Facts About Basic Woodcarving Tools

by on January 17th, 2011
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One of the oldest creative techniques, woodcarving, dates back thousands of years to antiquity. The earliest known woodcarvings are Egyptian artifacts. If you’re considering taking up this ancient craft, you may be astonished at the number of tools available. These include knives, chisels, files, drills and power tools. You need only a few basic tools, however, to start making your own woodcarving art.

Cutting Tools

As a woodcarver, you will cut into wood pieces to create unique shapes and designs. The size and style of the cuts you desire will determine what tool to use, whether it’s a carving knife, a chisel or a gouge. A carving knife is a handheld bladed instrument about the size of a hobby knife. It’s the most indispensable tool for woodcarving, and you’ll use it continuously for scoring wood and detail work. A chisel has a rectangular-shaped blade with a flat, sharp edge at the tip. Use chisels for incising straight lines or removing chunks of wood from projects. Gouges are similar to chisels but with a semicircular blade. A gouge allows you to cut curves and other rounded shapes easily.

Sharpening Tools

Using a dull tool can cause serious personal injury and damage your project. The amount of exertion required to use a blunt tool makes it more likely that you’ll make a mistake or cut yourself. Your tools are only as trustworthy as their edges are sharp. Keep tools sharpened by using a strop and sharpening stones. Sharpening stones are available in varying degrees of coarseness. Some stones require oil or water lubrication while others are used dry. Use stones to grind a sharpened edge on cutting tools and use a strop to hone the edge to acute sharpness.


A mallet used for woodcarving is a striking tool with a blunt head like a hammer. The mallet handle is typically made of wood, whereas the striking surface is usually rubber. Using a mallet adds force to the cutting action of a chisel or gouge. This helps decrease the energy you exert, making it less likely to lose control of the cutting tool.

Power Tools

Although many people still practice traditional woodcarving with manual tools, the advent of power tools has offered exciting opportunities for woodcarvers. Power woodcarving tools allow carvers to produce finished work more efficiently than hand tools. New tools are often developed for carving projects, which enable carvers to produce finished work quicker than ever before. A power woodcarver’s workshop includes tools for a number of uses, from cutting raw material to a generalized shape to highly detailed finish work. These power tools include chain saws, industrial rotary carvers, reciprocating saws, grinders, sanders, drills and handheld rotary tools.

Safety Equipment

The proper safety equipment can make the difference between a harmless mistake and needing stitches. Because you’ll be working with sharpened blades, hand protection is a must. One solution is wearing work gloves, such as flexible safety gloves made of Kevlar and stainless steel. If you don’t want to sacrifice dexterity, however, consider wearing a thumb guard. This is similar to a leather work glove but fits over your thumb. You wear a thumb guard on your knife hand, which protects that digit from accidental slips.

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