If you’re interested in getting started with wood carving, one of the things that you’ll want to do first is familiarize yourself with the different types of woodcarving tools. In this post we’ll share the most common woodcarving tools you might encounter and their uses.
Woodcarving requires a few specialized tools along with a few basic pieces that serve multiple purposes. Simple projects may require little more than a carving knife and a band saw, while more complex jobs will benefit from a few select power tools.
Here is a rundown of some of the tools you may find useful if you are interested in woodcarving as a hobby or a part-time job. You probably won’t need all of them, of course. But if you are serious about taking up wood carving as a career, it would help to have as many of these tools as possible.
Wood carving knives and chisels
Knives and chisels are among the most useful tools in a wood carver’s arsenal. Even when you acquire more powerful electric and gas-driven tools, you will still find many of these handy.
Chip carving knife
A good chip carving knife should be your first purchase as a budding woodcarver. Essential for whittling and chip carving, it will continue to be useful even when you move up to power tools.
Chip carving knives have blades that typically measure about 1 ½”. Their handles are designed to give you a secure and comfortable grip. The best knives have high carbon steel blades that retain their edge longer.
Carpenter’s chisels are characterized by flat edges. They are better suited for general woodcarving than precision sculpting because the flat design often causes the user to dig into the wood too much. They can therefore be a bit imprecise for delicate sculpting work.
That being said, some sculptors favor carpenter’s chisels for this very quality. For some art pieces, the crude appearance produced by these tools may be desirable.
Gouges are just as essential for woodcarving as knives. These particular types of gouges are classed according to the cutting edge’s width. You can also choose U-gouges according to sweep, which refers to the degree of curvature, and the shaft shape, which may be straight, bent, or spoon-like.
V-gouges are classed according to the top edge’s width in relation to the bottom edge’s angle. They perform similar functions as U-gouges but are better suited for intricate work or jobs requiring a smaller cutting edge.
Bent and spoon gouges
Bent and spoon gouges are specialized gouges that are often used when working on tight or inaccessible sections of a workpiece. In most cases, these tools can easily reach areas where inserting a straight gouge isn’t possible or could damage the surrounding sections of the wood.
Bent gouges usually have a shaft that is curved all throughout. Spoon gouges are characterized by a deeply bent section that resembles a spoon.
There are also back-bent gouges in which the spoon section is reversed. This makes it easier to perform specific tasks where a concave gouge could damage the wood.
Skewed or skew chisels have angled cutting edges tilted back about 45° from the leading edge. They are typically used to smooth and clean the corners of dovetail joints. They are also useful for precision paring work and finishing joinery and the end grains of workpieces.
Palm gouges are often used in conjunction with chip carving knives to make precise carvings in softwood. They are better suited for working on small areas of a wooden workpiece that a larger gouge could easily damage.
Mallets aren’t cutting tools, but they are just as essential for woodworking as knives, chisels, and gouges. They are usually cylindrically-shaped and made of dense and heavy hardwood.
Mallets also come in rubber versions that won’t mar chisel handles and are quieter to use. Although they aren’t as powerful as wooden mallets, some woodcarvers prefer them for the spring back, making subsequent swings easier.
Powered wood carving tools
Power tools aren’t just for professional woodworkers. Even hobbyists and part-timers can benefit from the speed, accuracy, and power that these tools provide.
Foredom flexible shaft tool
Foredom flexible shaft tools have motors that range in power from ⅛ HP to 14 HP. Some of the most powerful models can spin at maximum speeds of 20,000 RPM, which makes it quick and easy to remove large amounts of stock.
As the name implies, these tools have flexible shafts that protrude from the motor, ending in a handpiece on which you could connect different bits and burrs. The speed of the motor is adjustable via a foot-operated pedal.
Foredom tools can be used for a wide range of wood shaping and texturing tasks. They can speed up carving considerably and reach into tight spots that wouldn’t accommodate most chisels. They can also shape wood easily regardless of grain direction, making it possible to create textures that wouldn’t be possible with other tools.
Burrs are specialized cutting attachments that are commonly used with rotating power tools to cut into wood and other material. They come in many shapes and sizes and usually serve multiple purposes. For example, single and double-cut carbide burrs, which are typically used for cutting metal, can be used to cut wood as well.
Burrs used for texturing wood are usually made of tungsten carbide or have industrial diamond tips. These types of burrs allow for precision carving and texturing that wouldn’t be possible with standard attachments.
Band saws work via a system of pulleys connected to two motor-driven wheels. As the wheels turn, they move a loop with a long, thin blade attached to it.
Hobbyist woodworkers may not have much use for a band saw, but they can be very useful for larger wood carving projects. T
hey are especially effective at cutting off large sections of scrap wood, saving you the trouble of chopping them off by hand.
Band saws also make it possible to perform precise cuts on large workpieces, which would be difficult to do with handheld tools.
Drill presses can be essential add-ons to your woodcarving arsenal. These tools are commonly used to drill holes precisely into workpieces, but they can also be used to perform sanding and texturing tasks with the right attachments.
Belt sanders are some of the most useful woodworking tools around. Although they may not be essential for small jobs and basic wood carving, they can quickly become indispensable once you move up to more complex tasks.
Belt sanders are multipurpose tools that can be used for a wide range of jobs. From precision trimming to sanding rough surfaces, leveling, and even freehand shaping, there are very few jobs that a belt sander can’t do.
Planer and joiner
Planers and joiners can be useful for wood surfacing jobs, which involve flattening large workpieces’ surfaces. Precise flattening is essential if you need to laminate pieces of board onto larger wood blocks to carve them.
Although planers and joiners are indispensable if you routinely do a lot of laminating work, they aren’t essential for most woodcarving tasks. If you need milled boards only occasionally, you might be better off just asking your wood supplier to mill them for you beforehand.
Chainsaws are commonly used to cut down trees and cut through large pieces of timber, but they can be useful for woodcarving as well. A smaller chain saw might be the ideal option for large workpieces that would be difficult or impossible to cut with standard wood carving tools.
Chain saws may be powered by electricity or rechargeable batteries. Although battery-operated models are useful for their portability and convenience, electric-powered models are better suited for large jobs or cutting into hardwood.
I hope this overview of different wood carving tools and their uses is helpful for you! What wood carving tools do you use the most often? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!