Wood carving is a time-honored skill and art that has been practiced for thousands of years.
In fact, prehistoric people used wood carving to fashion tools and weapons for their survival. Practicality morphed with art when they carved decorations into the wooden handles of their spears and other implements.
If you enjoy working with your hands and have a bit of creativity, wood carving might be for you.
Learn about this craft, discover the wood carving tools you need, find out which woods to use, and more.
Wood Carving Tools, Supplies, and Techniques for Beginners
If you’re a beginner new to carving wood, here’s what you need to know to get started with your hobby.
How to Find the Right Tools
If you’re going to dive into carving, you need some carving tools to help you get started.
If you’re unsure which tools to buy, starting with a carving set might be the way to go.
For one, with a set, you’ll be sure to have every tool you need on hand for any type of project. For another thing, as you improve your skills, you won’t have to buy extra tools to keep up with your advancement.
You can buy wood carving tools at any woodworking store. Some hardware stores will have them in stock, too. If you’re not sure, ask a salesperson what they have available.
Of course, you can also buy individual tools and sets online for woodworking and carving.
If you’re looking for tools that have already stood the test of time, you can find antique or homemade tools at flea markets and thrift stores.
The best tools will be high-quality and made to last. Once you buy a tool you need, you should never have to replace it beyond adding a new handle (which you can carve yourself!).
The Most Common Tools to Get
A basic tool set for wood carving will include all of the following:
- A gouge – A curved tool for carving round or hollow areas
- A carving knife – A knife specifically made for cutting, smoothing, and paring wood
- A chisel – A tool with a straight cutting edge, mostly used for flat surfaces or cutting straight lines
- A coping saw – A small saw that’s used for cutting away large chunks of wood
- A U-gauge – A tool with a u-shaped edge used for cutting deep gouges
- A mallet – The implement you’ll use to push your carving tools along the wood surface (you’ll usually never push them with your hand alone)
- Sharpening equipment – Sharpening stones or a strop can help keep your tools sharp so they do their work efficiently
- A toolbox or chisel roll – Stored improperly, your carving tools will get rusty or chipped. To circumvent this, invest in a chisel roll (a flat piece of material, often leather, with pockets for each of your tools that rolls up and ties to secure them).
What Woods Should You Choose for Carving?
To put it simply, some woods are better for carving than others, especially if you’re hand-carving versus carving with power tools.
Additionally, each type of wood has its own characteristics and look. Choosing the right wood will help you carve more easily and produce the finished product you’re after.
Here are some of the top wood choices for most types of carving.
Aspen is a white wood that’s popular because of its softness, which makes it easy to carve. It’s also easy to find and doesn’t cost a lot.
Basswood is another white wood, but it’s softer than aspen, which makes it ideal for beginners. Your wood carving knife and other tools will easily shape this type of wood.
- Black Walnut
Black walnut is a more expensive option. It’s also not as soft as basswood or aspen, but it has a beautiful grain and color that adds a special touch to finished projects.
If you work with this wood, take note that you’ll need sharp tools and a mallet.
Butternut has a deeper color than white woods but is equally easy to carve. However, you’ll often find holes and imperfections in this type. It’s also inexpensive.
Oak is a beautiful wood for carving furniture because it has a distinctive grain. It’s stronger than other types, but the end result is always worth the extra effort.
Choose the Right Tools and Start Carving
Now that you know which tools and supplies you need, it’s time to get started.
Wood carving can be an incredible creative hobby for anybody who likes to work with their hands. If you work at it, you could produce wood sculpture, furniture, tools, and intricate carvings with your new skill.