How to Learn Woodcarving

Written by christien aguinaldo
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How to Learn Woodcarving
Simple and easy woodcarving patterns are best for beginners. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Woodcarving is a skill and an art that transforms an ordinary piece of wood into a beautiful object. Carving decorative elements into wood, or chiselling it into the likeness of a person or an animal, requires creativity, eye for beauty and attention to detail. Precision is important in woodcarving, and professional woodcarvers use many different tools, such as chisels and gouges to perfect their projects. Learning woodcarving is not difficult if you have the passion for it. Follow the guidelines and keep practicing and honing your carving skills.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Basic woodcarving tools
  • Basswood, aspen or butternut (soft wood)
  • Books and magazine on woodcarving
  • Patterns of woodcarving designs

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  1. 1

    Decide on the woodcarving technique you would like to learn. The basic carving techniques for beginners include whittling, chip carving, relief carving and carving in the round. Check magazines, books and websites to find out more about individual techniques and then pick one.

  2. 2

    Get in touch with private woodcarving and woodworking schools to find out about their workshops, classes and seminars. Such schools specialise on teaching fundamentals of carving, so that a person gains confidence as he or she practices the art.

  3. 3

    Search for apprentice programs or internships that will allow you to work under a master carver. This is one of the best ways to learn woodcarving as a person gains practical experience in woodcarving. Get in touch with wood cabinet makers or fine furniture designers for possible apprentice or intern opportunities.

  4. 4

    Check online tutorials for beginners. These tutorials offer step-by-step instructions and gradually guide beginners through various techniques of woodcarving

  5. 5

    Purchase books and magazines on woodcarving that contain instructions and photographs that will help to hone your skills. Most of the books and magazines will also contain sections on tools and instructions on ordering and buying them.

  6. 6

    Call local colleges and community centres and ask whether they offer woodcarving classes. If they do, get the name and contact details of the instructor. Get in touch with the instructor and find out where to get wood for carving and wood carving tools.

  7. 7

    Join online woodcarving forums. Chat with other carvers and learn different techniques of woodcarving, or find someone living in your town who may be willing to demonstrate the art of woodcarving to you. The forums will also help you find local wood suppliers and wood sources.

  8. 8

    Buy the right tools. Gouges, V-gouges, chisels and bench knife are the basic tools for beginners. As you master the art of woodcarving, you can add more tools. Do not forget to buy a sharpening stone as the tools will get dull after repeated use.

  9. 9

    Apply what you learnt. Start with patterns that are simple, easy and don't have too many details.

Tips and warnings

  • Young learners can practice carving using plastic cutlery knife and a bar of soap.
  • Sharpen the knife with sandpaper.
  • When working on larger wood pieces, use tools with wider blades. For carving out finer details on the pieces, micro tools are best because they have thinner blades.
  • The best wood for beginners is basswood, as it has fine grain, but even aspen and butternut are good for novices. Stay away from hardwood like walnut as it is hard to carve.
  • Wear protective goggles to prevent eye injuries from flying wood pieces and chips.
  • Handle the sharpened tools with care to avoid cuts and injuries.
  • Avoid carbon paper to transfer patterns on the wood as the lines cannot be erased.

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