Sometimes, a wood carving project manifests itself, unbidden, in your mind and you carve the piece based on what you see in your imagination. At other times, you may want to follow a pattern to create something specific. Patterns are especially good tools for beginning wood carvers. If you want to use patterns for wood carving, you must first know how to select them.
Select patterns that fit the type of wood you have on hand. Intricate projects with a lot of fine details work better with soft woods, as soft woods are easier to carve. Patterns for projects that are not as detailed and have lots of smooth, rounded lines are good choices for hard woods.
Try to find a pattern that someone has actually carved before. This way you will know before you start that it is possible to create the item and to have it look like it does in the pattern. Lots of websites that have free wood carving patterns also have information about the histories of the patterns and even comments from people who have tried them.
Look for patterns that match your skill level. Ideally, you want to find a pattern that appears to be challenging enough to hold your attention, but not so difficult that you give up in frustration. If you see a pattern that appeals to you, but you're not quite sure how difficult it will be to carve, ask another carver for input.
Ask for advice at your local wood carving supply store. Let the clerk or store manager know your skill level, what type of wood you work with and what your interests are. Store personnel will be able to direct you to wood carving patterns in the store that match your needs.
Consider the intended use of the carving, how large it will be and how much time you have to devote to it. Plan realistically. You don't want to choose a difficult and unfamiliar pattern when you have less than a week to make a Christmas present for Aunt Betty.
Subscribe to a magazine like "Wood Carving Illustrated." This is a comprehensive magazine full of news, ideas and information for people who carve wood as a hobby. The magazine's website has a good selection of free wood carving patterns (see Resources below). Look to the Internet for inspiration. There are lots of free wood carving patterns located online. One site that has enough patterns to keep you busy for a long time to come is the Northwest Carvers Assn website (see Resources below).