Where to Learn Wood Carving


To learn wood carving, you just need to try it for the first time and consistently carve to get better. However, how and where to find useful and reliable information on wood carving is the main topic of today’s article.

Without further ado, let’s start on the best ways that will get you started with wood carving.

Best Ways to Learn Wood Carving

For those interested in learning how to wood carve, there are a variety of options available. Among these are learning how to carve in person – that is, learning via private or group lessons.

These lessons are often paid workshops. Though they require more of an investment than free options for learning woodcarving, they have their advantages.

One of the most significant benefits of learning via an in-person workshop or class is that you have direct access to the instructor. If you feel unsure during any part of the learning process, you can immediately ask for clarification.

Furthermore, your instructors can immediately correct any mistakes that you may be making. They can also help you adjust your technique before you find yourself used to bad carving habits.

If there are no private instructors offering classes in your area, you can check with community centers. Many centers offer in-person workshops. An advantage of checking such local resources is that they are often low cost or free, as opposed to the cost of private and group lessons.

There are many paid classes available online for those who prefer in-person classes and cannot find any in their area. These do not have the benefit of being in-person and are usually conducted over video. However, they happen in real-time, and your instructor can immediately advise you about any changes you should make to your technique. They can also immediately ask you to stop and make changes if they notice you making a mistake.

During an in-person class, an instructor can physically guide you if necessary. This is not possible during an online class. However, the direct interaction means that online courses represent a good alternative if there are no in-person woodcarving classes or workshops happening in your area.

Free Ways to Learn Wood Carving

In-person and online classes and workshops are not the only ways available to learn woodcarving. For people looking to learn but are unable to spend on direct classes, there are several free options available.

One of the most common ways to learn woodcarving is via YouTube. There are hundreds of videos available on this platform, and they help guide through a variety of different woodcarving projects.

One of the reasons behind YouTube’s popularity is that you can directly see how the person in the video goes about carving. Making a note of how their hands are placed and precisely which tools they are using can be a significant advantage when you start with woodcarving.

YouTube videos are an incredibly useful option for people who are visual learners. Videos allow you to develop a better understanding of how carving tools should be positioned while carving. They also allow you to see what your piece of wood should look like at each step of the process.

Another free option for learning woodcarving is blogs. There are various woodcarving and woodworking blogs available for free online, including our website, Wood is Wood

Be sure to take a look at these articles if you’re just getting started with wood carving and want a full guide on any of the below topics:

Woodworking and woodcarving blogs allow for a detailed explanation of the woodcarving process. Each stage is explained carefully, and each project is broken down into easily followed steps. Blogs have the advantage of space – while many videos try to keep it short and simple to attract more viewers, blogs have the time and space to go into detail. 

Blogs are also a great space for beginners looking for suggestions on which tools to use. They can go into the pros and cons of each product so that you are fully informed before you make a purchase. 

Finally, blogs are also an excellent tool for projects that you do not plan on finishing all at once. It can be challenging to find your spot in a video if you have to stop carving partway through and return to it a few hours or days later. It’s far easier to quickly scan through a blog to find out where you left off and continue with the directions on the page.

Essential Tools for Beginner Wood Carvers

You cannot start woodcarving without the right tools. There are various woodcarving tools available in the market. However, not all are necessary – or appropriate – for woodcarving beginners.

If you’re just getting started learning how to carve wood, you will need to have a few essential tools handy. These include:

  • Knives: There are various knife types that you will find in your local hardware or hobby store. However, the two main types of knives that any woodcarver should possess are carving knives and bench knives.
  • Carving Knives: These are available in various shapes and sizes and can be easily purchased in any hobby or woodworking store. They are the basic tool that you will need for your woodcarving projects and are used to cut, pare, and whittle the piece of wood you will be working with. They are also handy for fine, detailed work – you can even manage to create a full mini-sculpture using just a carving knife and some wood.
  • Bench Knives: This is a specialized carving knife and usually has a short blade about a quarter of an inch or less. It’s a great tool when you’re looking to make close cuts in areas of the wood that are hard to reach with a regular carving knife.
  • Chisels: Available in various shapes and sizes, this tool consists of a sharp cutting edge attached to a handle. It can be used in combination with a mallet in order to drive it through the wood or if held correctly, can be pushed directly into the wood. Make sure to keep your chisel sharp at all times – they are very ineffective when dull.
  • Gouges: Though these may seem similar to chisels, the main difference is that they have a curved cutting edge. Think of it as being similar to a scoop. These are very effective at creative hollows and curves on the wood, which can often be an essential part of your project.
  • Veiner: A veiner is essentially a small gouge that has a curved, U-shaped cutting edge. This tool is very effective in making deep, rounded hollows and round curves on the wood. It is a great tool for detail work, as the blade of a veiner is very narrow, with the smallest being only a millimeter in diameter.
  • V-Tool: This is another gouge-like tool similar to the veiner, aside from the fact that it has a V-shaped cutting edge. Like the veiner, it is useful for detailed work.
  • Sanding Stone/Sandpaper: This is essential both for taking care of your equipment and keeping them sharp, and making sure that your projects are sanded down once the carving is complete. For beginners, a combination medium/fine grit stone is recommended. Alternatively, you can buy sandpaper in various grits.

Though not directly part of a woodcarving kit, make sure you have all the relevant safety equipment. A pair of safety goggles and cut resistant gloves are a must-have.

Project Ideas for Beginner Wood Carvers

Deciding on a woodcarving project to take on can be a challenge, especially as a beginner. With hundreds of options available to experiment with, it can be intimidating deciding on your first project. This is made even more challenging because you likely do not have a preference for any particular type of woodcarving as a beginner.

Some good project options for beginner woodcarvers to experiment with include:

  • Kitchen Utensils: Carving one or more kitchen utensils is not only an easy project to start with, you also end up with something functional. Spoon carving and bowl carving, in particular, are popular options for beginners. The advantage of carving kitchen utensils is that you can start with basic designs and progress to more complex variations once you gain experience.

Some videos to refer to for inspiration

Gnomes:

Gnomes are a fun and easy project for beginners to try. Like kitchen utensils, you can make them as simple or complex as you like, depending on your level of experience. They can be as large or small as you like, and you can use them for everything from garage decorations to paperweights.

Some videos to refer to for inspiration

Whistles:

Whistles are really easy to carve and make for amazing beginner projects. You also won’t need a lot of wood to make your first whistle – depending on where you live, you might even be able to forage for a small branch from your surroundings!

You can refer to this video for inspiration:

Flowers:

Flowers are a great starting point for a carver who wants to learn how to get into relief carving. Once you’ve successfully carved your first flower in relief, you can move on to more complicated patterns – or try repeating the pattern to gain more experience!

You can refer to this video for inspiration: 

Sphere:

Carving in the round can be very tricky for beginner woodcarvers. However, if you have your heart set on starting with this technique, starting with a basic sphere will allow you to develop your fundamentals before moving on to more complex shapes.

You can refer to this video for inspiration: 

Rope Border:

Chip carving is a great woodcarving style for people looking for more decorative carving options. Starting with learning how to chip carve a simple rope border helps develop your hand-eye coordination while still being a fun decorative option that you can keep returning to.

You can refer to this video for inspiration: 

There are a variety of ways to learn woodcarving, from finding online courses, relying on YouTube and blogs, or even directly through in-person workshops. Regardless of how you get started, what makes you a woodcarver is your love and passion for this craft. 

History of Woodcarving

Woodcarving is among the oldest forms of woodworking. In fact, it is considered to be among the oldest arts practiced by humans. The oldest known carved wood sculpture, the Shigir Idol, has been dated as nearly 11,500 years old and was discovered in Shigir, Russia, in 1894.

Woodcarving has even been mentioned in the Bible, in the Book of Exodus. Despite its long history, however, the basic principles of woodcarving have remained the same. It remains a highly popular art to learn and practice, and the large number of woodcarvers around the world have helped carry on this tradition of woodworking.

Modern woodcarvers often use power tools in order to complete their projects. This is because these tools are often faster and easier to work with and can allow for the easy completion of more complex projects. However, the basics of woodcarving are still based on using hand tools, particularly knives, chisels, and mallets. 

Types of Wood Carving

Before you start learning to carve wood, the first thing to understand is the different woodcarving styles you can try.

There are four major types of woodcarving. These are:

  • Whittling: This is the oldest form of woodcarving. It’s usually the preferred style to start with and mainly involves using a knife or other whittling tool to remove pieces of wood and carve it into shape. This is the type of woodcarving that most people think of learning to carve wood.
  • Chip Carving: This tool involves using a chisel (and often a hammer) to chip away at the surface of the wood, allowing you to create textures and patterns, and even figurines.
  • Carving in the Round: This is perhaps the most complex of the woodcarving types. This type of carving is meant to create detailed, three-dimensional sculptures and often involve using a variety of carving tools, including gouges, chisels, and more.
  • Relief Carving: A relief carving is essentially a sculpture that is resting against a flat wood surface. The carver creates raised patterns against a flat background, and the figures project slightly from the background rather than standing freely. Like carving in the round, this form of woodcarving uses various tools, including knives, gouges, and chisels.  

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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