Wood Carving Tools

Updated April 17, 2017

The wood carving tools in olden days may be rough, but some of the wood sculpture pieces then were still beautifully made. Today there are several specially made woodcarving chisels and gouges that make it easy for a woodcarver to shape wood and carve out finer details. Most woodcarving tools are for manual wood carving, but now they can use many mechanical tools to carve and shape large blocks of wood.

Chisels and Gouges

A wood carver uses a variety of chisels and gouges in different sizes and shapes. Most of the chisels are curved, although carvers also use flat chisels . The flat chisels tend to dig deep into the wood but can still be used to remove larger chunks rather than to add detail. Flat chisels have different widths. Most of the details on wood sculpture are provided by the various gouges. Gouges can be U-shaped, V-shaped, fishtail-shape of spoon-shaped. The arc of the cutting edges of the gouges can be shallow, medium or deep and the size ranges from 1/8 inch to about 3 ½ inches. Each of the woodcarving tools has a specific purpose. To cut deep hollows, use bent gouges and chisels. V-shaped gouges add detailed lines and crisp corners. The bent and spoon gouges reach areas that cannot be reached by straight gouges.

Carving Knives

Carving knives are small knives with broad handles shaped to fit the curve of the palms and they have short blades. Carvers use these are used to stop cuts, to shave and round edges and for working on smaller details. For chip carving and whittling, they use a chip-carving knife with a shaped handle. A chip-carving knife is one of the first wood carving tools that is used by a beginner and can be used to carve softer wood.


Traditionally, wood carvers use a round wood mallet to drive the chisels and gouges into the wood. It can create a lot of noise and can wear away the end of the chisel handles from the continuous striking. Today some wood carvers prefer to use rubber mallets that produce less noise although these mallets lack the driving force that wood mallets give. Another advantage of the rubber mallet is that it is more friendly to the ends of the handles of the chisels and gouges.

Palm tools

For working on smaller pieces and softer wood, carvers can call on various palm tools that are smaller versions of the bigger gouges and chisels. They can drive these palm tools into the wood by using just the wood carver's force. These palm tools have straight and bulbous handles to help the wood carver grasp and hold the carving tools better. Palm tools are typically used by beginners, but even professional wood carvers use them when they are working on softer wood and smaller pieces of woodcarving work.


A whetstone is very important when working with wood. The various chisels and gouges should always be sharp to cut through the wood neatly. If the woodcarving tools are dull, the carver uses the coarse side of the whetstone before finishing the sharpening, using the fine side. For maintaining the sharpness, they use the fine side. Use light machine oil to lubricate the whetstone when sharpening woodcarving tools. Never use dull tools because it can split and chip the wood that you are carving. Dull tools may also break and cause an accident.

These are the basic wood carving tools used by many wood carvers and sculptors. Larger wood pieces are now shaped and carved by power tools with flexible shafts. Other tools used in woodwork are band saws, drill press, wood planers and sanders and chain saws.

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About the Author

Miggi Sanchez started writing in 2002. He has been published in "Timeless Voices," "Shoestring," "Unsung Magazine" and online at Rainy City Stories, Leisure Daily and Poems and Plates. Sanchez holds a Master of Arts in language studies and early literacy from University of the Ireland Open University