Learn to Carve
It seems that everyone loves to learn more about wood carving, from those just starting out, to the professionals who earn their living in the field. In a sense, the entire Wood Carver Online site is dedicated to helping with that passion to learn by presenting a comprehensive collection of the best wood carving resources available on the web and elsewhere.
For the experienced carver, we suggest that you simply jump right into the Carving Articles, Carving Projects, Publications and all the other areas of the site.
On the other hand, if you are relatively new to carving, the sheer number of ways to learn and the vast quantity of information available can sometimes lead to overload. To help you get stared, we have used our personal experiences to make some suggestions.
Where to start
First you should consider which type of carving you want to do. We like to break down carving into four major types; relief carving, whittling, chip carving, and carving in the round. Within each of these types, you can then choose the item that you'd like to carve.
The following definition are to help you get a basic understanding of each type of carving:
Relief Carving: Relief carving is a sculptural form in which figures are carved in a flat panel of wood. The figures project only slightly from the background rather than standing freely. Depending on the degree of projection, reliefs may also be classified as high or medium relief.
Relief carving can be described as "carving pictures in wood". The process of relief carving involves removing wood from a flat wood panel in such a way that an object appears to rise out of the wood. From Wikipedia: to read more about relief carving, click here.
Whittling: Whittling is carving but only using a knife. And since you don't have the use of some of the more common carving tools (chisels, gouges and mallets), the removal of wood and subsequent shaping of your final object is done with different types of knife cuts.
Chip Carving: This style of carving involves using knives or chisels to remove small chips of wood from a flat board often in a geometric pattern thereby creating a surface a reflects light in the shape of the design.
Carving in the round: Carving in the round is the often consideered the most complex type of carving. This type of carving creates 3-dimensional objects and is the type of carving used to create caricatures.
In general, you do not need a lot of tools to start carving. One knife will get you started. In fact, an X-Acto Knife from the local hardware or craft store wiil do. Depending on the type of wood carving you've choosen to pursue, you may need additional tools. There are many company's that make wonderful wood carving tools. They can be purchased from large National retailers like Woodcraft or from a wide range of wood carving specific retailers.
However, no matter what tool you choose to use to carve wood, it must be sharp to work and to be safe! Learning to sharpen your tools (other than the replaceable blade types) is of paramount importance!
The preferred woods for beginners are: basswood, aspen and butternut. Basswood and aspen are white and butternut is brown. These woods are available from the from large National retailers like Woodcraft, wood carving specific retailers and a wide range of wood suppliers.
Whatever you do, don't start carving on an old piece of lumber from the garage or other "found" wood as you will probably just get discouraged. I would also suggest that you don't start with a hardwood, such as maple, cherry, or walnut which are woods that are often easily available. They are just too hard for beginners to use with knives. Your first experiences should be pleasant, positive and successful.
How to Learn
You can teach yourself to carve, many people are naturals. And there are lots of ressources available on the Internet between project tutorials and DVDs, but we think that it's much easier when you can learn from someone that has made all the mistakes before. To this end, we encourage you to seek out an experienced carver.
You can find experienced carvers that are willing to help you by joining a local wood carving club. We have listed many of them here. You can also locate one from their web site by looking at our carver web sites page, here.
Another extremely successful way to learn how to carve is to attend formal classes. There are many fine wood carving courses and schools around the world. We have an extensive list of them here.
Most wood carving safety issues can be considered common sense. But for most of us, this is not always apparent. So, it's crititcal to be thinking safety at all times. We highly recommend reading all the safety articles that you can find to prepare yourself for the types of things that can go wrong. By doing this, you'll be able to recognize a situation that would lead to an unsafe action.
You can also prevent injury by considering special protective equipment and keeping your tools sharp.
Thumb guards are usually made of a rubber elastic back and leather front. You wear them on the thumb of your carving hand and they protect you from a slip of the knife. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase and are worth the investment.
Also consider purchasing a carving glove that has Kevlar in it. These gloves can block cuts which can injure your hand. A knife can pierce them, so you still need to be careful but they are also worth the minor investment.
Sharp knives are the safest to cut with. You are more likely to get cut with a dull blade than with a sharp one. Sharper knives cut efficiently through the wood and don't catch, which can cause them to slip and cut you.
We update our home page about once a month to feature a new project, a new article, and a new and hot tool. Then we create a newsletter to alert our subscribers.
We never let anyone use our list, and our subscribers have been wonderfully loyal as a result.
We hope you will try it out!
Click Here To Sign Up For Our Newsletter