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Wood Carving Knives: How To Use These Important Carving Tools?

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A knife in the hand

Carving is a quite diverse hobby that offers people the opportunity to do exactly what they like and how they like. You can choose different wood types that are more up to your taste with color, texture or look and you can choose various types of tools to create the needed lines on the wooden surface. Because of that it’s extremely interesting to practice and experiment with all the types of tools you can lay your hands on: the great variety is exciting to those who feel really passionate about carving. However, that great variety results in a lot of confusing wood carving tools names that won’t be easy on anyone. So, if you’ve decided that it’s time to get rid of the confusion and finally find out what everything is called, why and how it works - welcome here, we’ll be more than happy to share some of that precious information!

Creating a wood carving tools list: what and how

Now that we’ve established it’s a working process to make sense of everything there is to know in the wood carving world, it’s time to divulge in the big chunk of information you’re about to get.  So, in general, you can divide the instruments in 2 categories: beginner tools and advanced tools. Indeed, some types of wood carving tools are not needed in the workshop unless you are an experienced carver looking for more diversity in the whittling process.  Beginner’s wood carving tools list includes knives, chisels and stropping attributes. That’s a very generalised explanation to simply introduce these names. When you dive in a little deeper, you’ll find out there are knives such as detail one, chip carving one, hook one (used for creating concaves, mostly spoons), roughing, sloyd and so on. And the chisels have such types as flat, rounded, deep and shallow, straight or bent.
Types of knives
For stropping you can choose any base that you prefer, such as a strop made of leather, a paddle to sharpen your instruments with as well as quite an amount of compounds that are like a paste that you put on the stropping base to make the blade slide easier. That might seem a little excessive and confusing, does it? Well, if it does, we are here to make it clear. So let’s begin.

Types of wood carving tools

Let’s start with the knives - they are the main attribute for carving after wood, so should appear in the beginning of this list. The one that is used for creating the general outline of the project and its shape may be called a knife for general carving, a roughing knife or a sloyd knife. Some of the people you may know might be using even a pocket knife for that sort of work, it depends solely on the person. The detail one usually has a more tipped end of the blade because it has to be thinner and sharper to create the details on the surface. Chip carving knives can also be named geometric shapes carving knives because they have unusual blade shapes: chip carving is more about the pattern you create so they mostly look as an instrument for only one kind of work. For spoon carving you may use a hook knife (it’s a hook with bevels on one or both sides for creating deep concave patterns that would be otherwise difficult to repeat using any other knife) or various spoon chisels & gouges.  Now that we’ve touched upon the topic, let’s talk about those little instruments that make a carver’s life effortless and easy. Types of wood carving chisels depend on a couple of factors you should pay attention to, they are called sweep, width and shape. The thing is: the bigger the sweep, the deeper your instrument is. So, basically, sweep #1 is shallow and sweep #8 creates deep lines. Width influences the amount of wood waste you are getting rid of while using the utensil and the shape makes for different kinds of lines - you can have a flat chisel for general outlining, rounded one for creating lines as a decor element and v-shaped (or u-shaped) instrument for the finest lines. And, of course, talking about keeping them sharp. It won’t make much of a difference if you decide to use a paddle or a strop since they are made of the same material. Usually the paddle is more stable since it has a wooden base under the leather and the strop is more flexible. You can also use a wheel that needs to be attached to a power tool like a drill in order to rotate. It is faster than anything where you need to work with your hands, however, it also requires you to use a compound.  Compounds are pastes of different colours and purposes that influence the smoothness of the blade, it’s quality and sharpness. Choose wisely when you look for stropping accessories like that.  

Knives and strop

Safe types of wood carving techniques

Now that types of wood carving knife are covered, you can imagine how and when they should be used. Their purpose divides them into a couple of categories as well: detailing, simple whittling, concave carving. For sure, you must understand that working with every single tool in the same way won’t be too productive. They require different grips, force and movements. First of all, the thing they have in common is the obligatory safety technique. You should always wear a safety tape and a thumb guard while working. They prevent injuries and reduce the risks that carving certainly bears as the hobby with using sharp instruments. Then remember: when creating details on the surface, be careful. Those blades should be sharpened really well in order to work easily so don’t put your fingers under it or anything. If the razor is sharpened well indeed, you won’t have to apply a lot of force in order to create the lines required. Simple whittling also needs you to sharpen the instruments well, especially if you are working with hardwood. In general, using dull tools is never a good thing since you’ll have to apply more strength. Therefore, you’ll get tired faster and also risk earning a trauma. Concave carving is quite safe if your knives or gouges have one-sided bevel. But if they’ve got a dual-sided one, then you have to watch your hands. Hopefully, this has solved a riddle of wood carving knife types you’ve been trying to figure out. Good luck!

Finishing actions

1 comment

  • Posted on by Ken P.
    It would have been nice if you had pictures of individual tools when they were being described.

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