How to Start Wood Carving — Beginner’s Guide

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Looking to tap into your creativity and make beautiful creations out of wood? Starting wood carving can be rewarding, but it can be overwhelming for beginners.

To help you start, our pro woodworkers will show you how to start wood carving and discover the essential tools, techniques, and safety tips. This way, you can begin your wood carving journey safely and bring your vision to life.

What is Wood Carving and Why is it a Good Hobby to Start?

It is a craft that uses carving tools to shape and create art on wood surfaces. It has been around for centuries and has remained popular due to its versatility and the fact that it allows for creativity and self-expression.

There are many types of wood to choose from when it comes to wood carving projects, but some are better suited for carving figures.

Whether you are a seasoned wood carver or a beginner, it can be a great hobby because it allows individuals to express their creativity while working with hand tools and natural materials.

wood carving tip

How Do You Get Started With Wood Carving: Starter Guide

#1: Use the Right Tools

One of the most important aspects when getting started is the tools used. Having dull tools for the job ensures poor results. Thus, sharpening equipment before you carve wood is crucial.

Some essential woodcarving tools that every woodcarver should have include wood carving tools and knives, a chip carving knife, and a knife for whittling.

Curved tools with curved cutting edges are essential for concave and convex surfaces, such as spoon carving. Other tools that may come in handy include power tools, but these are only for experienced wood carvers.

#2: Embracing the Commitment and Learning the Terminologies

Wood carving is a craft that requires patience, practice, and dedication. 

Learning the terminologies associated with wood carving methods, the best wood carving tool for your wood carving project, and closely following wood carving tips can help you better understand the craft and improve your skills like a pro.

#3: Start With a Reasonable Project

For beginner carvers, it is essential to start with a simple project that is reasonable and achievable.

carving spoon from Ash wood

Starting with a complex project containing various shapes may be overwhelming and discouraging, so consider starting with a basic shape requiring fewer knife strokes and gradually moving to more complicated designs.

#4: Protect Yourself from Injuries

Since you should always keep your wood carving tools sharp, safety should always be a top priority. Always wear protective gear like gloves and safety glasses to protect yourself from injuries.

#5: Use the Right Type of Wood

Choosing the right wood species for your project is essential for achieving the desired results.

Softwoods are great for beginners who want to carve geometric shapes, as they are easy to carve and have a fine grain. Hardwoods are better suited for more experienced carvers due to their hardness and density.

Other woodcarvers prefer green wood because it’s easier to carve than dry wood. To give you a better understanding of the best wood types for carving, check out these posts next: 

choosing wood pines for carving

#6: Keeping the Tools Sharp

Sharp tools are essential for wood carving techniques. Dull carving tools can cause injuries and lead to unaesthetic wood carvings.

Consider investing in sharpening stones or equipment to keep your devices in top condition.

#7: Go With the Plan + Sketch the Design Before Starting

Before starting to learn wood carving, it is essential to have a plan in place. Sketch the design on paper to understand better what the finished product should look like. This will help you avoid mistakes and ensure the final product meets your expectations.

#8: Sanding Is Necessary

Sanding is an essential part of the process. It helps to smooth out rough spots and gives the wood a smooth finish. Consider investing in sandpaper or a sanding block to help with this process.

Applying paste wax to the finished product can also help protect the surface and give it a smooth, polished look.

#9: Set Up a Workbench for Wood Carving

If you want to wood carve more seriously, having a dedicated workspace can help improve your carving skills. Set up a workbench that is comfortable and well-lit. Consider investing in a bench vise to hold your wood in place.

workbenches in a woodworking shop

#10: Hold the Wood Firmly + Carve Along the Grain

Holding the wood firmly is crucial to prevent slipping and accidents. Additionally, always carve along the wood grain to avoid splitting and ensure a smooth finish.

Types of Wood Carving


Whittling involves removing small pieces of wood from a block using a carving knife, which looks like a kitchen or a pocket knife.

It is one of the most straightforward and accessible types of wood carving for beginners. In case, you want to whittle a stick, you only need a sharp whittling knife and a piece of wood to get started.

Carving in the Round

Carving in the round involves creating a three-dimensional figure from a wood block. This requires more skill and patience than whittling, but the results are more impressive.

To wood carve a figure, a carver must consider the wood’s surface and grain and use various tools, including gouges, chisels, and knives.

round carving

Relief Carving

Relief carving involves making designs into a flat piece of wood, creating a raised image that stands out from the smooth surface. Relief carving is often used for decorative purposes on furniture or architectural elements.

To create relief carvings, a carver must carefully plan the design and work with various tools, including chisels, gouges, and knives.

Chip Carving

Chip carving involves removing small pieces of wood from a flat surface to create intricate geometric patterns. It is often used for decorative purposes on furniture or small household items like boxes or picture frames.

All you need for a chip-carved wood is sharp wood carving knives and a flat wood surface.


Pyrography involves burning designs into wood using a heated metal tool. It allows for more detailed and intricate designs than traditional wood carving types.

With pyrography, you will need a wood-burning tool and a wood piece to practice on.

burning wood egdes

Flat-Plane Carving

This involves creating simple figures using flat planes and straight lines. It is often used for decorative purposes on small household items like figurines or Christmas ornaments [1].

To start with this carving technique, you will need a wood carving knife, a flat wooden panel, and a basic understanding of carving techniques.

Chainsaw Carving

Chainsaw carving is a more advanced form involving a chainsaw to carve large sculptures from a single piece of wood. It requires a lot of skill and experience and should only be attempted by experienced carvers.

This method can be dangerous, so taking all the necessary safety precautions is essential.

chainsaw carving


By following the tips and techniques we listed above, you now know how to start wood carving and execute your wood carving ideas with confidence. Remember to protect yourself from injuries, and practice regularly to improve your skills.

With dedication and patience, you can become a skilled wood carver and enjoy the many benefits that this beautiful hobby has to offer.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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