The beauty of hand carving is its accessibility; anyone who can safely handle a sharp knife can easily get started with the carving basics especially using starter kits. Once your first project is complete, it’s all about practice and then honing the different techniques of textures and detailing. So how to get started?
Hand Carving Health & Safety
Always supervise children when handling carving tools, they are extremely sharp.
A carving glove is a good addition to your kit, while it won’t prevent all cuts and scrapes, it should prevent most.
Keep your tools in good sharp condition, you’re more likely to slip on the wood with a dull knife than a sharp one.
What size projects will you be working on?
If the work can be hand held such as caricatures or tableware, palm tools are a good starting point. Palm tools are shorter in length, offering better control since the cutting edge is closer to the controlling hand. They fit conveniently in the palm of one hand while the other can hold the work. This method is not always recommended for safety reasons, many carvers use this method with a carving glove.
Beginners should always clamp the work to a stable surface and keep both hands behind the tools cutting edge. Larger projects up to 12-15 inches can be done with palm tools using wider profile sizes.
Larger projects, such as architectural details or furniture, may require mallet tools. They are called mallet tools because they can be pushed through large amounts of waste wood with the aid of a heavy mallet. Mallet work requires a very stable work surface and clamping system to avoid the project moving while being repeatedly struck.
What type of wood to use? Hard or soft?
Generally, the harder the wood the more force that is required to push carving tools through it. Many wood carvers find that using mallet tools for carving hardwoods allows for better control. A mallet provides a short, high impact blow to the tool which moves the tool, in a more controlled stroke.
Detailing a wood carving, especially small ones or using a softer wood can be done with palm tools as the cuts being made are small and do not require a lot of force.
How to start my carving tool collection.
Sets of tools are the most economical way to buy tools. Flexcut sets are designed primarily by the size of the project to be carved. Most of these sets contain a #3, #5, #8 and a V-tool which covers most carving situations. Larger sets will contain these same tools, however, they will include a wider variety of sizes. The larger the set the greater the savings. Most sets won’t contain tools designed for specific cuts, that are generally difficult to make with another type of tool.
Some Flexcut Tool Sets are made specifically for beginners and contain basic woodcarving instructions along with a small starter project. These sets are very portable and less expensive than fixed handled tools. They also offer the user an option to upgrade to power carving if the need arises.
For beginners, it’s best starting with a tools set for your project and adding to the collection as needed.
If this has sparked an interest in carving, discover the differences of hand and power carving.