How to Use Wood Carving Tools

Wood carving has been practiced for centuries by men and women alike. Today we have machinery that has changed the way we fashion wood. Traditional wood carving is still a widely practiced artform by hobbyists and tradesmen alike. Understanding the tools used for wood carving is essential to one’s success in the trade. To begin wood carving, a basic wood carving tool kit should do the job. You can add on more tools as you refine your wood carving skills.

Table of Contents
Wood Carving tools on the wall

What are the techniques in wood carving?

There are four different wood carving methods. Choosing which method, you would like to use can help you choose the tools you need.

Whittling or knife carving

This method can be done with minimal tools and produces angular strokes. The products are small and three dimensional.

Chip carving

This method is used to make sculptures and intricate designs on a flat piece of wood. Knives and chisels are used to chip away at the wood, removing small pieces at a time.

Carving in the round

Carving in the round is a method that produces three dimensional pieces using a range of tools. In comparison to whittling, carving in the round produces life-like finished works that have smooth surfaces.

Relief carving

As the name suggests, relief carving involves carving out the relief areas of a design using U and V shaped tools. These tools are used to carve designs out of a block of wood. An example of relief carving is carving a wooden spoon out of a block of wood.

With the method of choice in mind, let us begin discussing the tools you need to practice wood carving. Here is a comprehensive guide to wood carving tools.

Personal Protective Equipment

Wood carving involves the use of dangerous tools and the emission of dust and wood shavings. To prevent injury, it is essential that you make use of the correct personal protective gear. Safety glasses or goggles are important to protect your eyes from specs of dust that could cause serious injury to your eyes during wood carving. The use of cut resistant gloves to prevent injury from wood carving tools is paramount in protecting your fingers from injury.

What is the main tool used by wood carvers?

There are five different carving tools. Select the tool that suits your method.

Wood Carving/Whittling Knife

Wood carving knives are one of the most versatile tools for wood carving. They come in a range of shapes and sizes and can be used for everything from carving out rough forms to refining intricate details. The knife you choose must be easy to grasp and rigid. Keeping your knives sharp is important when practicing wood carving as blunt knives leave behind streaks. Do not make use of retractable blades as they break under pressure and may not work well, especially if you are working with a hard wood.

Mallets for Wood Carving

Mallets are another essential tool for wood carving as they allow you to make deeper cuts in the wood. Mallets are used to knock the ends of knives, gouges, and chisels and veiners. Look for a shock-absorbent mallet with a firm grip. Choose a rubber mallet rather than a wooden one to reduce the level of noise.


Chisels are tools with long blades and flat edges. They come in different sizes so choose your chisels according to the size of cut you wish to make. Chisels are knocked on the end with mallets to produce deeper cuts or can be pushed with your hand to make shallow cuts in the wood.


Gouges are handy tools to have for wood carving. Instead of carve or chip away at the wood in straight lines like knives and chisels, gouges scoop out wood in curved shapes. They come in different shapes and sizes.

Long and short bent gouges curve upwards at the end. These gouges are used for relief carving.

“U” and “V” shaped gouges are used to give a carving depth. U-shaped gouges or hook knives are also used as veiners to carve grooves in the wood. Small U-shaped gouges can be used to create fine detail on sculptures or designs.

Choose your gouges based on the projects you would like to do. If tackling a project such as a wooden spoon for example, a U-shaped gouge would work well to scoop out wood to create the inner part of the spoon.

Power Tools

Power tools were not used traditionally for wood carving, but they can make wood carving a lot easier. Saws can be used to cut out the rough shape of an object, while you can do an entire wood carving with an angle grinder. The Dremel Stylo can help you create intricate detail on your project and is a great alternative to chisels and gouges.

Choosing the right tools for wood carving need not be overwhelming. Begin by choosing a toolkit that contains a good range of chisels, carving knives, gouges and safety wear and build your kit by adding tools as you need them.

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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