How To Start Wood Carving? | Tips for Beginners in Mar 2023

how to start wood carving

Wood carving is suitable for anyone to try. It is a popular hobby that speeded widely all over the world. Some do woodcarving for fun, while others do woodcarving as a business.

Whatever the purpose, woodcarving is a field that mostly depends on your creativity. When I was learning woodworking, I was curious about wood carving which is also known as a huge branch of woodworking. So, I did some research about How to Start Wood Carving?

Here is what I’ve found:

To start wood carving you need to know about types of wood carving, wood carving setup, wood carving tools with their uses, best wood for wood carving and how to prepare it for wood carving, wood carving methods, techniques, and many more. Most importantly, you need to be more passionate about wood carving to achieve the progress you wish.

But that’s just a quick rundown of the question.

So, in this post, we’re diving in deep into how to start wood carving by covering all the hot topics and frequently asked questions by beginners in wood carving.

We’ll examine wood carving tips for beginners, how long does it take to learn how to carve wood, how much does wood carving cost and many other common questions in beginner wood carving.

If you’re passionate about wood carving after reading this article you can straightly give it a try to make your first woodcarving project without any issues.

What do You Need to Know Before Starting Wood Carving?

I know you’re excited to jump into carving your first project. But before that like any other field, there are several things you need to be familiarized with.

Here I have mentioned what you need to know, what you need to practice before starting wood carving. They are,

  1. Selecting the right wood – If you know the perfect wood to get the perfect output, it’ll save your time and increase the desire to learn more. So, selecting the correct wood is important to know before you go for carving.
  2. Selecting the right tools – never waste your money on unnecessary stuff before knowing about how and when you want to use them. There are some tools in wood carving applicable for multiple tasks. So, before anything you need to have a clear idea about what are the tools you really need and their uses.
  3. Always follow a plan – before starting any kind of wood carving, make a plan by yourself or download one from the internet. There are plenty of wood carving pans in there. You need to figure out measurements and where should you put cuts. So, take a piece of paper and a pencil and draw the plan before anything.
  4. Wear Gloves – Safety is important in wood carving. You have to work with machines, knives, cutting and peeling tools, and many other hard metals sharp stuff. So, make sure always you wear gloves for both hands. When you’re a pro at wood carving games, there is a certain point you can do things even without wearing gloves to get fine details that difficult wearing gloves. But until then wearing gloves is a must for wood carving for beginners.
  5. Sanding in must – whatever wood you going to carve, sanding is important. By sanding you can prevent happening lot of issues like cracks, dents, debris, and it smoothens up the surface. So, do sanding with fine-grit sandpaper before start carving. 

By having good knowledge about all the above factors, it is easy to catch the methods and techniques of wood carving.

When I was a beginner those are the things that I have mainly focus on before starting wood carving.

Types of Wood Carving

Wood carving can be categorized under several fields. I highly recommend going through each niche and find what fits you best.

Types of wood carving are,

  • Whittling
  • Chip carving
  • Relief carving
  • Pyrography
  • Chainsaw carving

When you come across wood carving you can select one field from them and continue learning through it or you can learn them all.

So, let’s dig into each type of wood carving to get an idea of what fits you perfectly.


Whittling is the oldest wood carving type. Whittling uses a straight knife/pocketknife to carve the wood.

For whittling, we always go for softwoods, because hardwoods are difficult to cut and add fine details.

This is also known as the carving in the round. You can give various shapes and designs to the wood by cutting it using a knife. To display the marks of the knife, mostly wood carvings made by whittling don’t sand.

By cutting small slices of softwood, you can make beautiful things like a wooden spoon, wooden bunny, wooden flower, and many more small figures. Whittling does not need huge and costly tools.

Most of the wood carvings only need a pocket knife and a softwood piece.

If you love to make small wood carvings with fine details as a hobby, in my opinion, Whittling is the best niche for you.

Chip Carving

Chip carving is a perfect niche for beginners. You can make cool attractive designs using softwood and a good old chisel with some small cuts.

Chip carving is mostly used for decorative purposes. Other than that chip carving is great for picture frames, cabinetry designs, or other workbench tasks.

Whittling is for figures while chip carving is for designs. However, both types are great for beginners.

Relief Carving

Relief carving needs some advanced carving techniques. In relief, carving figures are made in flat wood. In relief carving the design has 3D look from the front and a flat surface from the back.

There are two types of relief carvings known as a high relief and low relief that varies upon how deep the cut is.

By relief carving, you can describe people, places, animals, and activities easily because of its 3D look.

If you’re a beginner in woodcarving, it’s better to practice several other types of designs before start with relief carving, because of its difficult, advanced methods.


Pyrography is a unique wood carving type that use to decorate wood with freehand burn marks. Pyrography is also known as writing with fire.

This is done by a heated pen tool and the results are impressive. With a good pyrography kit, you’ll be able to make beautiful drawings with awesome textures.

Pyrography is also great for a beginner in wood carving, which needs to have good creativity.

Chainsaw Carving

Chainsaw carving is the most trending carving type in the world. If you like to combine wood carving methods with modern technology to create amazing masterpieces, this is the best niche for you.

With chainsaw carving, you can carve whatever you want like people, figures, animals, toys, places, and many more.

As a woodworker, I’m 100% sure chainsaw carving will be the most useful hot topic in near future. If you’re a beginner, highly recommend chainsaw carving. You’ll not regret it at all.

So, for your question, how to start wood carving, you already have good knowledge about types of wood carvings.

So, let’s head into what are tools you need to have for wood carving. This section is important because most beginners tend to waste their money on unnecessary wood carving tools.

Wood Carving Tools

There are several wood carvings tools that everyone should have and need to have a good practice. But most importantly, you need to have good knowledge about the item you’re planning on carving.

For example, if you stick with classical wood carves like spoons, bowls, cups, all you want are the hook knife and softwood.

But there are much wood carves that need specialized tools to get the fine details of them.

Wood carving tools can be divided into 3 groups. They are,

  • Chisels
  • Gouges
  • Knives
  • Power tools

Wood Carving Chisels

Wood carving chisels can push with your palm to make cuts and remove wood slices easily. Chisels are mainly used for chip carving and relief carving.

Wood carving chisels have blades on both sides. There are chisels with different sizes that use differ according to the item you going to make.

Chisels have a straight edge which is used for creating different shapes.

There are 2 types of chisels available in the market. They are,

  • Skew chisels – blade angle is 450 and use for dovetails cuts.
  • Fishtail chisels – the chisel looks like a fish tail and use to make deep cuts.

Wood Carving Gouges

Gouges are known as the most important wood carving tool ever. If you’re a beginner at wood carving, the gouge is the tool that you need to consider buying in the first place.

Wood carving gouges do the same task as chisels for making different cuts and shapes on wood. Gouges also can push with your palm to make cuts and remove wood slices easily.

Gouges are known as chisels with curvatures.

Gouge’s use for chip carving, relief carving, crevices, channels, and contours.

Well sharpened Gouges are curved tools that can scoop the wood.

There are 3 types of gauges available in the market. They are

  • U gouges – They have curved cutting edges.
  • V gouges – They have a V-shaped tip that helps to cut a wood piece from the main wood block.
  • Bend and spoon gouge – these gouges are used for special purposes like making spoons with bends in front, back, left, and right directions.

Wood Carving Knives

Knives are mainly used for whittling. Wood carving knives have long-handled and fixed blades.

The pocket knife is great for some basic wood carve like spoon making and bowls.

But for many other wood carvings, you need to buy a chip carving knife that is uniquely designed for wood carving.

Whittling knife is great for advanced wood carving projects, because of being able to accurately add very fine details to the wood.

Because of having long handles, you can easily hold the knife and do the cutting without slipping it away.

Wood Carving Power tools

Most of us use the strength in our hands when wood carving. But with power tools, carvers can give power to the wood carving tools outside from their physical strength. Power tools are mechanized tools built for large and small wood carving projects.

If Power tools can handle any large task pretty easily whenever labor power is not enough.

Chain saw is the best example of power tools in wood carving. Apart from that, there are many other types of power tools available in the market, that can use without beating a chisel to carve. They are,

  • Electronic wood chisel tool – Useful for sculptures
  • Rotary tools – Able to do multitasking functions.

Tip: Always keep in mind that, you don’t need expensive tools if you’re a beginner at wood carving. Go for cheap wood carving tools and practice with them enough until you feel it’s time to switch for the better once.

Wood carving is a passionate hobby that completely depends on your skills, not on expensive tools and stuff. So, always try to improve your wood carving skills rather than focusing on expensive stuff.

5 Tips to Get Started in Wood Carving

Here I have mentioned some useful tips that’d be helping you to get started in wood carving.

1. Setup the Workbench for Wood Carving

This is important and you don’t need to have a fancy expensive workbench. Plywood board is good to use as your workbench. Garage or shed space is also fine.

2. Learn to use Wood Carving Tools

Learn how to grab and handle your knife properly. Learn how to place the knife on the wood and start carving. Get a good idea about using Gouges and chisels. Practice them continuously until you feel good at handling wood carving tools.

3. Carve Along the Grain

Always make sure to cut along the grain. This will easily slice the wood without splitting. If the wood tends to tear while you carving, change the direction as soon as possible because you were carving in the wrong direction.

If you’re cutting the wood in the wrong direction, you can notice it even from the sound as well.

4. Hold the Wood Firmly

Always try to clamp the wood onto a table or workbench without placing it on your laps. Do the cutting and shaping from your knife. In the beginning, you don’t need to rush. Always try to be safe and learn from each mistake you do.

Take the time as much as you want and learn with discipline.

5. Sketch the Design Before Start

Take a piece of paper and pencil and sketch your design before touching the wood. Mention the measurements and imagine how you should give a 3D wood model for that design. 

This method always gives good results in the end. It’s like converting a design from 2D to a 3D model.

5 Cool Wood Carving Ideas for Beginners

As a beginner in wood carving, I recommend you start with some simple classical designs. Those designs can teach you lots of techniques in wood carving and you can correct your mistakes while doing them.

If you directly head into advanced designs, you’ll be exhausted with lots of issues. So, here I have listed some of the wood carving ideas for beginners to give a try and practice frequently.

1. Wood Carving Spoon

Estimated Time Needed – 2 Hours

Carving spoon is known as the easiest wood carving project anyone can go with. Even though it’s the simplest, you’ll be able to learn lots of wood carving techniques and whittling methods by making it.

In my opinion, the carving spoon project is an experiment you can learn a lot of new stuff about positioning the knife and can get a good experience. At the end of this project, you came to know that wood carving is fun!

2. Whittling a Bunny

Estimated Time Needed– 30 Minutes

This project will teach you how to add fine details to the bunny, especially when whittling its ears, eyes, and paws. Softwood and whittling knife are enough for the whole project.

Make sure your knife is sharp because in this project there are many small cuts to do. The knife should be well sharpened to get a satisfying result.

3. Whiskey Barrel

Estimated Time Needed – 45 minutes

This can carve using a hook knife. After the barrel part is done you can do the decorations using the pocketknife. This not only gives you a good knowledge about how to handle knives and make good cuts but also is an incredible gift for a whiskey lover.

4. Whittling a Flower

Estimated Time Needed – 30 minutes

There are different carving methods you can try to carve the flower. Firstly, draw the basic shape of the flower and transfer what you have drawn in the sheet to a wood chunk. By doing this you’ll be able to learn about its dimensions and you can easily remove excess parts from wood chunks as well.

5. Carve a Heart

Estimated Time Needed – 20 minutes

This is also known as one of the simplest wood carving projects. By making a wooded heart, you’ll be able to know how to get the curved shape by adding small cuts all over the wood chunk.

This can be a perfect valentine’s or birthday gift for your loved ones as well.

There’re lots of beginner wood carving projects you can try out to sharpen your knowledge and to learn lots of new woodcarving ticks and techniques.

What is the Best Wood For Wood Carving?

Softwoods such as Basswood, Pine, Cedar, Aspen, Butternut, Balsa wood are known as the best and strongest wood for wood carving. 

Apart from softwoods, hardwoods such as Poplar, Birch, Maple, Cherry, Black walnut, Apple are also excellent choices for wood carving.

How Much Does Wood Carving Cost?

Wood carving is not expensive. The only expensive thing is the wood you’re going to choose. If you do wood carving 2-3 times per week, I’m pretty sure wood carving cost is less than half of your petrol bill.

Never stop learning wood carving because of money. You only need a pocketknife and a small piece of wood to start wood carving as a hobby.

How Long Does it Take to Learn How to Carve Wood?

The amount of time needs to learn how to carve wood depends on your skills. If you practice well and learn new skills and techniques quickly, it takes less time to learn wood carving.

This depends on how passionate you are about wood carving.

As a full-time woodworker, I know there is no exact time frame for learning wood carving because there is always something new to learn for anyone. The wood carving world is full of mysterious things. 

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: How To Start Wood Carving?

In this post, we walked through how to start wood carving and what you need to know before starting wood carving.

Apart from that we also looked at types of wood carving, wood carving tools with their uses, wood carving ideas for beginners.

Finally, we have answered all frequently asked questions from beginners before starting wood carving as a hobby or business.

But most importantly, we learned how to start wood carving without any problem and how to be passionate about this subject.

I advise you to keep learning, keep practicing until you become a pro at wood carving.

So, let’s give it a try for your first wood carving project!

Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him!

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