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Common Hand Carving Tools

If you’re just beginning in hand carving, it’s best to be patient. People spend years as beginners and the process is fraught with frustration at times. One way to help your chances, of course, is by using the right tools. Read on for a list and descriptions of the most common hand carving tools.

Chip Carving Knife

The most basic tool in your arsenal will be the chip carving knife. If you could trace back the roots of wood carving, it would involve an individual with a piece of wood and a sharp object to work it with. You’ll want a knife with a shorter blade, about 1 ½’’ long. This blade should also be high carbon steel that can hold an edge.

Chip Carving Knife
photo credit: What is in us via photopin cc

U and V-Gouges

Gouges look like chisels that have been bent to a specific shape. For U-gouges, their shape is a smooth “u.” A V-gouge has a sharp center and resembles a “v.” Both of these are used to peel swaths of wood away from your piece. They can also be used to provide shape and contours. There are other kinds of gouges too, such as bent and spoon gouges.

Wood Carving Gouges
photo credit: danja. via photopin cc

A Mallet

In order to work these gouges, you’ll need a reliable mallet. There are several different kinds of mallet with unique shapes. Simply put, a mallet is a hammer at its crudest. It’s a handle attached to a large head meant for connecting with the butt of a gouge to drive it through the wood. Generally, the head of a mallet is either made out of wood or rubber.

Wood Carving Mallets
photo credit: Denish C via photopin cc

Band Saw

A band saw is a huge advantage for a woodworker looking to make precise cuts or follow a stencil. The blade is long and thin and in the shape of a loop. An electric motor sends the blade through two wheels. Between these wheels is where you place your wood to be carved.

A Bandsaw is a handy tool for starting your wood carving project
photo credit: banger1977 via photopin cc

Drill Press

If you want your wood carving to have holes, you can’t have a better tool for the job than a drill press. The name pretty much says it all. It has a drill bit that hovers over a platform where you set your wood. Then you simply adjust the height of the bit so it can come down and drill through. Drill presses can also be fitted with sanding drums and other accessories.

Belt Sander

When you’re done carving your piece, you’ll often want it to have a nice smooth finish. While you can certainly put the time and elbow grease into sanding the piece down, there’s a much easier solution. A belt sander hands off the hard part to electricity while you merely hold the different surfaces of your piece up to the sander to be smoothed.

Chain Saw

If you intend on carving large pieces, you’ll probably find a chain saw to be an invaluable tool. Large pieces of wood can be a burden to work through just to get your rough cut. But a chainsaw can make quick, efficient work of the matter.

A chainsaw will extract your project piece from raw timber
photo credit: dvs via photopin cc


As you’ve probably noticed, the majority of these tools could be dangerous if a mistake was made. This is especially the case when you consider how useless they are unless you keep them extremely sharp. So always be conscious of what you’re doing when woodworking and keep your hands clear of the blade’s motion. Safety glasses are important too, in order to protect your eyes from debris.
When you first begin woodworking, you may want to stick to nothing more than a knife and some whittling. Like many crafts, there is no shortage of tools you could buy for your practice. In the beginning, however, stick with the first tool on this list and work your way down. But always remember to keep safety a priority.


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