13 Power Wood Carving Tips That Will Make You Better

Power carving is getting popular these days, especially amongst DIY enthusiasts. The basics are important, but a few tips and tricks can improve your handiwork by leaps and bounds. In this guide, we will briefly go over each and understand how they can improve your power carving skills.

Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Power Carving

Power carving is performed using various tools which differ with the nature of the project. We made sure to include tips for a variety of electrical tools that you will use for your DIY projects. 

So without further ado let’s dive straight into!

Tip 1 – Choosing Your Power Wood Carving Tools Carefully

Choosing the right tool for your project is crucial when it comes to power wood carving. If you are working on smaller projects like engraving and designing, then a rotary tool such as a Dremel is a better option. It has burrs that can reach into small spaces and make intricate designing possible.

If you are working on bigger projects like carving out statues, we would suggest something like a power carver with chisel heads. Another great tool for working on bigger projects is an angle grinder or mini grinder/carver.

Tip 2 – Always Draw Thicker Outlines on the Wood

When you are starting a project, you always have to sketch it on the wood first. This outline will be your guide to what you have to carve out from that piece. Usually, people end up drawing thin lines, which can be a huge mistake.

Instead, draw thicker outlines, which helps you in case you accidentally carve off a bit too much inside the line. With a thicker line, you have more margin for error in your work.

Even if you accidentally chop off a bit inside the outline, you can fix it later with your tool and save your projects from getting ruined. This tip is especially helpful for beginners who just picked up power carving as a hobby.

Tip 3 – Use Your Thumb and Pinky as Pivot for Dremel

If you are using a Dremel with a flex shaft attachment, then use your thumb and pinky as the pivot. So there are two ways in which you carve using a handpiece attachment. Either it is while putting the piece of wood on the work surface; or either by holding it in your hand.

In the case of the former, you need to extend your pinky finger and lay it flat on the work surface. Hold the handpiece like a pen with the support of your pinky as the foundation. This lessens the chances for your hand to slip from that position. You can also extend your ring finger if you want to position your hand a bit higher.

Meanwhile, when you are holding the piece of wood in your hand, you will position your Dremel attachment like a knife. You can’t hold it like a pen here, as the attachment will jump and not sit steady when you carve the wood. You will know you are doing it right when it feels like you are peeling an apple.

Use your thumb to keep a hold on the piece of wood while you are carving it. Don’t push the thumb though, just rest it there.

Pro-tip: Wear safety gloves when carving wood using the thumb method to avoid injuries.

Tip 4 – Press Your Arm Against Your Waist When Using an Angle Grinder

If you are working with a bigger piece of wood, sometimes you need to bring out the big guns. A small Dremel is good for carving out details and finer work. But for carving out a bigger piece you might need an angle grinder or a mini grinder.

When using an angle grinder with a planer attachment, you usually hold it with both hands. Keep the arm of the dominant hand that you will use for guiding the grinder pressed against your waist. This gives you a much firmer and stable grip on the tool.

Tip 5 – Use the Weight of the Tool Instead of Applying Pressure

When working with power tools people are often seen applying force to carve out wood. Whether you use a Dremel or a mini carver/grinder, let the weight of the tool do the carving for you. Just guide it with your hand and let the tool do the rest.

If you push the tool against the piece of wood, chances are it might bite the wood or worst, get damaged. The motor can burn out if there is too much pressure applied due to friction force halting the bit or blade. Instead of pushing just slide the tool over the piece of wood.

If you find the tool struggling to do the job it is meant to do, it is time to change the bit or blade or sharpen it up. This brings us to the next tip.

Tip 6 – Always Use Sharp Tools to Avoid Accidents and Achieve Great Results

Chefs will tell you, cutting using a dull-edged knife is a recipe for an injury. That is because with a  sharper knife you have more control. The same rule applies to most power tools as well. While power wood carving, you have to make sure that your tool is sharp before using it.

When the tool is struggling to carve wood, then it is time to sharpen it. If you are using a Dremel, then you might need to buy a new burr. For an angle grinder or mini grinder, you can sharpen the blades. In the case of a power chisel, just sharpen the edge.

To sharpen the edges of the blade and chisel, just use a grinding stone or a sharpening stone. You will have a much easier time cutting and carving wood with sharper tools. Dull tools are unsafe and they might end up with an injury or a burnt motor.

Tip 7 – Use Templates for Best Results With an Angle Grinder

If you are using an angle grinder with a planer attachment, using a template can actually help you carve out very smoothly. While working on projects using materials like flat wood, templates can be especially helpful.

The reason behind it is that the planer attachment does not have edges on the corners. Instead, the blades are on the bottom and the edges are flat. Even if you end up touching the template with the corner, it will not carve it. The attachment just slides away from the template.

Working on projects like bowls can be exceedingly easy thanks to the use of templates. You can also use them for other projects as well.

Tip 8 – Always Keep an Eye on the Amount of Material You are Carving Off

Looks can be deceiving because you might not know how much you are carving off from the piece of wood from one angle. This applies especially if you are an amateur. A professional might be able to tell it with a glance thanks to all the experience they have accumulated. But even then it is important to view the piece of wood from various angles to see if you accidentally carved out too much. 

You can potentially save your project from going bad this way. If you just look at it from above, it might seem like you haven’t carved out as much. So viewing from different angles can give you a better idea.

Tip 9 – Approach the Project From an Angle

While working with power carving tools, you will find first-timers just pushing the edge headfirst into the piece of wood. This is the wrong approach as you will find that the tool will want to jump back towards you.

People think this is because their grip isn’t firm enough and they keep pressing on. But the problem isn’t with your grip, it is the angle you are holding the tool at. By keeping the tool at an angle and moving it sideways you can carve wood much easier.

Tip 10 – Find the Right Speed for Dremel or Rotary Tools

If carving using burrs on a rotary tool or Dremel results in wood-burning instead of carving, then you need to reduce its speed. People tend to believe the faster the tool is the better results they will get.

This is mostly correct, but when you move too fast, it starts to burn wood due to friction. So you need to adjust the speed of your Dremel just under the point where it starts to burn. This way you get the best results from all those RPMs.

Tip 11 – Choosing the Right Wood for the Job

People would believe that hardwood would be better suited for power wood carving. But in reality, hardwood is not always the best choice. That is because it ends up fuzzing when you use Dremel burrs for carving.

So which wood should you choose for power wood carving? If you are a beginner we would suggest Tupelo. This is softwood that is very easy to carve. Most softwoods would end up fuzzing at the sight of a power carving tool, but not Tupelo.

Another popular wood to use for power wood carving would be Poplar. It is a very popular wood among beginners for its low price. It is comparatively cheaper than Tupelo and gives great results. 

Tip 12 – Safety First

When working with power tools, it is essential to wear safety gear. Power wood carving can be very dangerous, it can cause major injuries if you do not take safety more seriously.

When operating smaller tools it is recommended to wear thin safety gloves. This will keep your fingers and knuckles safe in case of a slip.

Another sensitive area to worry about is your eyes. Power wood carving blows up a lot of sawdust, wearing safety goggles will keep them protected. If by any chance a little sawdust does go in your eyes, shut off your tool and immediately wash your eyes. If the irritation persists then you should visit a doctor without delay.

Lastly, sawdust can also be harmful to your lungs. Some woods are not malign but others can be quite toxic to your respiratory system. Wear a mask with filters to filter out the air you breathe.

When changing bits or attachments, it is advised to switch the power tools off. If possible plug them off completely, specifically when working with bigger tools like grinders.

Tip 13 – Keeping it Clean

Cleaning sawdust can be a very tiresome process as it just fills up in the nooks and crannies everywhere. It can also stick to your clothes as well and does not come off easily.

But if you keep a handheld vacuum, you won’t have an issue cleaning off your workbench later. Keep vacuuming after every few minutes and you will be fine. Wearing a working apron can protect your clothes.

Lastly, don’t use your breath to blow the dust off your workpiece. Use a pneumatic air blower to clean the project. You can also use it to clean the workspace if you are not a fan of constant vacuuming.

How to Greatly Improve your Power Wood Carving Abilities

The reason people choose power wood carving instead of hand carving is that it is faster. Also, it becomes exceedingly easy to hollow out wood with them. But in no way it is easier than carving by hand as it requires a similar amount of skill.

If you are comparatively new to the power wood carving scene, then one thing you need to understand is, don’t rush it. Carving wood is a slow process; rushing it will not provide the best results.

Carve wood patiently, take off a little at a time. Check after every few seconds to see how much material you have taken off. 

As a beginner use woods that are easy to work with like Tupelo or Poplar. When working with a Dremel check the speed of your tool. If you move too fast you will end up burning the wood instead of carving it. Choose the right burr shape for the job, experiment with different ones if you are new.

When working with a grinder or carver using templates can be helpful. Always draw thicker lines for your project to get a bigger margin for error to work with.

Buying Attachments for Power Carving Tools

In the tips section of the article, we already discussed the power carving tools you will mostly use. But to make the most out of them you will need certain attachments. These attachments will improve your carving skills further and help you better control your tool.

For Dremel tools, a flex shaft attachment is very important. It is smaller in size and easier to control compared to a Dremel which is bigger and heavier. The attachments can be either bought in a package or separately. All bits and burrs that can be attached on a Dremel work on this attachment too.

When it comes to sanding with a grinder, a contour sanding attachment is going to do wonders for your project. This attachment has a rubber base that curves over the wood. For instance, if you have made a bowl with your angle grinder using a planer attachment, this contour sander will bend on the curves. 

Attachments can make a big difference in power carving, learn to use them to your advantage.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

1) Is fruit wood like Cherry or Walnut good for beginners?

A) While Cherry and Walnut have a great look to them, we would advise against using them if you are a beginner. Poplar is a great wood to start with since it is cheap and works well with power carving tools.

2) What are some easy projects for starters?

A) Start by carving out shapes at a smaller scale. Use a piece of scrap flatwood to carve out circles, stars, and hearts. Once you get the feel of the tool, try to carve out bowls. From there move on to the next difficult project.

3) What are the different types of burrs for Rotary tools like Dremel?

A) The 3 basic shapes of burrs for Dremel tools are cylindrical, circle, and pointed-cone. The circular burr works well for scooping out wood and taking off a lot of material. While the cylindrical burr’s edge can be used to make lines or work with corners. The pointed-cone burr is perfect for detail work using its point.

4) What is the best burr to use for cleaning and including details?

A) We have found diamond bits to give much cleaner results. They come in various sizes and also finer grits. The fine grit ones are the best for cleaning off your project at the end.

5) What is the perfect speed on a rotary tool like Dremel for carving wood?

A) There is no certain answer to this question because it differs depending on the wood you are using. But the rule of thumb is to go as fast as you can just under the speed where the wood starts to burn. You can tell that the wood is burning by the smell. It will be a distinct smell that is associated with the burning of wood.

6) How to sand your project in the end?

A) If your project is finished and you want to sand it, using drum bits on a Dremel or other rotary tools with sandpaper does the trick. For reaching in smaller spaces, pointed-cone burrs with higher grits are your only option. You can sand it by hand, but might not be able to reach into narrow spaces like that.

Final Thoughts

Power wood carving is a great hobby if you are a DIY enthusiast. But knowing how to use power wood carving tools is essentially the first step towards learning the craft the craft. It takes time and practice to hone your skills. It is a form of art and art cannot be rushed. Patience is the key to avoid mistakes and just keep on learning from them when power wood carving.

Read guides like these and watch video tutorials wherever necessary if you get stuck. Experimentation is all well and good, but you can save time and resources if you know what to do.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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