Carving is one of the most common activities that comes to mind when the average Joe thinks of woodworking. While there’s a lot of woodworking that doesn’t involve carving at all, the image of a woodworker coaxing out designs by hand with carving tools is a strong one. If you’ve never tried your hand at carving wood, it could unlock an entirely new way for you to approach your favorite hobby. If you think that sounds fun, let’s take a look at carving as an aspect of woodworking.

What Is Carving?

At its most basic, carving is simply changing the shape of a piece of wood by scraping a portion of the wood away. While this is typically done with wood carving tools such as hand chisels and carving knives, there are other tools that are sometimes used as well. Some carvers use electric rotary tools in their work! A few outliers even use chainsaws!

While larger chunks of wood are cut out in some projects, carving usually involves scraping free small portions of the wood repeatedly to create the desired shape or detail. Hand chisels and carving knives come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and configurations that let carvers create a variety of carving types. There are even special curved carving knives designed specifically to carve out concave areas such as the bowl of a spoon with smooth, even sides.

Learning to Carve

There are a variety of kits and beginner-level projects that woodworkers can use when learning how to carve. These projects often start with very simple carvings, creating basic shapes out of wood to get the learner accustomed to how the various carving tools work. Videos and even hands-on learning are available for those who want to see exactly how the tools should be held and used, though many entry-level projects and kits provide sufficient instruction to get you started as well.

Of course, it’s possible to learn to carve without the use of pre-made kits or tutorials. Those who already have woodworking experience may prefer to sketch out carving designs on soft wood and experiment to get a feel for how to create original carvings. This can be especially useful if they wish to use carvings to simply provide accents to other work as it lets them create and practice on designs similar to what they wish to use on production pieces.

Carving Safety

As with any woodworking, safety is important when carving. Tools should be kept in good condition, with periodic inspections to make sure that they aren’t rusted, chipped or otherwise damaged. Gloves should always be worn while carving to protect the hands, as should arm and eye protection. Just as you would with any woodwork that involves knives or other sharp objects, cuts and scrapes should be made away from the body instead of toward it to reduce the risk of accidental injury.

Should You Learn Carving?

Carving is a very scalable woodworking skill. With practice you can use it to add accents to other work, to create unique pieces carved from blocks of wood and you can even create art in ways that would be difficult with any other set of tools. More advanced carving techniques often take time and practice to master, but the end results are well worth the effort. For those who truly want to take their woodworking to the next level, carving is a must-have skill.

Do you have carving experience, or do you stick to other tools when working with wood?