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Wood carving questions

Wood carving questions

Three questions from a beginning carver – Woodcarving

The more you do something and learn about it, the more you understand that you know nothing about it. It’s not that weird to acknowledge that this concerns everything people may do, including wood carving. There always will be some issues unanswered, some moments so subjective that everybody has their own opinion or doesn’t have any. So today we’ll share some of our thoughts and you are free to share your own if you have experience on the topics that will be mentioned.

In the following article we’ll cover three questions from a beginning carver – woodcarving is a broad topic, after all, so we can’t answer everything altogether. These three are the most common after “What are the best tools for beginners?” and “How do I choose wood for carving?” moments that we’ve covered already. Hopefully, it’ll be interesting for you to read and you will find something new for yourself.

What paints are best for caricature figures, etc?

Painting your carving can be a little tricky since paint changes its look significantly. You can use it as an option to hide some miscalculated or not very lucky moments in carving or the opposite – making your creation bright and colourful to attract everyone’s attention. You may choose flamboyant colours or wooden ones to make your carving look natural but a little bit more emphasized.

Different reasons and options behind painting your carving result in different ways to do it. The choice of paint, primer and finishing after will influence the final result greatly so be thorough in your search and think through what you want your carving to look like.

The easiest and the most common for carvings (and beginners in whittling) are acrylic paints. They are very simple to use, easy to apply, have a lot of various vibrant colours that won’t leave you upset or disappointed with the result and are waterproof after drying, adding an extra layer of protection to your wooden creations. Don’t forget to use a primer before applying the paint: for acrylic paints one layer of gesso would work well.

You may also use oil paints, however, you must remember that they take longer to dry and may be applied only to a dried out wooden carving – if you apply paint to the green wood that still contains moisture inside, it will start to mold under the paint. For painting with oil paints cover wood with natural oil first as a primer: as an example, you can use linseed or flaxseed oil.

For bigger surfaces it might be a better idea to use latex paint. It is not very different from acrylics, but is sold in bigger quantities so is more convenient for large projects. It dries quite fast and has a lot of finishing options to select from: glossy, matte, semi-matte and so on. For it use stain-blocking latex-based primer before applying.

How do you cut proper blanks from which to carve?

Roughing out the outline of your potential carving is not a fast task. Some prefer to do it by hand with palm carving tools, some prefer power tools or handsaw. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you do it correctly. We’re going to describe a way to do it properly and faster than it would have been by simply using a knife.

For this you may use both a bandsaw or a handsaw, whatever sails your boat. Firstly, move the pattern to the wood: you can draw it by hand or glue the pattern drawn on paper to the wooden surface. If you’re doing a 3D-carving, make sure the front and the side are aligned properly together and you have your pattern drawn on both sides.

Then cut straight lines as the landmarks on both sides on key areas. Those lines will function somewhat as a stop cut which allows you for more control in the movements and wasteless carving. Then start cutting one of the sides according to those landmark cuts. Leave the waste on as much as possible, don’t cut it out immediately.

Leaving those wastes hinged lets them stay flexible for you to withdraw the blade easier and it also provides a flat surface for the cuts of the other side to be more comfortable. If you cut them out completely, it will be hard to make your blank stay or lay still when you work on the other side since it’ll lose balance.

After finishing with one side, go to the other. After cutting everything needed through, remove all the hinged waste with the saw and you get your proper blank to work on further.

What would be a good set of gouges for a beginner?

Gouges are a fairly handy tool when it comes to easier concave carving or detail whittling. There are quite a few options when it comes to selecting the required ones so first of all you need to make sure you understand why you need the gouge set and how you are planning on using it.

The best set for a beginner would offer a diverse amount of chisels different in sweeps and widths. It would be considered optimal to have a very narrow v-profile chisel for fine lines and very small details, a flat chisel for general outlining and carving in corners, a medium sweep straight chisel for deeper cuts and a spoon gouge that can vary in size depending on your preferences in round shapes. Probably having two different ones in the set would be the best idea since that would allow you to not limit yourself when it comes to carving.

The thing to pay attention to when choosing any instrument should be the material of its blade since that influences the working capacities quite a lot. Choose gouges with high-carbon steel that will serve you longer and stay tougher and sharper and you won’t regret purchasing a gouge set.

Hopefully these three questions from a beginning carver – woodcarving have been answered fully enough to your liking and you found the answers useful!


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