How To Get Started Woodcarving

How To Get Started Woodcarving

Chipping Away has helped thousands of people of all ages how to get started woodcarving. 

Pop thinks you should have a basic knowledge of woodcarving before you get started!

It helps to know the different styles of wood carving.  There are four main styles of woodcarving and the same tools are not always used for each.  Therefore it is necessary for you to choose the style of carving you want to begin with so you will know what tools and instruction books you need.  We will describe them here and offer some suggestions for getting started.  Then once you have chosen a particular style, we suggest you look through in our “Wood Carving Books”  section for various topics that will help you get started. in your chosen style.


This is perhaps the oldest style of woodcarving and is done with a carving knife. When the carving is completed you can see each ‘knife stroke’ rather than a smooth or sanded surface. Some carvers, although using mainly a knife for whittling, also use a V-tool. If you look closely at the images on the right, you can see the knife strokes. Whittling Knives may have a “fixed handle” or a “folding pocket knife” style.  Not all pocket knives are good for whittling though ….many are too dangerous and of poor quality.

If Whittling is the style you are interested in, then see our Product Index under the heading of “Beginner Woodcarving Carving Kits“. For information on Carving Knives, see our Product Index under the heading of “Carving Knives” for some suggestion. Sometimes people use the term ‘whittling’ and ‘carving’ in the same context, but they are different art forms.  Carving employs the use of Gouges, V-tools, Chisels and other carving tools. I will explain gouges and chisels a littler later.

 carvings_whittle_fisherman  apple
Apple with bite takencarvings_dog



This is a carving that is completed in its entirety and generally has a more ‘lifelike’ surface and texture.  However, having said that, most caricature carvings show various tool marks but differ from whittling in their complete definition and amount of detail.  A carving-in-the-round might be of any topic; it might be big, or small; it might be to scale or life size and may be painted, stained or left natural.

A knife by itself cannot produce the desired results in a carving of this type. The carver will need a variety of shapes and sizes of tools. These tools may be hand-tools such as gouges, chisels, etc. or the carving may be completed using power-tools and various shapes of blades, burs, abrasive points, etc. The Indigo Bunting shown here also employed the use of a woodburner for fine detailing and texturing of the feathers.

Carving-in-the-round and Relief Carving use not only a carving knife but also chisels, gouges, etc. To understand these tools just click here!





Relief carvings have a flat back and the image is carved in three dimension. This style is often used for scenes, but can be a carving of any subject and is usually displayed by hanging on a wall.  A relief carving can be defined as ‘high relief’ or ‘low relief’ depending upon how much it is raised from the back.  Most relief carving is done with hand tools, but power tools can also be employed – especially for quick removal of background material. Crests are a common form of relief carving. As with other styles, relief carvings may be painted, stained, or left natural.


  One fellow asked me if they were called “relief carvings” because of the emotion felt when it was finished.   Eagle relief carving by Andre Breau; Old Fisherman carving by Quebec Folk Artist;  Relief Bust (the Patriot) by Neil Cox


Chip knives are used to remove selected ‘chips’ of wood.  In theory, chip carvings have just two levels: the wood surface, and the point beneath the surface where the cuts meet. Patterns can be of a free form style or based on geometric shapes such as triangles, circles, lines and curves. While chip carving is one of the most simple styles of carving, it is also the most precise and requires considerable practice to become skilled. Pop is widely known as an authority on Chip Carving.  His books have been published in Canada, USA, France and Russia. In fact, Chipping Away Inc was started on the basis Pop’s and his Son, Todd, skill in chip carving.  This Decorative plate was painted first and then chip carved.

We suggest you take a minute to learn and understand woodcarving chisels, gouges, v-tools, etc.

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