Woodcarving requires a basic set of tools including carving knives, chisels, gouges, mallets, planes, and clamps. High-quality tools with comfortable handles are important for safety and longevity. Proper storage and consistent sharpening are also necessary for safe and precise work. Patience is the most important tool for beginners.
Woodcarving ranges in intensity from detailed milling to the greatest handwork and, at the more skilled end of the spectrum, the lathe. A basic set of tools will prepare the novice carver for advancement through increasingly intricate levels of wood carving.
The essential hand tools for wood carving and their descriptions are as follows:
Carving knives are used for fine detailing and chopping work. They are sold in a wide range of sizes to suit the size of the user and the project.
Chisels are used to create clean edges and chip wood and are often sold in sets of different blade widths. The sharp cutting edge is insulated to the end of the chisel blade, while the rest of the blade and handle provide leverage.
Gouges are used to remove larger sections of wood and to create rounded channels, gouges are similar to chisels except they have a curved blade.
Mallets are used to tap chisels and gouges, mallets are usually made of rubber and wood materials. For most uses, rubber mallets are recommended and are more durable.
Planes are used to level and smooth surfaces, the planes range in size from a palm to a foot. The size of the project will largely determine the size of the aircraft.
The clamps are used to hold the wood in place on the workbench to prevent unfortunate slips and accidents while carving. C-clamps and bench vises are sufficient for most clamping needs, while more specialized clamps may be required for more complex or unique projects.
The novice carpenter should anticipate paying a good deal for basic woodcarving tools. Although they are simple, it is important that the tools you buy are of high quality. Comfortable handles are essential. Buying cheap tools will result in blisters and sores, impeding your ability to carve. Also, good tools will last for many lifetimes if well maintained.
The edges of chisels, calipers, and knives are best kept by careful storage and consistent sharpening. When storing, wood carving tools should be kept away from extreme temperatures, especially if they have wooden handles, and should be hung or placed in a drawer with compartments or a cloth to keep the tools separate. Allowing tools to bang against each other in a messy drawer dulls edges quickly. However, even with proper storage, the edges will dull making work dangerous and imprecise. Therefore, it is important to sharpen the edges regularly. Sharpening is a precise and difficult job that requires expert knowledge. In the beginning, it’s wiser to have a professional knife sharpener to handle the job and gain knowledge about the task along the way.
With these basic tools, and the most important tool of all, patience, any beginner will be well on their way to making beautiful wood carving jobs.