Easy to carve wood: a detailed guide for beginners

Easy to carve wood: A Detailed Guide For Beginners WOOD BLOG

Each person has different talents, some acquired, others given by nature. In their desire for beauty, people are always trying to make not only something new, unusual, and functional but also beautiful, aesthetic, and great.

Wood carving is one of the oldest crafts, which remains popular and relevant today. Anyone who wants to master woodcarving must learn a lot of tricks, understand the techniques and gain experience, but this requires certain knowledge.

Let’s immerse deeper and learn all the secrets of wood carving together!

What is wood carving

Wood carving is one of the oldest ways to decorate both parts of a building and various crafts. Nowadays, it is a way of self-expression in creativity that is popular among both men and women.

Today wood carving is used to make home and garden decorations or to make souvenirs and paintings. It is worth saying that such paintings can be perfectly integrated into the interior of the house in Scandinavian or eco-style.

Types of wood carving

Wood carving was originally developed in old civilizations when craftsmen tried their wood carving skills in arts and crafts in addition to creating wooden pieces of furniture and utensils.

In terms of the diversity of woodworking variations, it is worth highlighting the types of this craftsmanship. These include:

  • through-carving;
  • blind;
  • house carving;
  • carving with a chainsaw.

The simplest technique is considered to be the creation of relief, which is subdivided into:


Geometric carving is considered a more complex technique than contour carving. It differs in the way the pattern is created, as it is created not using lines, but by geometric figures.


Another technique that allows you to create a pattern on wood is called flat relief. The idea of this method is the creation of grooves on a flat surface.

Slotted contour

Contour carving is considered one of the easiest techniques, as the patterns are applied to a flat prepared surface, slightly deepening inside the material, which allows you to form the contour of the future figure.

Chip carving

It is a style of carving in which knives or cutters are used to remove small chips of material from a flat surface in a single piece.

In America, it is mostly used with basswood, butternut, pine, or mahogany. Chip carving knives can also be used for whittling, cabinet making, and general workbench purposes.


The most difficult technique of wood carving is sculptural carving, which differs from other types by the fact that the work takes a billet, a branch, or a piece of rhizome, to which the desired shape is given. Thanks to this technology of wood carving, you can get figures of animals and people.

What type of wood is best for carving?

When planning to try wood carving, it is important to understand that in addition to talent, you must have a set of power tools and use the best woods. Even experienced craftsmen will not be able to get good results if they take wood that is difficult to work with.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a material for a wood carving project. Will you use a carving knife to draw a detailed pattern, or a chisel and pick to create sculptures? Will you paint the finished piece with linseed oil or leave it with a natural wood finish? You must choose the wood according to your needs.

All types of wood for carving have their characteristics, and knowing these differences will help you select the best wood for each project you have in mind, whether it is furniture construction, decorating, or other. So, what is the best wood for carving? Let’s figure it out together!

Professionals divide the wood into 3 types:

  • softwood;
  • hardwood;
  • extra hardwood.

Beginners should give preference to the first 2 wood options. Softwood is malleable. It is easy to cut small elements forming beautiful patterns from them. Hard materials are a bit harder to work with, but they are more durable. Figurines made from such wood do not crack with time and do not burst.


Both red and black varieties of this wood are suitable for carving. Alder is more solid than lime, but it is also a wood easy to carve, and the patterns will be clear and beautiful. The main disadvantage that can be considered is that this type of wood is rare.

Black walnut

If you have not mastered working with hand tools yet, try black walnut. It is better to use power tools to carve black walnut because it is harder than other popular woods. Nevertheless, black walnut has a slight wood grain, so you need to prepare it for work properly. Don’t forget about wormholes!


Balsa wood is a very cheap, light option. It can be ideal for practicing new techniques. So, if you want to accustom your eye and hands to the smallest changes in the wood, then balsa wood is a great material to work with.


Oak is a good wood for experienced craftsmen to work with, it will be difficult for beginners to cope with oak canvas. Working with oak requires sharp tools and an experienced craftsman’s hand to get the job done.

If you are serious about carving wood, take a small supply of each and test it. Each wood will respond differently depending on your approach to carving.

To find the wood you like best, use the same tool and pattern on each one. Pay attention to how the wood feels in your hands and how much pressure is needed to create the desired effect.

What is the easiest wood to whittle?

As you can see, there are different woods, but which is still the easiest to carve? Let’s see!


Lime is the best wood option for the beginner wood carving project. This material has the greatest softness, which allows you to learn both simple and complex techniques in optimal conditions.


Birch is an even more solid and elastic variant of wood, but suitable for mastering the basics of wood carving. Unlike alder, which does not change its shape after drying, birch can deform, so it is usually used to create small objects.

So, it is high time to choose your favorite wood and start whittling!

What material is easiest to carve?

We’ve already mentioned a lot of wood, but these are still the easiest to work with:


The pear is a fruit tree that has good solidity and a good structure. Due to the features of pear wood, you can create the most delicate and elegant work. It is also one of the easiest wood to work with.


Basswood is one of the best wood for carving. It is ideal for beginners and their first wood carving project because of its softness and white color. One more reason for basswood to be the best wood for carving is that it has virtually no wood grain also known as straight grain.

Many people like to dye this wood. A mixture of mineral spirits and boiled linseed oil is a great wood stain. Non-toxic and odorless, it retains fine details well.

You can find basswood almost anywhere at an affordable price. Basswood can also be used for carving with a chainsaw and chip carving.


Carving green wood has its advantages, greenwood is softer and easier to work with. It is one of the best wood and is great for beginners and just for easy carving projects when you don’t care much if your carving may be spoiled in the future.

White pine

White pine is one of the best wood for carving. It is a popular wood with both professional and beginner wood carvers.

It has common physical characteristics with basswood, such as its cream-colored wood and straight grain, but it is unsuitable for chip carving because of its softness. However, it is easy to carve with a sharp knife or other hand-carving tools.

This wood is especially useful in such wood carving projects that require curvature in design.

How do you carve wood easily?

In order to make working with wood easy and interesting, it is necessary to know a few little secrets. Here we are going to tell you about them.

The first applies to work with freshly cut logs. Since such a log still has a lot of moisture, you may have problems when working with it.

Also, if the log dries too quickly, it can simply crack, which will spoil the entire project. Therefore, it is better to let the logs dry in the air for a long time until the moisture level is dropped.

If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on the drying process, you can buy kiln-dried wood.

The second secret will tell you how to make the wood carving process easier. In most cases, you need to soften the wood to make the job simple. You will notice for yourself how easily the tools glide on the prepared surface.

Basic hand tools to purchase

The processing of wood carving requires a master to have the necessary carving tools, thanks to which he can create any items.

Among the most important power tools are:

  • a saw (transverse, longitudinal, multipurpose);
  • an axe (cleaver);
  • an adze, an axe with a rectangular blade, to create shaped and concave items;
  • a cutter, a planer, needed to remove chips from the workpiece;
  • a drill;
  • a Dremel with nozzles, to create wood engravings;
  • a router with a set of blades;
  • a file;
  • a carving knife;
  • a chisel – a hand carving tool for woodworking (there are flat, semicircular, angular, and stapled varieties);
  • huckleberry – a chisel that has a curved shape (thanks to this tool it is possible to engage in relief carving, strongly immersing the chisel into the wood);
  • protective gloves;
  • a spoon cutter – a tool, thanks to which you can create wooden spoons, as the shape of the product contributes to the effective extraction of a large amount of wood at a time.

For the beginner wood craftsman, a carpenter’s pencil, a few chisels, a whittling knife, and a penknife will be enough.

It is very important for all carving tools to be well sharpened, and have no chips and breaks, as this can affect not only the beauty of the future wooden item but also the safety in the process of work.

Beginner carving techniques

Traditionally, wood carving is divided into relief and volumetric sculpture.

Geometric carving technique

Beginner wood carvers should master the techniques of carving in relief and start with geometric carving. It is simple but beautiful.

This type of carving has three types:

  1. contour;
  2. triangular-embossed;
  3. nail or staple carving.

To perform it, you will need the following hand tools:

  • a board made of lime;
  • hook knife;
  • a ruler and a pencil.

Drawings in the form of a geometric pattern are put on the board. The carver can think up an ornament for carving himself or copy one he likes. If you do not have skills and your hand is not firm enough, do not take up complex elements first.

The movements should be smooth. Remember that you have to start carving a line and finish it with the tip of the knife. Having made one line or notch, make the next one. But now the inclination of the knife blade should be in the opposite direction.

Shavings will split off, and a geometric shape will appear on the board. If the edges are clear, and the surface is shiny, then everything was done correctly. Gradually cut out the full element, and then the entire ornament.

You have to remember that the knife goes easier along the wood fibers. When cutting through the cross fibers, you have to make more effort.

Chopping technique

You can also try the chopping technique. So, take a few pieces of wood and prepare your hand tools.

The chopping technique uses similar principles to the chisel technique. Your main hand makes the force for the hand tool, and your opposite hand directs it. However, unlike a chisel, a running cut has an elliptical shape, which makes for longer grooves.

It may seem that the work in this technique looks rough, but don’t jump to conclusions. The result will be great-looking!

Do not forget about some basic rules:

  • safety in the workplace;
  • organization of the workspace;
  • preparation of the tool.

The carver’s workplace

Work with sharp tools should be carried out on a workbench that meets all the requirements of steadiness and durability. If there is no possibility to make such a workbench, you can use a tabletop. It can be any size, but not above the level of the carver’s waist.

The tabletop should always be smooth and clean. Quite often, a knife slips while working and hits the table. The formed notches must be removed.

Professionals always look after the condition of the surface of the workbench. They do not recommend hammering nails, chopping with an axe, or throwing sharp tools on the workbench, as all this can damage the tabletop.

The working table for wood carving should be well-lit. You can set it near a window. However, daylight is not enough.

If there is only one light source, there are deaf dark shadows that affect the wood carving process. That is why 2-3 more lights should be installed above the table. They should illuminate the work from different sides, especially if it is dark outside.

The lamps should be installed above the carver’s eyes. While working, eyes are strained. Even the experienced masters notice it. A beginner carver gets tired faster, and good lighting can make working conditions comfortable and safe.

Beginner wood carving projects

One of the most common mistakes that novices make is to choose difficult beginner wood carving projects. It is common for young carvers to fail and become frustrated because of a lack of experience. What is the reason for this?

It turns out that most of them use guides or tutorials that are not suitable for entry-level wood carving. Most such guidebooks don’t explain even the basic steps of wood carving.

If you want to master wood carving as an interesting hobby or to make money selling your woodwork, we have some simple beginner wood carving projects and ideas that you will love.

Top 10 wood carving projects for young carvers

A wood carving spoon

Otherwise, a spoon or other kitchen utensils is a good place to start. Spoon carving is one of the easiest wood carving projects. It can be used for sale, for yourself, or as a gift. As you master wood carving ideas, you can vary the designs and embellishments, so you will never get tired of carving wooden spoons.

Depending on the tools and wood you use, carving a wooden spoon can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a day or two. A good way to preserve your finished project is to apply a food-safe wood finish to it.

Best wood for carving spoon:

  • Poplar
  • Cherry
  • Apple

Time required: 2 hours

A wooden bowl

Carving bowls is good practice for beginners. There are many designs and techniques for wooden bowls. You can use different decorative tricks to make it more eye-catching. This is why most people tend to start their first wood carving project by making bowls.

Best wood for carving wooden bowls:

  • Cedar
  • Beech
  • Butternut
  • Balsa

Time required: 2 hours

A carved heart

Why don’t try giving a handmade wooden heart as a pendant? If you want to do that, use danish oil. It penetrates the wood and makes it hard. After applying several coats, you’ll be able to get the sheen you want.

Best wood for carving a heart:

  • Basswood
  • Cedar
  • Beech

Time required: 20 minutes


Usually, chopsticks are plain, minimal looking, and have no beautiful curves and shapes. But as a wood carver, you can give an artistic look to chopsticks using basic hand tools. If getting a perfectly rounded shape is difficult, you can make both chopsticks flat on each easier side. You’ll become a pro over time with practice.

Best wood for carving chopsticks:

  • Basswood
  • Walnut

Time required: 30 minutes

A wooden gnome

Carving a gnome is very difficult because it has many shapes, curves, and sharp edges. Carving a gnome is the best project for beginner wood carvers in which you will learn a lot.

Wood gnome is a popular carving project because it gives a unique, beautiful look to your interior as well as gardens.

Best wood for carving a gnome:

  • Maple
  • Cherry
  • Birch

Time required: 60 – 80 minutes

A whistle

Let’s do something artistic as beginner wood carving projects. There are so many different ways to carve a whistle. But the willow whistle is the easiest.

But carving a willow one is a great project to learn how to shape and circle wood and make it into a hollow tube.

Best wood for carving a whistle:

  • Willow
  • Sycamore
  • Birch

Time required: 60 minutes

A Walking stick

Carving a walking stick may be the biggest project you make as a beginner. Usually, walking sticks are simple and don’t have a variety of shapes. So try to make a fine art walking stick using all the wood carving skills you’ve learned by doing a lot of simple projects.

Best wood for carving a walking stick:

  • Oakwood
  • Birch

Time required: 100 minutes

Some other wood carving projects are a fox and some more animals, a flower, a 5-minute wizard, a whiskey barrel, and many more!


There are so many simple wood carving projects for beginners that it can be difficult to make a choice. Whatever you choose, you will need a little patience to reach a sufficient level. Once you get the hang of these simple wood carving projects, you can get down to something more ambitious. Start carving with us!

Read also: How to carve animals out of wood: Carving tips for beginners

Avatar photo

Hello to all lovers of wood products. I have been fond of woodcarving since childhood. I first learned about it at a children’s camp at the age of 12, and since then it has been my hobby. I organized a wood carving club in my area and often meet there with like-minded people. I dream of selling my products as souvenirs and gifts.

Rate author
Best wood for carving
Add a comment