How to Start Wood Carving Project

November 29, 2022

Start learning how to wood carving.

Napoleon Hill, the co-author of Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, once said: “a creative idea is not creative if you don’t follow it through with action.” Similarly, your creative wood carving ideas are still not creative if you don’t engage in wood carving to actualize those ideas. Wood carving as an endeavor has long provided many artists with an avenue to actualize their creative ideas. 

Wood carving has dramatically evolved as an art, and many woodworkers nowadays use advanced wood carving techniques and styles to decorate furniture. So, if you have an artistic mind, it will be best to dabble in wood carving to give life to your creative woodworking ideas.

Steps on Starting Your Wood Carving Project Instantly

As a beginner in wood carving, you need to know certain things about this craft. You need to familiarize yourself, for example, with the different types of wood carving and wood carving tools. You also need to know which wood is best for wood carving. Below is a rundown of the things you need to learn and do when engaging in wood carving:

Step 1: Planning

Stephen R. Covey once said that everything is created twice: first, in mind, then in reality. I would readily agree with Mr. Covey. Besides, what he says is also applicable to wood carving. To create a remarkable wood carving, you must plan your wood carving pattern. 

You can’t just grab your carving tools and chisel out a shape out of the raw wood. You must start with a concept, a plan to guide you on how to proceed with your carving. 

You can utilize print-out pictures or carved pattern stencils as your reference point when carving. You can also use sharpie marker pens to incise designs on the wood surface before using the other carving tools. 

Nevertheless, you should not let your marker pen leave a mark on your wood. Hence, it will be best to use a marker with a color that somewhat resembles the wood’s shade. 

Step 2: Begin Setting Up Your Wood-carving Workbench

As a wood carver, you will need a workbench wherein your wood carving activities are wrought. You don’t need an elaborate workbench complete with all the intricate features. It can be simple with a plywood top. 

Step 3: Learn How to use Wood Carving Tools

Wood carving tools come in wide varieties. Yet, the primary wood carving tools you will use are scoops and hook knives, chisels and mallets, gouges, skew and corner chisels, and long and short bent tools. Of course, the most common wood carving tools are chisels and mallets. 

It will help if you learn how to use these tools before you start carving. Get the hang of their usage and practice until you get the feel of every wood carving tool you have.

The wood carving tools you must have are: carving knife set and blades, carver’s mallet, gouge, veiner, V-tool, riffler, sharpie marker or pencil, ruler, sandpaper (finer grade), skew or corner chisel, coping saw, and fishtail. 

Step 4: Practice Drawing Your Design

As a beginner, you need to practice tracing your design on the wood. Perfecting the art of tracing your design on the wood is a good start. Use a pencil to trace your design on the wood and carefully follow your plan. Stay within the lines of your design so as not to veer off track when you use your carving tools. 

Sketch your designs as perfectly as possible, following your design’s measurements and dimensions. Besides, it will be best to use your imagination to create a 3D model of the design you want to manifest in the wood.

Step 5: Select the Right Tools to Use

If you have a limited budget, it will be best to settle for carving tools that can do multiple tasks. So, at the onset, it will be best to know which tools you would indeed need. If money is not an issue for you, you can splurge into buying various tools. 

But often, you will not need most of these tools. So, it is best to stick to those tools that could surely help you actualize your creative woodworking ideas. 

Step 6: Follow the Grain and Carve Along the Wood Grain

When using your tools, ensure you carve along the wood grain. This way, you can slice the wood sans splitting it. You can change direction if the wood exhibits a tendency to tear. 

Cutting the wood in the wrong direction will elicit a sound. If you hear such a sound, you must change the cutting direction.

Step 7: Hold Your Wood Firmly

You will find it hard to carve properly if the wood is moving. So, you need to ensure that the wood is immobile by clamping it onto your workbench. You can cut and shape using your knife if the wood is not moving. Besides, you must work safely and follow the necessary safety protocols to ensure you will not get injured when carving.

Types of Wood That Most Suitable Wood for Wood Carving Project

The best wood types for carving, of course, are those which are softer with tighter grain. As a beginner, you can start with softwood because it is easy to carve and allow you to make minimal mistakes. So, go for softwood if you want to get the hang of using your wood carving tools. Below are the three best wood types for beginners in wood carving:


Aspen is a whitewood that gets often utilized for construction framing. It gets classified as hardwood, but it is best for wood carving. Its uses range from matchsticks to artistic carvings. As a non-gum wood, it is perfect for wood carving. Besides, it is highly resistant to cracking or breaking. Hence, it is ideal for making pieces of carvings.


Basswood features fine grain, making it an ideal wood for beginners in wood carving. It is hardwood like the Aspen, yet it is soft and easy to manipulate. Other hardwoods, of course, are more difficult to carve and transform compared to Basswood. Besides, Basswood is not expensive, and for this reason, beginners can afford it.


Butternut is an excellent wood material for carving. It features straight grains with light tan color and incredible luster. It also has a minimal cracking tendency and is relatively stable. Moreover, it is easy to work with both hands and machine tools. The price of butternut is also within the mid-range of the price continuum.

Power Carving Tools You Can Use

You may not need power carving tools as a beginner, but as you progress in your wood carving endeavors, you might want to use power carving tools. These tools, of course, can complement your hand tools. 

Power carving tools like rotary tools can facilitate the carving process for you. Besides, you can use them to add depth and details to your wood carving projects. Rotary tools, however, are not expensive, and you can easily buy them.

Follow the Safety Protocols

When working with wood using power tools, you need to ensure your safety first. Avoid placing the wood on your lap as you tinker with it. Instead, position it on top of your workbench and clamp it. You should also use protective gear like safety goggles and dust masks or a ventilator. Moreover, you should use safety gloves to protect your hands. The best safety gloves are usually made of mesh steel which is often slice-proof. 

When using your tools, focus on what you’re doing. When carving using your knife, guide your knife away from you. Besides, you should always use a sharp knife because it is safer. 


By engaging in wood carving, you can transform formless raw wood into a work of art. It requires, however, practice to make a sculpture out of wood. Your first and second attempts might not be perfect. Over time, however, you will get the hang of using your wood carving tools and producing incredible wood carvings. 

You can start your wood carving project by choosing a chunk of wood that is best suited for the project size you would like to make. You can also laminate several wood pieces together to get to the right size for your project.

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