Found a dead tree in nature? if you’re into woodworking your first instinct would be to get it to your workshop and make something out of it. Not carving it would be wasting nature’s boon since the tree would soon rot and be wasted otherwise.
So utilizing it and carving something out of it is not only preventing waste but also a new experience. However, in comparison to working on treated wood, carving a log requires more work. But on the plus side, whether it is furniture or a utensil, as long as you have the right tools, with a log, you can pretty much make anything.
This is why in this article, from hand carving to power carving, we will discuss all the tools you will ever need to carve a log.
Hand Tools for Log Carving
Carving by hand might seem like a tough job to most people. And it is rightfully so since it requires a lot of hard work, time, and patience. But when you do so, you have complete control of every aspect of the carving process. Using hand tools, master artisans have created works of art from wood unrivaled throughout history.
If you are someone who is a little new to this, then read this step-by-step guide to log carving using hand tools.
With that said, many hand tools are deployed to carve by enthusiasts. We will be touching on them and understanding their purpose in detail in this section.
The chisel is one of the most important yet basic tools in the arsenal of a woodcarver. It is used for carving wood either by hand or using a mallet. The chisel carves by making cuts on wood and shaving its surface.
This is by far the most important tool you will need when carving a log of any size. Logs are usually too large to cut with a knife and may also be dry which will make the mood denser. There are many different types of chisels but all of them are doing more or less the same thing, just with a different angle,size, and power.
Chisels are quite durable which also makes them a great tool for something such as log carving. Most people usually buy one set and work with them for many years. Though it might lose its edge, it can be sharpened again with a stone or grinder. If you keep it maintained, it will last you longer than most other tools.
Some chisels are specialized for cutting mortises. These are called flat head chisels and are mostly used to dig in deep. Meanwhile, for paring, most people used beveled edge chisels. If you are planning on buying a new set of chisels to carve a log, this set by Stanley is a great choice for anyone, however, any existing set of chisels you already own will do just as well.
You can learn more about how to properly use a chisel in the video below:
An Adze isn’t as common as other tools used to carve a log. It is used to smoothen out a piece of lumber and is similar to an axe. Just that its blade is perpendicular and it is great for clearing out chunks of wood at a time.
The Adze is quite an old tool and has been used by wood carving enthusiasts for centuries. It is also used as an agricultural tool just like a hoe to dig and loosen dirt.
People often use this when they have to hollow out large pieces of wood, for instance to make a bowl. It scoops out chunks of wood at a time and speeds up your projects. However, due to its large size, it might be difficult to use at first.
Most people will just use a gouge to take wood out for making a bowl shape or hollow out wood. But an adze would make the job way easier than gouges and chisels.
An adze is quite durable since it is literally a perpendicular chopper’s axe. But like any tool, it can lose its edge if not maintained and occasionally sharpened.
Using an adze to make a bowl is great for people who are trying to learn how to use one. Below you can find a video to learn how to do it:
You can create your own adze by redesigning your axe, given that, can and know how to work metal.
Earlier when talking about scooping out material using an adze we mentioned gouges. These are just like chisels, with a small handle that can be used to grab with either one hand or both. Though their edge is concave and it can be used to carve curved indentations in pieces of wood.
The gouge is mostly used by hand, but it can also be used to carve circular shapes using their edge with a mallet. The measure of the curve of a gouge is often referred to as a sweep in the woodworking world.
A gouge is great for taking excess material out of a large piece of wood. If you are planning on making a bowl or something similar a gouge will give you the best leverage.
Just like a chisel, a gouge is quite durable and can last for a long time if maintained properly. Note that it will require frequent sharpening just like a chisel to keep its edge sharp.
A carving knife is not the most important tool for log carving, however, it is and always will be one of the first tools any woodworker will ever buy. Using its sharp edge, it is used to carve smaller pieces of wood by hand. The act of carving wood using a knife alone is usually referred to as whittling.
While you will not use a knife on the log directly, cutting off a smaller piece of the log to use for a seperate carving will most likely result in a carving with a whittling knife.
It is quite a time-consuming process in which you take off small shavings of wood at a time. But as a result, you are able to provide way more intricate details to wood. That is because you have complete control of the wood and the force you are applying to the knife.
There are a few types of knives used in whittling. One is for carving, one is a detail knife that is a bit shorter and has a finer point. Then there is one for chipping which has a much shorter blade, to carve a full log you will likely not need a carving knife, however, as mentioned before, if you process the log and carve either parts of it or make a detailed ornament on it, a good carving knife will come in handy.
Using a carving knife requires a lot of practice. At first, you just carve away at a piece of wood to get a feel of how much strength is required and what is the result of the force applied. Once you are accustomed to its usage, you can start making shapes.
Most wood carving beginners start off with whittling, then steadily move up to more tools. These can be quite durable if used and maintained properly. But in amateur hands, it might break easily as well.
If you are interested in buying a carving knife this set by BeaverCraft is all you will need.
Or if you are good at crafting tools, then you can make your own tools. In this tutorial, you can learn how to make your carving knife.
Power Carving Tools For Carving a Log
Power carving is easier due to the machine doing the most work, but it is also harder to control and a little more dangerous so make sure to follow the 9 rules of safety when using any power carving tools. The power carving tools that you will require are as follows:
Chainsaw carving is an actual thing, where carve huge logs using it and make some brilliant masterpieces. There are even yearly competitions for chainsaw carving.
Chainsaws are used by carvers to take off a large quantity of material from a log and create an initial shape of their project. Some people are so good at this craft that they even give initial detailing with this huge tool, but for most of us using detailing tools after a chainsaw is a better way to go.
When it comes to clearing a log, nothing beats a chainsaw. It will take off huge chunks and clean the whole thing for you to start carving it using other tools. Though it can be a bit harder to control and a tad bit dangerous if you are new to it.
You need a great amount of control to be able to carve using this tool so it is not something beginners should use. You should practice using a chainsaw first by just taking off material instead of using it to give details.
Most chainsaws are normally durable but it can also depend on the brand that you are using. A cheap brand will not last that long, this is specifically the case in power tools. Since most of their function is related to the motors that are being used in it.
Here is a great chainsaw by DeWalt that you can use for power carving.
A grinder or a mini grinder is ideal for carving logs where you need to shave off material at a slower steady pace. It might be harder to control for people who are new to power carving. Though a mini grinder might be a bit easier to control than a full-size one.
The best thing about a grinder or a mini grinder is the number of attachments it supports. Using these attachments you can achieve various results. You can sand, carve, and cut a log with these without an issue.
People often use mini grinders to create the initial details that they can’t give using a chainsaw. It is easier to use than a chainsaw as well, due to its small size.
The final details that you will give to any piece of work in power carving will be using a rotary tool. Using all the burrs and bits these tools have to offer, you can create works of art. People often start off with a rotary tool as their first power carving tool.
One famous brand of rotary tool is the Dremel which is pretty popular amongst wood carving enthusiasts. It is easier to use than most other tools in the market and with a flex shaft attachment, you have way more control over it.
We believe that it is the first tool a power carver should have. While not ideal for carving a huge log, you can finish it off with the rotary tool.
If you are planning on buying a rotary tool, we would suggest you go for the Dremel brand.
Carving by Hand Vs. Power Carving
Carving by hand or carving using power tools, both have their shares of pros and cons. Let us discuss these in detail in this section.
Carving by Hand
Carving a log by hand gives you more control over your actions. You apply the force through the tools with your hands on the piece of wood. You know your body the best, and you know how much force results is required to get a cut of your desired depth. And even if you don’t, with time you get used to it as it becomes a part of your muscle memory after regular practice.
The only downside of carving a log by hand is the physical exertion and the time it takes to carve. Though the time part is not really a con, because carving wood is a time-consuming process. Whether you use power tools or hand tools for carving, taking time allows you to be more accurate.
Also, hand carving tools are much lighter than power carving ones. These can be quite heavy and take a lot of grip on your end to handle properly.
Power carving a log is a bit different than carving by hand. We can’t deny the fact that machines cut the time to do things by half. After all, the purpose of science, in general, is to make human life more comfortable.
So all these advanced carving tools are all there to make our life that much easier. Carving a bowl out of a log using a grinder attachment hardly takes time. Do that with a gouge and an adze, it will take you days to get the desired results.
You can sand, carve, clean, polish, and take off material very quickly from a log using power tools. But these tools can be a bit harder to control. Specifically bigger tools, like a chainsaw and grinder which require both hands to handle properly.
Even then it requires a lot of practice and power on your hand to carve a log using these with more accuracy.
Tips for Carving a Log
Here are some tips that you should keep in mind when you carve a log whether you use hand carving tools or power ones.
- Always wear protective gear while operating power tools. Protect your hands, your eyes, and your windpipe from sawdust. Wear gloves, goggles, and a mask for this purpose.
- When carving by hand using a carving knife, wear thumb guards to protect your thumb from accidental slips. It also helps keep the skin of your thumb safe, otherwise, there will be cuts all over it.
- Try not to carve against the grain as it might end up splitting the wood. Take care specifically while carving with a chisel since it might split the grain.
- Choose your wood according to the tools you are using, softer woods tend to split less than hard ones. Some woods end up fuzzing when you use rotary tool burrs on them, so be careful about that as well.
- When carving with a heavy tool like a chainsaw or grinder, try to take off as little as possible. Because these tools can be harder to control, you accidentally might carve off a bit too much than needed. By carving as little as possible you have more control and you avoid making such accidents.
Both power carving and hand carving require practice and patience. Some people prefer to be purists and only use hand carve tools. But talented people have made masterpieces using power carving tools and it requires just as much effort and skill. If possible try to use both in unison to achieve the desired results.