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Wood Carving Tips for Beginners

Wood Carving is, for many people, an interesting combination of hobby and art. Here are a few tips that will help beginning wood carvers learn how to master this rewarding hobby:

Tip1: Ask questions! There is absolutely no shame in wanting to learn something, and experienced wood carvers will always have a useful tip or instruction for you. Before you can develop your personal carving style you need to learn the basics, so joining some classes or having a tutor may just be one of the best approaches.

Basic Carving Set with Palm Style & Long Style Handles

carvingset1carvingset2

Tip 2: Don’t rush. There is no point in finishing a carving quickly. You should work without any time pressure and without attempting to produce something beautiful very quickly. Communicate with the wood while you are carving and create a comfortable pace for your work – this is the only way in which you can produce harmonious results. When it comes to wood carving, patience is a virtue!

Tip 3: Safety is essential. You are working with a wood carving knife and accidents are always a potential danger. Make sure to get used to holding the knife firmly and learn how to handle the wood itself. Always keep your other hand out of the way of the carving knife and wear a thumb guard on the carving hand. Thumb guards might take a while to get accustomed to, but they offer excellent protection against knife cuts.

Tip 4: Analyze your work. Compare your wood carvings with those of others, both professional and amateur. Do not do this in a competitive fashion – instead, try to adopt ideas and perspectives noticed in other wood carvings and adapt them to your own style.

Tip 5: Work smart. Don’t work on the carving for more than 30 – 45 minutes at a time. Your hands will get cramps from the work unless you are trained to do this. Don’t turn wood carving into an unpleasant and demanding experience. Valuable results are achieved in time, not in one afternoon!

Safety
Remember, you are using a sharp knife while carving, which could cause serious injuries if not handled properly. This may seem trivial, but accidents happen. It is a good idea to keep bandages on hand. Also, take your time while carving. Haphazardly working as fast as you can may cause problems.

How to handle a knife
Use your wrist while carving and not your elbow. You will have more control taking smaller pieces of wood off than trying to remove large chunks and sending the blade through the air. Keep the blade sharp, the duller the knife the more you have to dig into your wood. Also, always cut down and not across. Turn the wood while pressing down so that when you get to the side of your wood, the knife stays on your wood doesn't slip off. Don’t use the knife as a scraper; this would dull the edge of the blade. And don’t pry any wood off; this would break the tip of the blade.

Pencil it in
Draw a centre line down the middle of the wood to help you keep both sides balanced. Use a pencil to draw out your idea on the wood before you cut. It’s much easier to erase a pencil mark than a deep cut or an undesirable cut away wood. Not only will a pencil help you in your creativity, but also a pencil will help you from making big mistakes.

Types of wood
There are numerous kinds of wood to carve, but basswood is a good starter. If you plan not to paint your work and want to show nice grain, you may want to choose Butternut. Another nice carving wood, but one that is a little more expensive, is Tupelo.

Watch the grain
Determine which direction the grain is running. You will want your carving cuts to go with the grain. (Practice making a few cuts on a scrap of wood)  Like using a spoon to scoop out melon balls, slice into the wood and come up and out at the end of the slice. If you do not cut out at the end of the cut, the wood may rip or tear. Your cuts may be short or long, as long as you do not tear away the wood.  If the wood chip does not drop off by itself it is not cut all the way. Do not pull off chips as this may tear the wood.

Do not be discouraged
If your first carving does not come out the way you wanted, don’t be discouraged and quit carving. This is a new hobby for which will take time and practice to master. Learn from your mistakes and apply that learning to the next carving.
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