May 5, 2021

Wood Carving Ideas for Beginners An Exhaustive Guide

Wood Carving Ideas for Beginners

Woodcarving is a prevalent skill to start learning. It is well known for producing a sense of harmony and peace, thereby providing a therapeutic experience for your creative side. This release is essential and necessary for many people worldwide, but the biggest challenge is getting into it.

You will find that 90% of a problem is merely getting started. However, sometimes, things seem very challenging. This article will dive into what you would need to know as a beginner starting in woodcarving. By creating, I mean you have never heard about it or seen it—a total beginner.

We will start looking at the tools you might need as a beginner and provide a short bit on how best you can maintain them. We will also discuss some of the best projects that beginners often take up at the beginning of their journey. These would be some great options to consider for someone who wants to get a feel for the hobby.

Let us begin.

Carving Styles

Even though it might look like It, carving wood does not just involve getting a knife and hacking at a piece of wood. Instead, it is a well-decorated profession that carries with it a significant number of subsections in terms of the carving methods that you can begin to undertake.

These methods all vary depending on the tools you use and the product you expect to achieve. These two are the top ones to consider as a beginner.


This is by far a beginner’s choice. It is the closest thing you could get to the idea you have in your head around what wood carving is. You perform this method with a tiny piece of wood and shave off wood shards. You continue to do this until you see a shape coming out, and then you can smooth it out.

See our whittling for beginners guide.

You will find that this is one of the main all-purpose wood carving methods around. If you do not have a large amount of space around you, this is the best option. It is also a great one to do if you only have one tool, which is very common among beginners because they have not yet invested.

Relief Carving

This option is for the inner artist in all of us. When looking at relief carving, you are required to get a wooden panel of pretty much any size you like and then begin to carve patterns all along the top part of this board. If, for example, you are an artist who enjoys drawing or painting, then this is something that might be well suited to you. This is because you will be taking a knife and drawing on the surface of this wooden board to achieve an artistic item of sorts.

This also does not require a large amount of complex and professional tools to get the job done. Another good advantage of this type of style is that you can do it with any size of wood. Therefore, you do not need a large amount of space.

Maintaining your tools

Depending on the level of professionality that you want to express in your art, the tools you have become relevantly pertinent. By this, I mean that, as with every craft around the world, you must maintain your tools if you wish to succeed.

Whichever tool you choose to use to begin your woodcarving makes sure that it is not dull. This will only damage the type of wood you are using and frustrate you to the point that you might entirely drop the hobby.

If you have a bit of extra money lying around, it is a good idea for you to go online and buy yourself a wood carving set. This will go a long way in improving the enjoyment you receive from this activity and bumping up the therapeutic experience.

The collection of knives that you buy should come with a knife sharpener. This will be important to maintain the quality of your fork and the art projects that you can pull out.

Sharpening your tools

Let us assume that you have decided to get a bit more serious about this, and you invest in a wood carving set, but now those tools are starting to go rusty. How do you go about cleaning them?

See How To Sharpen Chisels on a Bench Grinder

One of the best ways for you to clean those tools is by using a water-dampened towel or cloth. However, we recommend that you use warm water and a small amount of soap for the job—never use hot water when working with wood because it can damage the tool.

Choosing which project to start

Now that you have your set of tools ready, a beginner can find themselves wondering which projects to start with.

Many people begin by chopping up little pieces of wood and observing what happens when they are cut. Let us say that you want to carve a little object. You should use the whittling method to start and then gradually make it bigger over time.

Carving the wood

Now that you have your first project, what is the best way to maintain it?

While you continue to work on this project, now and then, take a look at how your knife has been holding up.

It is crucial to note that you want to use a light hand when you are knifing your wood. You do not want to press on the wood too hard because this can damage the knife blade.

How to use a knife

You are required to learn how to use a knife properly and how to sharpen it after a period of use.

You can do this by using a whetstone and then cutting on your stone until you have reached a point where the blade is sharp enough. This is an important skill because if your blade becomes dull all of the time, you will lose the ability to carve wood effectively.

Tips for beginners

Tools should always be kept in good condition and prepared for their next session. As this hobby grows in popularity, more and more equipment comes to market, but the basic tools are easy to locate.

Carvers use a knife with a metal blade which is used for the initial creation of a design in the wood. Knife blades can be as long as 6″ (150mm) depending on the type of knife being used, and each blade has its own specific purpose.

Loose parts of the carving are secured with glue or other adhesives to create solid sculptures, such as heads or hands.

How to use a chisel

The chisel is another tool that you can use to carve wood. Carvers use it in the secondary stages of carving, creating outlines with a sharp blade. The shape of the chisel tip can vary, depending on the type of work being undertaken.

The bow rasp is an extremely versatile tool for making curved cuts and deep grooves in the wood and other soft materials.

A sculptor or carver uses a mallet to hammer the chisel into place when making deep scores or cuts in stone or wood.

Wood Carving Safety

Many things must be taken into consideration when using carving knives or any tools. Safety is a must for all carvers as well as the material on which they are working.

Wood is a very sharp material and must be handled with care, especially while carving. Carving knives should be kept in a case for safety and not left out or used carelessly where they can injure anyone. Another important piece of equipment that should always be available for every workspace is the dust mask and goggles.

Wood carving patterns

There are many patterns for wood carving from which a carver can choose. A person may choose to carve an intricate design that has a deep symbolism or meaning to them. One of the most common woodcarving patterns is a simple heart shape, which usually means love in English.

The signature of each work can be stamped or engraved into the wood and used as a signature for the artist.

Wood carving tools

Wood carving tools are very much similar to that of the tools used for metalworking and sculpting. There are chisels used to make a deep cut or a shallow groove in the wood or stone. Sculptors often use mallets and hammers, and various carving knives to put deep grooves into wood or stone.

This is another way to carve wood by first cutting out the carving shape on a piece of cardboard or plastic, then using the pattern as a guide to making it into the wood.

Projects to try

Mythical Creatures

If you are looking to create something quite artistic that you can preserve and keep somewhere on display in your house as a souvenir for your efforts, then little mythical figures such as gnomes, wizards, and dragons are always a fabulous way to start.

This is because they can often be made small enough to allow you the perfect experience with wood carving. It will not require too much strength nor too many tools to get going. You will also focus on the level of detail that you want to achieve if you have the right set of tools. This is good practice, to begin with.


Suppose you want to build something that you can be proud of using on a day-to-day basis. Then why not try making a couple of utensils as a starting point for your new hobby. This is a great and practical idea to try out for beginners since you do not need a large amount of wood and you will feel inspired by using something you made every day when you eat your cereal.

Carving out a spoon will often not take you a lot of time, and it can be easily smoothed out and hollowed out. Therefore, it is quite a simple and straightforward thing that you can carve out and preserve.


A simple wooden sign could be a great way to get you started. This would merely require a flat wooden board that you could quickly get a knife and begin to carve on. Many beginners have started with this and made beautiful signs for the front of their homes.

Comforting and motivational wooden posters provide a natural and calm aesthetic to homes. Consider this if you are looking for something simple and easy to do to get a hobby.


The first thing that you must not forget as we conclude this article is that you must be well prepared for any craft you wish to undertake. Make sure that you have at least some of the right tools if you want to get going to provide you with something close enough to the experience.

This will give you quite a bit of motivation and information regarding whether you want to continue with this hobby. It would help if you also were careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Start with something straightforward and easy to draft, like a sign or a small utensil. Starting with something difficult may prove too hard and throw you off wood carving completely.

References and Further Reading

Rivett, P. (2006). Wood Carving Today: A Hands-on Guide to History, Tools, and Techniques. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Letras en el Arte. (2016). Letras en el arte | Es una herramienta profesional para el aprendizaje de las letras y ortografía [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 2 Jan. 2017].

Shah, D. (2011). The Art of Carving Signs: Decorative Techniques for Carving Wood Signs. available here.

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