What Do I Need To Start Wood Carving?

Woodcarving could be one the quietest hobby in the woodwork category and is a great way to start into woodworking. The entry costs can be very low and the tools can be small enough to carry in a pack. You don’t even need a work shop.

So what is needed to get started?

Decide what type of carving interests you.

Choose the correct tools for that type of carving.

Investigate the typical woods used in that style of carving.

Obtain a few pieces of wood.

Plan out the carving before you start cutting.

Think about safety.

Research finishes that are applicable to your planned item.

That is not a completely comprehensive list as the subject is far too large for this article. It is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak, but we expand on each section of that list for you in this article so by the time you have finished reading you should have another piece of your information puzzle and will be one step closer to becoming a great wood carver. We hope you enjoy the read.

How to decide what type of carving to begin with.

This is a question that only you can answer because there was something that got you thinking about wood carving sometime in your past.

It could have been something you read, a youtube clip you watched, or a fair you attended and saw hand carved items offered for sale.

Where you saw it is not important but what you saw is.

Was it about spoon carving? Was it about greenwood bowl carving? Again, this is where you need to figure out what got you interested because that is where your best place to begin lays. Your answer is your guide to how to approach the rest of this article.

Choosing the correct tools for your style of carving.

It is important to research the tools that are appropriate to your type of carving and to purchase the best that you can afford.

carving chisels and hand tools

All carving tools are not equal as the steel quality in the blades varies from maker to maker and there are some that should be avoided if possible.

To work out what brands are worth your money, read up on the types of makes well known carvers use and use those as a base line.

There is no need for you to re-invent the wheel because these wood carvers have already worked out which companies make the most trust worthiest tools around, and so for an enjoyable entry into woodcarving I suggest you start with good tools.

From good beginnings you can branch out as you progress and start collecting tools that have some heritage and history. I have trouble walking past old hand tools, and some of the best carving tools are old ones.

The only issue with buying quality tools is the price tag they come with however the best thing about buying quality tools is you often only have to buy them once.

The most cost effective start is a simple chip carving knife or a beginner set for spoon carving and just remember that quality tools will be with you for a long time.

Investigate the typical woods used in that style of carving.

There are two broad categories of wood. Softwood and hardwood. For the beginner it might be best to start with the softwoods as they will allow you to gain some proficiency with the carving blade without fighting a difficult wood.

Many softwoods lend themselves to carving like basswood and even softer like balsa.

Here is an interesting fact…balsa is classified as a hardwood because the tree sets flowers.

When carving hard hardwoods it can take some pressure even with a sharp blade or chisel to shape your project, and it is better if you are a little practiced with a blade before taking on a challenge.

Once you have some time under your belt, there will never be a safe piece of wood when you are around. It can become addictive.

Obtain a few pieces of wood.

I recommend doing a search on the Internet for local craft wood suppliers to start with. There are plenty of them around and obtaining a piece the right size for your project will be straightforward. It might be worth purchasing several to get a good feel for the knife or chisel you are working with.

tree branches for carving

Once you have a few easier carvings behind you, you can start to look at fallen wood and tree prunings for supplies.

There are so many species of trees that once you start with carving, you will likely end up with a large collection of carvings from many different species.

Plan out the carving before you start cutting.

There is a saying that says “begin with the end in mind”, and it is very relevant to your first wood carving. I want you to recall the first section of this article where we mentioned that there had to be something that triggered your interest in carving.

That object may be the subject for your first project, or a similar idea to it. You will notice that the very best carvers start with a design they have marked on the wood before they start carving, and you should do the same.

There is something about wood carving that you will discover soon enough for yourself, but a hint I can share is that once a slice is taken from a wrong part of your blank you cannot put it back. You end up revising the design.

Work with a plan and minimize the changes. They are certain to happen but try to keep them to a low number.

Think about safety.

This should go without saying, but I am going to talk about it all the same.

Woodcarving is all about very sharp blades. Wood is not the only thing these blades can cut, and a sharp blade can cut deeply so precautions are required to minimize the dangers. Leather aprons are useful if you end up starting with drawknives. Gloves are good for general hand carving.

Cutting away from you where possible is good practice, and keeping the blade sharp is a must. Work with the grain at all times as it is not only safer but the finish is far superior to cuts made into end grain.

Research finishes that are applicable to your planned item.

This is where all the effort of your work is protected. Your project should help you with the decision on what finish or coating to apply, if any at all. The first few carvings may just end up being left raw and that’s ok if they are just for display or light use. A carving like a spoon should be treated if you intend to use it.

hand carved spoon

My preferred finish and the only one I will recommend is pure tung oil. It is completely food safe and has no fumes when you apply it. It is easy to apply, waterproof when cured, and long lasting.

I use this finish on bowls, cooking utensils, and all wood items both carved and turned.

Ok, I think that is enough for this article. I hope that you have found a piece of information within this article that you can claim and use, now go and get started on your wood carving journey.

One final thing…. enjoy yourself.

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