This page contains some basic advice for getting started in wood carving. Plans are underway to offer more extensive wood carving tutorials where I will share what I have learned in my years as a professional carver. Sign up for the newsletter in the sidebar for updates when new tutorials become available.
Recommended Books for Beginning Carvers
As someone who learned to carve without a teacher, books have played an important part in my learning process. I began carving using books by Master Carver Chris Pye as my guide. This one book in particular (shown on the right) was instrumental in getting me started.
Here are links to a selection of books by Chris Pye that I recommend as a good starting point for the beginning carver. Learn the basics of carving, information about tools and techniques, how to carve letters, and projects to get you started:
- Relief Carving In Wood: A Practical Introduction
- Chris Pye’s Woodcarving Course & Reference Manual: A Beginner’s Guide to Traditional Techniques
- Woodcarving Tools, Materials & Equipment
- Lettercarving in Wood: A Practical Course
- Wood Carving: Projects and Techniques
- Elements of Woodcarving
Also consider Chris Pye’s online Woodcarving Workshops video tutorials – well worth the subscription price!
Recommended Carving Tools
I use Pfeil carving tools almost exclusively, but there are many high quality brands of tools available. Chris Pye has worked with Auriou to develop a very fine line of professional carving tools, and tools made by Henry Taylor and Two Cherries are also excellent choices.
I have a written a blog post on selecting carving tools that provides more specifics, read it HERE.
Sharpening Skills and Tools:
Any carving tool is only as good as your sharpening skills. The following book has helped me understand the fundamentals of the important skill of sharpening:
The Perfect Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers
There are a few basic essentials needed for keeping your tools sharp. I use a two-sided leather strop, and charge one side with Tormek Honing Compound. Oil the leather on the rough side of the strop with Three-In-One oil and then work in this honing compound. Another useful strop is the Flexcut SlipStrop, with profiles that fit a range of shapes on smaller tool profiles. You can use the stropping compound that comes with it, which is good, or load it with the Tormek compound for an even better finish.
You can also make similar honing strops using scrap leather attached to various diameter hardwood dowels. You can purchase honing film in several grades, much like superfine sandpaper, and attach these to dowels as well for quick and easy touch up of tool edges. Lee Valley and Woodcraft carry these, and you can find similar sanding films at auto parts stores.
I often use sloyd style knives with carving projects – they are a very handy addition to the carving tool collection and aren’t just for whittling! These three blade styles by Morakniv will provide you with a range of carving options: 106, 120 & 122.
Abegglen Detail Knives
One of my favorite tools for shaping and rough carving is the Abegglen detail knife made by Pfeil. It comes in three sizes, listed below, and you can see it in action HERE and HERE.
Pencils for Woodcarving
Not just any pencil will do when it comes to woodcarving – read my recommendations for the best pencils and erasers for a range of tasks by clicking HERE.
Many tools and supplies for wood carving can be purchased online from these websites:
- Woodcraft: Offer a wide selection of Pfiel tools and other carving resources.
- Lee Valley: Where you can find the Veritas line carving vise, among other great tools.
- Rockler: Offers a wide range of tools and woodworking materials.
(I do not receive any compensation for making these recommendations.)
Wood Carving Pattern
You can purchase one of my favorite carving designs as a digital download through the Ninth Wave Designs Etsy shop – Intertwined Hearts Wood Carving Pattern & Guide is a 30-page full-color PDF that includes two versions of the pattern, 20 reference photos, a project outline, and lots of helpful tips to create a Celtic inspired wall hanging of two intertwined knotwork hearts.
This wood carving pattern resource includes 2 versions of the carving pattern for creating an Intertwined Hearts wall hanging. There are 20 reference photos showing examples of the different stages of the carving process, from different angles and different species of wood. Also included is an outline of the steps to follow to plan your carving project.
This carving pattern and guide is for an experienced beginner or intermediate carver, and assumes you already know the basics of wood carving. The included support materials will serve as a helpful guide through your project, guiding you through the process of creating a successful carving.