Wood carving is a challenging, fun hobby and art form. It’s a hobby that doesn’t require a lot of gear aside from the best wood chisel sets, knives, and decent wood to work with. But considering how complex it can be for the newbie, our guide on wood carving for beginners will give you an inside look at this ancient art form, while discussing the best tools for the job and providing you with tips that will make even the toughest technique a little easier.
Our wood carving for beginners tips will begin with learning more about the different types of wood carving techniques to choose from, how to pick out wood for your first project, and what type of tools you’ll need depending on which type of wood carving you decide to pursue.
Wood carving can take plenty of patience and practice, but over time, and with the right tools, you’ll find that this art form can also be very enjoyable, therapeutic, and rewarding.
Keep reading to learn more about this popular hobby.
Different Wood Carving Styles
Did you know there are actually different styles of wood carving to choose from? In fact, there are four different types of wood carving, each of which can require different tools and techniques. As a beginner, you should choose the style that works for your skill level, budget, and the type of products you want to learn how to make.
Chip carving is often done with a hammer, knife, and chisel. This form of wood carving involves chipping away at wood. It’s often used for creating statues and complex patterns.
Carving in the Round
Carving in the round involves clean, smooth, lines and rounded angles. Unlike chip carving, the final product is all about rounded angles and a more polished look.
Considered one of the oldest forms of wood carving, whittling has been around for hundreds of years. This medium involves textured, sharper cuts that leave strokes in the wood. This type of wood carving is usually done with a wood carving knife or a whittling knife.
Relief carving is another popular option and it involves carving figures into pieces of wood. Typically, the carver will begin with a flat piece of wood, carving figures only into one side of the wood, so the back of the wood remains flat and untouched.
Choosing the Right Wood
If you’re a beginner then you may not know what are the best woods for carving or how to choose a good piece of wood for a specific project. If you’ve decided on a style of wood carving to pursue, then your next step is choosing the type of wood you want to use for your project. Typically, skilled wood carvers often recommend basswood and butternut for beginners because they’re much easier to work with and are softer. Whichever type of wood you choose, be sure you buy your wood from a wood supplier or arts and crafts store. If you’re not skilled at picking out a good piece of wood, then you’ll want to avoid purchasing your wood from a lumber yard for the time being.
The Right Tools for the Job
You won’t be able to start your first wood carving project without the right tools. This will heavily depend on the type of wood carving you plan on pursuing. If you’re looking for the best tools for whittling or carving in the round, the Flexcut KN250 Deluxe wood carving set comes with all of the knives you’ll need to get started. For chip carving or relief carving, you’ll need a set of chisels, gouges, and a few wood carving knives.
To learn more about how to choose wood carving tools, click here to read our buyer’s guide.
Top Tips for Wood Carving
- Before you get started, learn how to properly grip a carving knife. Most carving knives are very sharp and can cause serious injury if you’re not sure how to properly hold or use them. Fortunately, most arts and crafts stores sell carving gloves, which can protect your hands and wrists from potential cuts.
- Always cut along the grain. Examine the piece of wood before you make your first cut, in order to determine the direction in which the grain is running. This can easily be done by carving out a small chunk of wood from the corner of the piece. Pay attention to the dark streaks that run through the wood.
- Draw out your cuts. If you’re a beginner then in order to avoid totally destroying a piece of wood make sure you draw out your cuts before you begin. Wood carving is delicate work. Just one wrong cut can potentially ruin an entire project. So, save yourself plenty of cash and frustration and use a pencil to sketch out each of the cuts before you get started.
How Do I Start Whittling?
Just like with any other type of wood carving project, begin by purchasing the right tools, such as a carving knife, and the appropriate type and size of wood. If you’re not sure what techniques to use or even how to begin a project, check out wood carving projects for beginners on YouTube or look for a whittling course at a local community college.
What Wood is Easiest to Carve?
The answer to this question depends on the wood carving style and the project itself. However, most skilled wood carvers can agree that butternut and aspen are both great types of wood to start with.
Is Cottonwood Good for Carving?
No. This type of wood is too porous, which means it can easily hide soft spots. If you hit a hidden soft spot then you run the risk of ruining your work. We only recommend this type of wood for practice and not for serious projects.
Wood carving can be a fulfilling, fun, and even profitable hobby that’s very rewarding. It’s also an acquired skill, so you shouldn’t expect to master this art form overnight. In fact, it can take many years of practice, especially if you’ve decided to learn on your own.
We hope our wood carving for beginners tips have given you a better idea regarding what style of wood carving you want to pursue, how to choose the right tools for the job, and how to avoid some of the common mistakes many beginners often make with their first wood carving project.