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Wood Carving Techniques for Beginners

by BeaverCraft Team 24 May 2023 1 comment

Woodcarving is an exciting hobby that can be fun, rewarding, and relaxing. But before you dive into this creative activity, it is better to learn some basics.

wood carving is exiting hobby

Wood carving has no strict classification since the same workpiece can combine different types. It combines many different methods, styles, and techniques, depending on the tools you use, the country where this type of craft developed, the material you work with, the height of the relief of the carved pattern, and many other aspects.

Conventionally, we divide wood carving techniques for beginners into two categories: easy and complicated (but not impossible). The first category includes the following types of wood carving:

  • Whittling
  • Spoon Carving

If you already have some woodworking experience or are confident in your skills, you can get started with more complex woodcarving techniques:

  • Chip Carving
  • Relief Carving
  • Carving in the Round

So, let's take a closer look at each carving technique and highlight its features.


Whittling is one of the oldest woodworking methods and, at the same time, the simplest type of wood carving you can start with. This method requires you to have a minimal set of tools (even one good whittling knife is enough) and consists in forming shapes and creating various figures and objects by shaving off slivers of wood.

whittling what is

Using the whittling technique, you can turn a piece of wood into a beautiful wooden art object with an intricate design; the knife leaves sharp, textured marks, emphasizing the natural color and pattern of the wood.

Whittling can become your favorite hobby if you love to create various DIY projects out of wood and express yourself this way. If you are a beginner, the best way to get started with whittling is to get yourself a basic whittling kit. Their content may vary, but they usually include all the essential whittling knives and carving supplies to help you get a feel for the craft.

Spoon Carving

The first ancient wooden spoons appeared in antiquity, charming with their unique colors and designs. Spoon carving is one of the few types of woodcarving that allows you to touch the centuries-old arts and crafts traditions. Moreover, this is an excellent opportunity to hone your basic wood carving skills.

spoon carving what is

To carve a spoon out of wood, you will need essential tools such as a whittling or wood carving knife, a hook tool (spoon carving knife), a chisel or curved gouge, and sharpeners to keep your instruments in top condition. You can get all this in one carving set without wasting time and money buying each tool separately.

Today, wooden spoons are used not only in everyday life for cooking. Beautifully carved wooden spoons remain popular as an exclusive hand-made gift, original souvenir, and even a collectible.

Chip Carving

Chip carving is a unique art form that can become an exciting hobby for beginners. This type of wood carving is the most ancient way of decorating wooden houses, furniture, utensils, and even ships.

chip carving what is

This carving style involves removing small chips of wood and creating narrow (wedge-cut) grooves that form patterns of geometric shapes – triangles, squares, and circles. The grooves may differ in size, depth, and geometry of the angles at which they are made. Each geometric figure in chip carving had its meaning and symbolism.

To learn wood carving with chip carving elements, you need to master the technique of cutting simple designs from wood, gradually moving on to more complex patterns and combinations of straight and smooth lines. For this wood carving style, you'll need basic tools such as chip carving knives of various blade shapes, although some carvers may also use chisels and gouges.

Relief Carving

Relief carving is one of the most expressive and complex techniques among all wood carving methods. It is distinguished by its three-dimensional character and has almost no flat surface. The relief of different heights reveals the forms of the ornament.

relief carving what is

This carving technique features many decorative details, expressiveness, and richness of composition (from various abstract and floral decorations to bird and animal patterns). The difficulty of relief carving lies in keeping the levels of your carving well. It requires accuracy and precision from the beginner carver.

To master the basic skills of relief technique, you must choose the right tools and proper wood. The main tools are chisels and gouges of various shapes (u-shaped, v-shaped), chip carving, and spoon carving knives.

Carving in the Round

People learned to carve figures from wood thousands of years ago. Today this art is as popular as it was at the beginning of human history.

Carving in the round (carving in sculpture) creates three-dimensional figures out of wood. This carving method will allow you to create beautiful wooden sculptures and figurines and decorate your home interior.

carving in the round what is

To make sculptural miniatures, you can use wooden blanks of various wood types. Basswood is the best one. Since its wood structure is uniform in color and texture, it is very soft and easy to carve.

Carving in the round requires a bit wider variety of tools, like drawknives, whittling and wood carving knives, chisels, gouges, and abrasives (for example, sandpaper) to create a smooth, beautiful wood surface.

There are many styles and techniques of woodcarving. But as a beginner, you can try to learn one of them at a time. Start with the simplest, and as your skills and experience grow, you can move on to more complicated wood carving techniques that require more tools and knowledge.

It doesn't matter what type of woodcarving you are into. The main thing is to achieve mastery. For example, you can only engage in spoon carving and, while enjoying it, achieve stunning successful results.

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.

wood carving animals

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! And don't forget to check our spoon carving knives.

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!

Basic wood carving techniques FAQ

What tools are required for basic wood carving techniques?

Basic wood carving techniques require a few essential tools such as carving knives, gouges, chisels, and a mallet. Additionally, you may need sandpaper, a sharpening stone, and a clamp to hold the wood securely.

How do I choose the right wood for carving?

Choosing the right wood for carving is crucial for the success of your project. Look for woods that are dense, straight-grained, and free from knots, such as basswood, butternut, or cherry. Avoid using softwoods like pine, as they are difficult to carve and prone to splitting.

What are some basic wood carving techniques for beginners?

For beginners, some basic wood carving techniques include carving with the grain, making push and pull cuts, using a V-gouge to create lines, and carving in the round. It is essential to start with simple projects and gradually work your way up to more complex designs.

How do I maintain my wood carving tools?

Proper maintenance of your wood carving tools is necessary to keep them in good condition. After each use, clean the blades with a cloth, and apply a coat of oil to prevent rusting. Sharpen the blades regularly using a sharpening stone or honing compound, and keep them in a safe place to prevent damage.



Roman Law

Wood carving guru

From a childhood enchanted by nature, my passion for wood carving guided me on a path of creativity. With a pocket knife, I uncovered the transformative power of my hands, breathing life into driftwood and forging a lifelong connection with the medium.
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1 comment

30 Aug 2023 Dave Whipple

I just started this craft with one of your starter kits (3 knives, a small strop in a carry pouch), and noticed the kit came with a band-aide. Good for you…thats my kind of sense of humor!

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