Wood carving for beginners: Types of wood carving tools

Carving is a classic craft technique ideal for unwinding from daily life and making lovely everyday and decorative objects with your hands.

This article contains the most crucial facts to help you get started, such as the wood carving tools you need, what wood is best for carving, and how to approach your initial attempts.

How exactly does carving work?

When carving, an item is given a specific shape by making precise cuts. The method has a long history and is employed in sculpture for the manual fabrication of ordinary goods or their adornment and for producing works such as reliefs or sculptures.

There are several carving materials available. Wood is the most often used medium, although animal bones and ivory have been popular carving materials for millennia.

Materials such as plaster or concrete have recently been added. In the broadest sense, carving includes the creation of creative ice figures, Halloween pumpkins, and colorful sculptures made of melons for festive buffets.

Wood is ideal for both novice and advanced hobby carvers. It is simple to obtain, perfect for both simple and elaborate carvings, and with proper care, it is durable, allowing you to enjoy your works of art for a long time.

Which wood is suitable for carving?

If you check the grain of various types of wood, compare their colors, and examine the flexibility of the branches, you will quickly realize that not all wood is the same. As a result, certain woods are better suited for carving than others.

Special wood can be used for carving and handicrafts, but you can work on any other wood with a little practice. The precise features of the wood, such as hardness, knot abundance, annual ring formation, and coloration, determine the degree of difficulty and the outcome while carving.

Basswood is regarded as the best wood for carving, particularly for beginners. It is a soft wood that may be easily shaped. However, linden wood allows for detailed carvings and is distinguished by its even, pale tint.

Balsa wood is likewise a softwood, but it has much more knots and darkens dramatically after processing, which should be addressed if you want a certain result.

Once you’ve mastered your initial carvings and are comfortable with your tools, you can move on to hardwoods like Ash wood, oak, or aspen wood.

These woods are popular among experts because they can be decorated with intricate details and are incredibly durable, allowing the finished works to last very long. As a result, hardwoods are mostly employed for wood carving and decorative furniture.

Before carving any wood, make sure the blank is completely dry.

The more moisture it holds, the more difficult it is to separate the wood fibers while avoiding splits and fraying.

What tools do you need for carving?

Once you’ve settled on the wood for carving, it’s time to purchase the necessary tools. In principle, you can start with a simple pocket knife, but this can be time-consuming and rapidly ruin carving fun.

Only with the correct Beginner wood carving kit or knives can you gain a true sense of the diversity and originality of this hobby. Because of this, it’s best to start with more than one carving knife instead of just one.

You may carve various shapes and features into the wood using various blades.

An indentation is the imprint of cutting-edge leaves in the wood. Carving knives are classified according to their shape:

Sloyd Knives

Sloyd knives, with their long 2 to 3-inch blades, full tangs, and smooth, rounded handles, are commonly regarded as general-purpose wood carving knives.

These knives excel in removing wood and are commonly used for roughing out a carving, carving spoons, or most general-purpose wood carvings.

Bench Knives

Bench knives are the most commonly used wood carving knives for beginners who want to learn whittling and basic wood carving.

These knives, normally 1 to 2 inches long, make small, accurate cuts, such as adding details to hair and eyes.

Chip Carving Knives

Chip carving knives have a special shape that lets the carver chip away wood from a flat piece of wood to make shapes and patterns with a lot of detail.

These tools are intended to let the user make smooth, flowing cuts on the wood’s surface to create attractive designs.

Scoops and Hook Knives

Hook knives are used to carve wood. They have a round the bend at the end that lets the carver “scoop” the wood, carving a concave wood in the wood.

Because you can construct a depression in the wood to store liquids with these wood tools, they are employed in spoon and Kuksa cup carvings.

Chisels and Mallets

Wood carving chisels are intended for direct cutting into wood and are typically driven into the wood with a mallet.

When these two tools are used together, they create an efficient method for quickly and precisely removing wood for carving and joinery work.


A gouge for wood carving is a chisel with a rounded cutting edge. The purpose of gouges is to readily remove wood from a flat surface, whereas a flat chisel penetrates the wood and becomes stuck.

Skew and Corner Chisels

Skew chisels, like regular chisels, have a flat cutting edge but are ground at a slight angle. These are mostly used for woodturning and, in some cases, cutting into corners.

Corner chisels look like flat chisels, but they are bent at a sharp angle so that they can cut corners in wood. They are mostly used to make joints.

Long and Short Bent Tools

Chisels and gouges with an upward bend at the tip are called “long-bent” and “short-bent” tools, respectively. These tools let the user reach into tight corners that straight tools can’t.

Fishtail Chisels

Fishtail, The cutting edges of chisels, are formed similarly to normal chisels.

Still, the chisel’s body swiftly tapers down towards the handle, giving it the form of a fishtail, as its name suggests. These tools are ideal for cleaning up blind dovetails and other woodcuts.

Wood Rifflers

Wood Rifflers are double-ended tools used to form wood or stone. They have different bends and shapes, enabling the carver to hand-grind various shapes into their carving.

In addition to these standard knives, which come in various widths and sizes, there are several specialty knives for specific applications and shapes. Flowers and channel irons are examples of these.

These, however, are not necessary for the first few steps. On the other hand, you’ll need a vise to secure the wooden blank and work it safely, a well-lit workspace, leather sanding and polishing paste, or a grinding machine to regularly sharpen your blades.

Even if the price appears to be high initially, you should choose branded goods when purchasing carving knives. As a result, you can be confident that the cutting edges are sharp and made of hardened steel, which wears out less quickly.

Tips and ideas for the first attempts

It’s not about working perfectly or carving difficult wooden figures at first, but rather about learning how to use carving knives and wood.

To begin, get a feel for each tool and determine which knife to use for which shapes and how hard or deep to cut to achieve a specific result. You could, for example, carve individual elements and glue the individual elements to make your work easier.

You could also flame or oil the wood to give your finished work of art that extra something. Both serve to protect the wood and strengthen it.

Work safely and cleanly from the start

As a result, for your first attempts, you can use a shapeless wooden blank to experiment with different cutting depths and shapes with all knives and develop or improve your carving technique.

You should follow the following rules from the start:

To avoid staining the wood with dirt or grease, wash your hands before beginning work. In general, avoid touching wood directly if at all possible. Wood chips can be blown away or removed with a clean brush.

Always move the carving knife away from your body to avoid injuring yourself if you slip.

Always use both hands to hold the knife. You set the direction with one hand and apply pressure to the wood with the other.

Always work with the grain of the material. The wood will not split or tear as a result of this.

Make sure that every cut is clean from start to finish. It’s sometimes tempting to pull out the last piece. As a result, the edges are frayed, and the chips are ripped out.

Sand the wood only after you’ve finished working on it. Sandpaper deposits tiny particles on the surface, which can dull carving knives.

Sharpen your carving knives regularly to avoid sloppy work and wood damage.

First wood carving projects: Ideas for beginners

You can start doing genuine carvings as soon as you securely hold the blades and operate them in a controlled manner.

In specialist shops, there are also carving templates made of wood that has already been pre-milled in the respective shape so that you “only” have to work on the motifs in more detail to give them more depth and design them according to your wishes.

You can carve simple common objects like a fruit bowl or a wooden spoon as your first free project.

To do this, use a very wide flat iron to roughly shape the raw wood into the desired shape, work out the details and finally decorate them with filigree patterns.

A job like this can require a lot of patience and several weeks of work, especially the first time. However, the difficulties you face will help you continue to hone your skills, not to mention the pride you’ll feel when you hold your first fully hand-carved work.