Wood carving varies in intensity from detailed whittling to larger hand work, and on the more experienced end of the spectrum, lathe work. A basic set of tools will prepare the novice woodcarver for advancement through increasingly intricate levels of wood carving.
The essential hand tools for wood carving and their descriptions are as follows:
- Carving knives are used for whittling and fine detail work. They are sold in a wide range of sizes to accommodate the size of the user and the project.
- Chisels are used for creating clean edges and chipping away wood, and are often sold in sets of different blade widths. The sharp cutting edge is isolated to the very end of the chisel blade while the rest of the blade and handle provide leverage.
- Gouges are used for removing larger sections of wood and to make rounded channels, gouges are similar to chisels except they have a curved blade.
- Mallets are used for tapping the chisels and gouges, mallets usually come in rubber and wooden materials. For most uses, rubber mallets are recommended and are more durable.
- Planes are used for leveling and smoothing surfaces, planes vary in size from palm-sized to a foot across. The size of the project will largely determine the size of the plane.
- Clamps are used to keep wood in place on the work bench to prevent unfortunate slips and accidents when carving. C-clamps and bench vice clamps will suffice for most clamping needs, while more specialized clamps may be needed for more intricate or particular projects.
The novice wood worker should anticipate paying a good amount for basic wood carving tools. While they are simple, it is important that the tools purchased are high quality. Comfortable handles are essential. Buying cheap tools will result in blisters and sores, impeding one’s ability to carve. Furthermore, good tools will last for many lifetimes if well-maintained.
The edges of chisels, gauges, and knives are best maintained by careful storage and consistent sharpening. When storing, wood carving tools should be kept out of extreme temperatures, especially if they have wooden handles, and should be hung up or stored in a drawer with compartments or cloth to keep the tools separate. Allowing the tools to bang against one another in an unorganized drawer will dull the edges quickly. However, even with proper storage the edges will dull making for dangerous, imprecise work. It is important, therefore, to regularly sharpen the edges. Sharpening is a precise and difficult job requiring expert knowledge. In the beginning, it is wisest to have a professional tool sharpener handle the job and to gain knowledge on the task along the way.
With these basic tools, and the most important tool of all, patience, any novice will be on their way to wood carving beautiful works.