How to Start Wood Carving: Everything You Need to Know

The intricate details found on wood carving pieces make this hobby seem difficult. However, all you need to start wood carving are some simple tools, like a chisel or knife, and an eagerness to learn about this craft. We have outlined everything you need to know to get you started with wood carving. Continue reading to find out more.

Table of Contents
Wood Carving spoon

What are Types of Wood Carving?

Artists and woodworkers have been carving wood for centuries to create various types of art pieces. To help you discover what kind of wood carving you would like to try, we have provided you with some of the most common types.


This type of wood carving is one of the oldest and simplest. All you need to whittle wood is a sharp knife. When picking the right tool, you might choose a carving knife with a fixed handle or a foldable pocket version. From here, you can begin practicing the three basic strokes that come with whittling. These are:

  • Straightaway rough-cutting: This is performed by pushing the blade away from yourself while making a sweeping and long cut on the wood. You should use this motion at the start of your carving project to reveal the wooden piece’s general form or shape.
  • Pull stroke: It’s known for being the most common whittling stroke and is performed by pulling the blade towards you like you’re peeling a potato. You should ensure this stroke is short and controlled.
  • Push stroke: This is performed by pushing the blade away from you with your left thumb. Your right thumb is then used to guide the knife.  

Relief Carving

More advanced skills are needed to perform relief carving, as this is the process of engraving figures into a flat panel of wood. This finished product is three-dimensional while the back remains untouched and flat. Relief carving is popular in caricatures, ornamental figurines, faces, and busts.

Carving in the Round

Carving in the round is used to create life-like and three-dimensional pieces and sculptures. Many woodworkers use numerous tools during this process, including gouges, chisels, and other sharp hand tools to create finished pieces with natural lines and smooth surfaces. 

Chip Carving

Chip carving involves chipping away wood gradually to form 3D patterns and figures on a piece of wood. While chip carving, the back of this piece remains flat.

What Do You Need to Start Wood Carving as a Hobby?

To start any new hobby, you need to know what the right materials and tools are to use. Luckily, we have found everything you require to begin wood carving. Here’s what you should have:


There are numerous tools you can use when carving. As a beginner, you might be a little hesitant to invest in most of these items, as such products can get a little pricey. However, you can avoid these hefty price tags by purchasing a craft knife or beginner kit for your first project. Some basic wood carving and wood cutting tools included in beginner’s kits are:


When it comes to picking out wood for your crafting projects, the most recommended type for beginners is basswood. This is because it’s a softwood that boasts a smooth texture and fine grain, which makes it easy for people new to the hobby to practice the various carving strokes.

Carving face on wood

Basswood can also hold carving details exceptionally well while its light coloring makes it an excellent material if you wish to stain your finished work.

Tips To Start Wood Carving

We’ve gathered some of the most helpful tips and tricks learned in our wood carving journey to help you get started. These are:

  • Learn to handle your knife correctly. All the tools you use should be comfortable to hold while being appropriate for your project. Hand fatigue is a common complaint when performing wood carving. However, you can avoid this by using a knife with a comfortable grip.
  • Use carving gloves. When you’re first starting out, it’s vital that you protect yourself from these sharp tools.
  • Always carve wood by following the grain. This is going to make carving easier, especially if you’re using hardwood in your project.
  • Sketch the design you would like to carve on paper and transfer it to your piece of wood. You can also draw it directly on this wood. By doing this, you can work precisely and achieve your desired appearance.

Wrapping It Up

Wood carving is an excellent hobby to learn but you should ensure you’re working safely. This is because you’re working with sharp tools that can potentially cause a lot of damage.

Cutting yourself can easily tarnish the art of woodworking for you and leave you never wanting to pick up another carving tool again. That’s why you should wear gloves and practice different strokes when starting this new hobby. Good luck and have fun making some wooden masterpieces! 

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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