How to Get into Wood Carving: A Beginner’s Guide

The best way to start your journey into the world of wood carving is to understand the various elements making up this hobby. Knowing the different tools, materials, and a little bit of its history can help prepare you for carving. That’s why we have prepared everything you should know before you pick up a chisel. Continue reading for a complete introduction to how you can start wood carving hobby.

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Wood Men and Dog

How Long Has Woodcarving Been Around?

It’s estimated that wood carving has been around for centuries with the oldest known carved sculpture being more than 11,500 years old. This is the Shigir Idol, which was found in 1894 in Russia. Scientific date testing has indicated that this wood carving was created close to the end of the last Ice Age.

Wood Carving old door

What Types of Wood Carving Can You Get?

The two variables that dictate what type of wood carving a project is categorized as are the tools required and its final form. When conducting a wood carving project, you have four primary types to choose from. These are:


Whittling is known as the oldest form of wood carving and the only tool needed is a knife. However, you have a couple of options you can choose from when selecting this tool. You can either choose a folding pocket knife or one with a fixed handle.

Chip Carving

Chip carving is well-liked by many beginners. This type of carving involves removing the wood’s surface layer. From here, you can cut down on this material to create different patterns and textures. 

Carving in the Round

This form of carving creates a 3D sculpture and you can use endless amounts of tools to achieve this look, including gouges, knives, and chisels. Some of the most popular projects conducted with carving in the round are animal sculptures and human busts.

Relief Carving

Relief carving is a specific sculpture that features a flat background. When performing this technique, a carver uses texture to create perception and depth. It’s common to find these finished pieces hanging on a wall while the most common tools used in relief carving are chisels, gouges, and knives.  

What Type of Wood Should You Use?

The most common type of wood to use when you’re first getting into carving is basswood. Additionally, you can use other softwoods like balsa and pine. These are popular options because this softness allows new woodworkers to become comfortable with their knives and the carving process.

However, more experienced carvers are likely to use harder wood types like oak and walnut. Overall, it comes down to the project you wish to perform and how experienced you are. Nonetheless, you should go for softer wood types when you’re first starting to help you learn the basics before you tackle harder options.

What Tools Are Needed?

There’s a wide array of carving tools available on the market. Thus, you should take your time and invest in the basics before you venture into more technical (and expensive) apparatus. Here are some options you might consider purchasing to help dip your toes in the world of wood carving:

Cutting Tools

The first tool you should purchase, as a beginner, is a carving knife. These are readily available and can help you get a solid introduction to wood carving without having to break the bank. Once you’ve had some practice with this knife, you can consider purchasing a beginner’s kit. These products should include various knives, gouges, and chisels. Additionally, some packages come with skews and a V tool, which are beneficial but not necessary. 

Sharpening Tools

You have the option of various sharpening stones. However, we strongly recommend purchasing a few with different grit stones. This allows you to begin with a courser grit while working your way down to a finer one for any finishing. Additionally, you want to avoid any sharpening stones that use oil as a lubricant, as this is difficult to clean.

Safety Tools

Lastly, all individuals getting started in the world of wood carving should invest in safety equipment. The tools used to carve are extremely sharp and can cause severe damage, which is why you need to take the necessary safety precautions.

A pair of high-quality cut-resistant gloves help protect your fingers from any ill-guided blades. Although wood shavings and chips are small, these can go into your eye and cause discomfort. Thus, eye protection should be worn. Even the most basic safety goggles or glasses can be used.

Wrapping It Up

Getting into wood carving is relatively easy. You should first learn how to use these various carving tools. The best way to do this is to start small with a carving knife. From here, you can get a feel for how it works.

Additionally, you should also understand how to sharpen your carving knives. This ensures that you’re always using sharpened blades for the best results. Once you’re comfortable, you can begin venturing into more technical projects and expand on your carving tool collection. However, it’s vital that you get the basics right before continuing.

Picture of Graham Robson
Graham Robson

In the world of wood carving, your wooden project starts with you. Using the right kit can be seen as an extension of your existing skills and abilities that you're required to build over time.

About Me

My name is Graham, I’m an English teacher and woodcarver during the weekend., my website designed to act as a digital workshop for wood carving in the one place.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as i enjoyed writing it!

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