How To Carve Wood

Anyone is welcome to try their hand at wood carving. It is a popular hobby that has grown in recent years as more people give it a go.

Some people carve wood for recreational purposes, while others carve wood professionally. Whatever the objective, woodcarving is a way to let your mind run wild with designs. 

There are many things you need to know before you begin wood carving, it is not as easy as picking up a chisel and getting on with it.

How To Carve Wood

We’re going to go deep into how to get started with wood carving in this article, covering all the hot topics and often asked questions by newcomers.

If you’re enthusiastic about wood carving and have read this guide, you’re ready to tackle your first project with confidence.

Different Types Of Wood Carving

There is no universal way to carve wood, it all depends on what you are making, in what style, and how you want the end product to look.

Most woodcarvers only focus on one type of carving to hone their skills. Here are the types of wood carving you can try and the basics on how to do them. 

Chip Carving 

For beginners, chip carving is a good starting place. You can construct some very lovely designs and forms with softwood, a good chisel, and a few tiny cuts.

Chip carving is used for ornamental and decorative purposes. Apart from that, chip carving is an excellent technique for building cabinets, producing picture frames, and doing other workbench projects.

Chip carving is often confused with whittling, but there is a key difference between the two. 

Figures are created by whittling, whereas patterns are created through chip carving. Both methods are good for beginners.


The earliest form of wood sculpting is whittling. Whittling uses a straight knife/pocket knife to carve the wood.

When carving, you should whittle softwoods since hardwoods are difficult to cut and add minute characteristics to.

This type of carving is sometimes referred to as circular carving. You may give the wood a variety of shapes and embellishments by cutting it with a knife.

To maintain the knife lines, the majority of whittling-created wood sculptures do not require sanding.

You may construct charming items such as a wooden spoon, a wooden flower, and a variety of little animals by slicing small pieces of softwood. Whittling does not require the use of huge, costly instruments. 

A pocket knife and a piece of softwood are all that are required for the majority of wood carvings. This makes it the perfect place for beginners to start their wood carving journey. 

If you appreciate crafting beautiful wood carvings as a hobby, Whittling is the best specialty for you.


Pyrography is a form of wood carving that embellishes wood with freehand burn markings. Pyrography is the act of “writing with fire.”

This is performed through the use of a hot pen instrument, and the results are rather remarkable. You may produce amazing drawings with wonderful textures using the proper pyrography equipment.

Pyrography is also a good way to get started with wood carving, as it takes a high degree of creativity.

Relief Carving 

Relief carving requires the use of more skillful carving techniques. Relief carving is a technique that utilizes flat wood to create figures.

The design seems three-dimensional from the front and flat from the back in relief carving. According to the depth of the cut, relief carvings are categorized as high relief or low relief.

Due to relief carving’s three-dimensional look, you may easily depict people, animals, and places in the designs. 

If you are new to woodcarving, it is advised that you experiment with a variety of various designs before trying relief carving, due to the intricate processes involved.

Chainsaw Carving 

Chainsaw carving is the newest style of carving. This is the niche for you if you appreciate mixing classic wood carving techniques with cutting-edge technology to create magnificent works of art.

With a chainsaw, you can carve anything, including people, animals, toys, and figures. Though beginners may struggle with chainsaw carving at first, once you get the hang of it it can be very fun to do. 

How To Carve Wood

How To Carve Wood

Now that you know the basics of carving, here is a very simple guide to carving wood. 

Sketch Design Onto Wood

If possible, use a pencil to sketch the predicted cuts and gouges before picking up any of your equipment.

This sketch will act as your guide when you are cutting, making it easier to make a precise design. You may still make a mistake while cutting though, which will be irreversible.

You’ll need to either adjust your prior plan to incorporate the error or start again with new wood.

Keep The Wood Secure

Ideally, you should secure the wood piece to the table or within a vice. This will free up both hands, simplifying labor.

Never slice the wood on your lap while holding it. You can use your non-dominant hand to hold the wood on minor carvings, such as whittled pieces.

Keep your non-dominant hand beneath the cutting edge of the instrument.

Begin To Cut The Wood

Remove as much wood as possible until the completed piece’s fundamental form is visible within the block of wood.

Knives and chisels can be used to cut the essential shape of small parts. A chain or band saw may be used to cut larger components.

Do not be afraid to cut away a lot of wood. So long as you adhere to the limitations of the guidelines you’ve sketched, you’ll avoid destroying the wood.

You can work slowly if it makes you feel more confident, but even a basic form might take a long time if you’re very cautious with your instruments.

Cut Big Details

After attaining the basic shape, use large u-gouges to eliminate as much extra material as possible until the item’s main shape is achieved.

Determine the largest planes and work from there. As your understanding of the larger shapes improves, work your way down to the smaller, more distinct shapes.

Cut Fine Details 

Once the primary form is complete, use your smaller tools to add detail to the carving.

While having razor-sharp tools on hand is always a good idea, it is especially crucial at this period. Dull tools can shave the wood’s surface, diminishing the beauty of the carving.

Concentrate solely on one region of the carving. Complete the primary details and foreground first, then the little details and background.

Add Finish To Wood

If you are satisfied with your work and intend to preserve it, you should apply a wood finish to protect it against moisture, first, oils, and other things that can damage the wood. 

Paste wax is rather clear, enabling the natural color of the wood to shine through. It is effective on decorative carvings but may wear out on sculptures that are constantly handled.

While Danish oil may slightly discolor the wood, it is quite durable and may be used on carvings that are frequently handled.

Polyurethane and spray urethane are the most durable finishes and will last a long time, especially when the carving is handled a lot.

This makes it useful for toys. You’ll want to apply the finish in somewhat dry conditions and allow enough time between applications for it to thoroughly dry.


What we have covered here is just the very basics of wood carving. There is still so much you will need to know, from the tools to use, to how to set up your workbench.

But with the basic knowledge provided here, you should be able to make a good start on your wood carving path. 

Michael Moore

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