will be safer to use.

  • Start Wood Carving With Schaaf Tools

    In addition to sharpening tools, mallets, and beginner wood carving tool sets, Schaaf Tools has educational resources to help you develop your wood carving skills. Check out our beginner wood carving ebook to learn how to use all your tools. Contact us for more information about what tools you need for wood carving.

    1 comment

    • Joseph Miller

      Great, was helpful for my project, It was about smart woodworking. Thanks a lot. Keep it up. It helped me a lot in developing my

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