Miniature Wood Carving Tools

geschnitzter elefant image by Nachtfalke from

Use miniature wood carving tools to produce exquisite works of art like traditional Christmas tree decorations, personalised gifts and woodblocks for printing. David Bull's encyclopedia of wood block printmaking advises new carvers, "There are many, many different sorts of knives, cutters, chisels and gouges out there in the shops," This basic tool guide helps beginners choose tools for each hand size.

Palm Chisels

Palm chisels are small hand tools featuring hardened stainless steel blades set in wooden handles with a rounded end to give better control over carving actions on miniature projects. Palm chisels are approximately 5 inches in length and suit woodworkers with larger hands. Hold palm tools with the handle against the palm, use the thumb and index finger to guide the blade and remaining fingers to hold the handle securely. A basic beginner's set includes a 3/8-inch bent chisel and straight chisel, a 3/8-inch skew chisel, 9/64-inch straight gouge, 5/16-inch bent gouge and a 9/64-inch bent paring tool. Wear a safety glove on the hand which holds the wood for better protection against injury. Sets and single tools are available from speciality craft stores.

Straight Chisels

Straight chisels for carving miniature wood sculptures come in palm and straight varieties. The second kind suits carvers with smaller hands. Tools are approximately 6 inches in length with hardened steel blades fitted into polished wooden handles. Six straight chisels to get a beginner started in the art of miniature carving include a 3/8-inch bent chisel, skew chisel and straight chisel, 9/64 straight gouge, 5/16 bent gouge and 9/64 bent paring tool. To make cuts for roughing out, brace the tool with your thumb using your index finger as a guard against slippage. Always use a protective carving glove to reduce the chance of injury. Keep tools sharp by replacing the end guards while not in use and store in a box or tool roll for easy access and extra safety.


A bench knife set up for miniature carving is one of the most frequently used tools in miniature craving. Tools feature hardened steel or carbon steel blades between ½ and 2 inches long set in plastic or wooden handles. Japanese knives are popular with some miniature carvers because they use a sandwich of high and low carbon steel to make blades. This is visible in the finished product, showing up as lines of lighter, silvery metal. Right handed or left handed knives come in a range of sizes. A basic set for beginners includes skew, cutting, detail, roughing out, chip carving and pelican knives.

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