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Basic Wood Carving Techniques – Every Beginner Should Know This!

wooden birds carving

When you find yourself in a workshop with a knife in one hand and a piece of wood in the other, you can feel a little bit scared or lost: what do I do now? How do I figure out what to do with my hands, how to hold the wood properly? Everyone has thought like that when they started wood carving so there is no shame, really, in that kind of thinking. So how to learn those hand wood carving techniques? What is there to focus on and how to practice it perfectly?

Essential wood carving techniques

There are things that you need or don’t need to learn as a beginner, but some of them are essential and can influence not only the quality time you’ll send in your workshop, but also your health and well-being. That’s why it is quite important to know a thing or two about wood carving before you start. Here are what we consider the basic wood carving techniques.

Of course, first of all we’ve got to mention the safety rules. Wearing safety equipment like a tape and a thumb guard is required if you want to enjoy what you are doing without risking getting a trauma.

While carving, never point the knife towards yourself and never carve towards yourself, only push the knife away from you. Risking your hand slipping and the knife going somewhere it’s not supposed to go is never a fun thing to do.

Carve downhill, from the high point of the wood to the low. If you do the opposite, you can easily break the wood with your tool. When you go downhill the wood is supported by its own weight and won’t break. You always want to go with the grain or across it because that provides you with more control over what you are doing.
spoon handle whittling  

If you decide to go along the grain after all, do it with small strokes to carve away small pieces of wood because if you want to get rid of the big chunks, they can crack while you do that and that will make the process difficult for you.

You can carve the end grain by slicing it. It’s usually the hardest part of the wood and requires very sharp instruments. Be careful when you do that! You can put your thumb to the back of the knife or chisel (not in front of it!) to apply more force.

These are the simple wood carving techniques you have to know in order to be safe and productive when you carve.

Are there any advanced wood carving techniques?

What some people can call advanced, we’d call more passionate. You’ve got to understand that getting more advanced with carving simply means wanting to do more than you’ve started from. Wanting to expand your vision, to try new things and tools, getting curious about new things that people share with you - that is what we call advanced.

Usually that is about learning the techniques you haven’t heard before - for example, what do you know about Japanese wood carving techniques? They are different, of course, but they are also about applying a different approach to get beautiful results so it’s what you might find yourself interested in.

Japanese techniques are mainly used for relief or 3-dimensional carving of various decor elements so if you like doing those, you certainly need to watch the tutorials to get inspired and try something new out. The trick about Japanese carving is mostly in the tools - they’ve got much more variety and use a great amount of different instruments in one work to achieve such an impressive result.

high detailed carving

You may have also heard about Swedish wood carving techniques - go there if you like creating unusual kitchenware utensils like spoons, bowls, cups and so on. There is a book by Wille Sundqvist on this topic, it’s very detailed and intricate but it’s totally worth it. 

There are also a lot of tutorials on both of these styles that you can watch on YouTube. Check them out!

Basic relief wood carving techniques

The difficulty with relief carving can often be keeping the levels of your carving well and separate so that you don’t waste a lot of time over nothing in the end. 

There exists a “rule of thumb” which says that the lowest part of your relief carving can’t be lower than the half of the wood’s height. So, for example, if you work on a wooden block that is 2 inches high, the lowest level should be 1 inch low. And all the others have to be divided by the same measurement. If on the same example you need to create 6 levels, the measurements should be 1 inch (the deepest), 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8 and 2 inches accordingly.

Cutting across diagonally is a cool trick for relief carving (or any other carving, really) since one side of the v-tool’s bevel cuts with the grain and other against it. Having a neat outline is important since you are going to carve around it and the sharp defined lines will make your relief carving look neat.

Be attentive and don’t hurry; create your relief carving with time spent rationally and be careful since it is a very thorough whittling style that demands a lot of accuracy from the carver.  

easy flover carving

These are the basic wood carving tips for today. They include some beginner wood carving techniques description as well as the advanced types (or, rather, styles) and some advice on relief carving. Hopefully you find this information useful and up to date for your newest carvings to get better!

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