Man carving wooden spoon beginner wood carving project

Wood Carving 101 for Beginners

Wood carving is one of the most fascinating forms of art. It has been around for centuries and people love to learn wood carving techniques. If you are keen on wood carving, it's necessary to know how to design patterns, choose appropriate tools, hold your workpiece properly, use measurement tools, etc.

Woodworking already requires patience and skill, so you should be prepared for careful planning before starting with any wood carving project.

Wooden workshop. Hands carving spoon from wood, working with chisel close up. Process of making wooden spoonBeginner wood carver working on wooden spoon

Basic wood carving skills

If you have no prior knowledge about wood carving, take a look at some professional works online or visit your local library to browse through old magazines that contain images of different types of wooden crafts. You would be surprised at the resources libraries have for wood carving beginner projects. Such projects will give you good ideas about what can be achieved.

You can also ask a professional to show you a few basic techniques. Reach out to your favorite woodworker or woodcarver on social media. They are always happy to help their community members gain new skills. Learn about five wood carving styles in our Woodshop 101: Wood Carving for Beginners.

Learn how properly hold a knife

Youtube is a great resource for how to learn how to properly hold a knife. You will want to make sure it feels good in your hand, so you can safely and comfortably carve your project to perfection. It is critical to not grip the knife too hard, as you do not want to strain your wrist. 

Cut across the wood grain

Beginners should start by cutting across the grain, as cutting across the wood grain allows for better control of your tool, which will yield better results. 

Don't forget your gloves or finger guards

As you are learning, you will pick up your own tips for protecting your hands. In the beginning, we recommend wearing gloves or at minimum finger guards to protect your hands from splinters and cuts.  

Wet versus dry wood for carving

Wood carving works on the principle that wood is more easily cut when it's soft and moist. Hence, it's recommended that you soak the wooden piece for at least an hour before you start on your project. In addition, keep a shallow dish of water handy while working on your wood carving design. It will help to prevent the wood from drying up too quickly.

The best wood for wood carving

The best wood for wood carving ultimately depends on the project you are working on. According to professional carvers, Basswood, Alder and Cherry are top picks for wood carving. Despite being a hardwood, Basswood is soft and it has very minimal grain, so a good pick for beginner wood carvers.

The best way for beginners to start wood carving is to get smaller blocks and pieces of wood to practice on. Forest 2 Home has great options including a Hardwood Basics Box and Hardwood Sampler Box that boast over 10 pounds of premium carving hardwood in a variety of species. Send an email to support@forest2home.com to request Basswood and the team will let you know if they can accommodate your request.

Wood carving pattern on piece of hardwoodHand carving drawn out pattern on wooden board

Planning your wood carving pattern

A well-designed pattern is very important for any type of woodworking project because it helps in keeping your wood carving on task rather than if you just draw things out blindly without any plan. You can use carved pattern stencils or print out pictures that feature inspiring designs for reference purposes. 

Sharpie marker pens are great for incising designs onto the surface of your wood carving piece before starting with other tools. However, ensure that your marker pen doesn't come in direct contact with the wood carvings. Marker pens can leave permanent marks on your wooden art if they're not treated carefully so choose a color that's similar to the shade of your wood.

Wood carving tool set for beginnersWood carving tool set for beginners

13 wood carving tools beginners need to get started

There are a number of different types of tools that you will need for your project whether it's large or small. A few essential things include:

  • Wood carving knife set with various blade sizes
  • Carver's mallet
  • Gouge
  • Veiner
  • V-tool
  • Riffler
  • Sharpie marker pen or pencil (color of wood)
  • Ruler
  • Sandpaper (fine grade)
  • Skew or corner chisel
  • Coping Saw
  • Fishtail
  • Hardwood blocks or pieces (the Forest 2 Home Hardwood Sampler Box is great for testing out new hardwood species)

boy learning wood carving, young carpenter working in a workshopChild using wood carving tool in the workshop

How to get started with wood carving

It is never too early to get started with wood carving. Wood carving beginners should start by using knives because they're easy to handle when compared to other tools like gouges, chisels, etc. These knives usually come with different blade widths. There are several wood carving tool sets for beginners out there that include between 12 and 24 tools.

Before starting any kind of project, take time to properly plan things out and gather all necessary equipment & material. It's important to use the appropriate size of the knife because it will help you carve out finer details more easily. It's also important to understand the basic wood carving techniques. If you require any further information or help, visit Craftsy for awesome woodworking classes.

Photo of Danny's drawing out the beginning design for wood carving projectDanny showing beginner wood carvers how to draw out the side and top profiles of wood carving project

Beginner wood carving projects

Forest 2 Home community member Danny Brewer won the Handmade Holiday Challenge in 2021 with his amazing wood carved projects, including a large wooden spurtle, wooden slotted spatula, wooden ladle, small wooden spreader, and two wooden tongs. He provided a step by step guide, with photos, for beginners to easily follow along and learn how to hand carve wood. The photo tutorial can be found in the blog How to Make DIY Wooden Cooking Utensils, an End Grain Utensil Holder, and a Lazy Susan and is a great resource for beginners looking to get started with wood carving projects. You will also find Danny's pro tips and a complete list of supplies you will need to complete the wood carving projects.


Further Reading:

  1. The Complete Book of Wood Carving (Amazon)
  2. Whittling for Beginners Handbook: 15 Starter Projects with Techniques on How to Carve Wood Spirit (Barnes and Noble)
  3. 20-Minute Whittling Projects: Fun Things to Carve from Wood (Barnes and Noble)
  4. Heirloom Wood: A Modern Guide to Carving Spoons, Bowls, Boards, and other Homewares (Barnes and Noble)
  5. Whittling Flat-Plane Animals: 15 Projects to Carve with Just One Knife (Fox Chapel Publishing) Easy Woodcarving Designs for Reindeer, Bears, Ravens, Hares, and More; Beginner to Intermediate Projects (Amazon)


    Happy wood carving! Please add comments with suggestions for how we can improve this article or questions on anything you've read in it.


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