How Difficult Is Wood Carving And How To Improve

If you are wondering how hard is it to learn wood carving for someone new to this hobby the answer will be very pleasing.

Anyone can learn how to carve wood, although it takes a lot of patience and time, this is something that comes with experience and not talent, therefore wood carving is difficult to master but anyone can do it.

There are a lot of different aspects of wood carving that are more than just getting artistic and cutting it out on wood. From various techniques and styles to learning how to work with more tools and the final steps of processing the wood after its carved.

Mastering the different styles

Wood carving just like any other art is not only limited to one style. Relief carving, chip carving, whittling, and even wood burning are all things that most woodcarvers.

Although you may choose to only specialize in one type of wood carving, most likely at first you will want to try everything out and see what you like the most. After that, you should decide between progressing in multiple styles of wood carving or sticking with just one that you enjoy the most.

Wood carving has many techniques that are very different, relief carving involves working with a chisel and sometimes a mallet, this is not easy as the 3D effect is significantly harder to make than other styles of carving such as chip carving.

On the other side, a style such as chip carving is quite fast to get the hang of and does not require too many hours to get a good job done with this style of wood carving.

You can read more about the different styles of wood carving in our article All 9 Types of Wood Carving Styles.

Using all the Different Tools

Everyone always starts with a knife when they carve wood for the first time, but this is only one of the many tools that you will have to learn how to use in wood carving. That’s why you also need to improvise and master your skills on all Wood carving tools.

Chip carving knives

Chip carving knives are, as the name suggests, are specifically designed to be used when chip carving. They are not too different from normal whittling knives except for the angle that the blade is located from the handle.

Chip carving knives are specifically designed to provide a clean 45° cut from both sides of the wood.


Gouges will always be used for carving. At first you may not quite understand the difference between the two, but the main reason they are not the same thing is that gouges have a curved end and chisels are always straight.

The most commonly used type of gouges are:

  • Straight gouge
  • fishtail gouge
  • short bent
  • long bent
  • Back bent gouges
  • Spoon gouges
  • Macaroni
  • Fluteroni
  • Elongee

Gouges are mostly used when you want to add curved features into the wood and others. This tool is used from the beginning as it is is very important to use later on in wood carving.


Although it can be, a chisel is not a tool for your first day of wood carving, however, you will most definitely end up using various styles and types of chisels throughout different carving projects.

The most commonly used chisels are:

  • Straight chisel
  • Skew
  • Dog leg chisel
  • Parting tool/V tool
  • Single Bevel
  • Double Bevel

Chisels come in different forms as they serve different tasks, once you master how to use a few of them, the rest will come naturally.

Sharpening Tools

There are plenty of methods you can use to sharpen your knives, chisels, and gouges. The most common one being a whetstone.

If you’d like to read more on this, check out our article X ways to sharpen a wood carving knife.

Other tools

From skews to wood burning instruments, the collection of tools in a carvers workshop is never ending. Each instrument requires some practice to get comfortable with, therefore it may take a while to go through everything there is in wood carving regarding tools used.

How Difficult Is It To Finishing a Wood Carving

While carving is the main process of wood carving, the journey of your wood does not end there before it is finished. It is a lifelong process.

Most carvings are then applied a “finish” that is a protective layer over the wood. Most times this is a wax finish, however, lacquer and oil finishes are getting more popular.

Finishing a wood carving is not too difficult espesically if you have someone to show you how it’s done. Most likely you will get good at applying wax onto a carving after your second attempt.

There is more variety to finishes in wood carving than just wax finishes. You can read about it in our article 9 Different ways to apply a finish to a wood carving.

Some of these techniques require a little more research and practice to do. Something like an oil finish is not at all simple and will require you to experiment around before getting it perfect.

How Long Does It Take To Learn Wood Carving

We actually have a whole article on how long to learn wood carving, but the short answer is that it takes a few months to get started with it and several years to master the art.

In all truths there will always be room for imrpovement, the more you learn in wood carving the more aspects of it you will find new and unknown. This is a neverending cycle with some wood carvers who have been carving for over 60 years stating they are still learning new things here and there.

To get to a level where you can consider wood carving your hobby that you are good at would be anywhere between 6 months to a few years. This of course mostly depends on your dedication and your method of leanrning how to carve.

Another thing to keep in mind is that just like with many other things wood carving has different branches of it such as relief carving, chip carving, whittling e.t.c. with some being harder than others. Some wood carvers decide to only specialize in one type of wood carving (usually being relief or whittling) where they dedicate all of their practice time to only one style.

How To Move From a Beginner To An Intermediate Carver

If you would like to improve in wood carving, nothing will be more helpful than spending more time working on new wooden projects. Here are some awesome wood carvings projects that you can try to evaluate your carving skills. However, courses, books, and lessons are also helpful as long as you put the knowledge you gained to good use in your spare time.

One of the best methods of learning wood carving is from another human being. Private and Group lessons are a great way to improve your technique and understanding of wood carving, but just like anything else it has its pros and cons

Pros of private/group lessons:

  • Mistakes that would not be noticed by yourself are identified and fixed
  • Specific questions that may not exist online may be answered
  • Personal preferences and recommendations regarding wood carving from a trustworthy source

On the other hand, the cons of private/group lessons are:

  • Private lessons usually cost $75+ per hour
  • Group lessons usually cost $25-35 per hour
  • Gives a false sense of understanding the concept without much practice

Therefore if you want to improve in wood carving by investing in your skill, it is still important you do your own carvings at home and not just at your teacher’s workshop.

A pretty good ration for a beginner would be 3:1 of hours carving by yourself to hours carved with a teacher.

Learning Wood Carving By Yourself

If you are not interested in getting a teacher and you want to learn wood carving by yourself and imporove, then you should expect it to be a little harder but it is still possible with enough dedication to your interest.

Carving wood without a teacher has a large downside that in case you are doing something wrong you may not notice it and there will not be anyone to correct you. Carving involves extremely sharp blades therefore we strongly recommend you have a professional overseeing you in the early stages of learning


One of the best places to get better if you are trying to improve your wood carving skills by yourself is online. Here is our list:

  • There are plenty of courses that don’t cost that much and that will give you unique information not widely found online.
  • Youtube is also a nice platform to see some visuals of other people’s wood carvings. However, there is not too much information on it.
  • Wood is wood is offering a wide selection of articles dedicated to solve problems that you may face when starting out to carve wood

Another great way to learn more about wood carving is through books. You can find books about wood carving in your local bookstores or on Amazon by clicking here to see if you find something relevant to your interest.

Time and Dedication

Time and dedication is all you need to learn wood carving. The more you practice the better you will become and in some time you will find yourself being decent at this art if you put the work for it.

This was our complete guide on how hard is it to carve wood and learn to be better. We hope that you learned something useful and that we may have inspired you to start carving yourself.

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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