Everything You Need To Know About Woodcarving Tools

Updated: May 09, 2023

For novice woodcarvers, investing in the right woodcarving tools makes those first projects more enjoyable. Here are seven tools to get you started.

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Working With Woodcarving Tools

Carving wood is one of those rare and wonderful activities people of every age and experience level can enjoy. And you don’t need a lot of woodcarving tools to get started.

When I started carving at age eight, all I had was a small Swiss Army Knife and a pile of basswood scraps. For many simple projects, that’s all you need.

Here are a few projects anyone with a knife and the right piece of basswood, knot-free pine or aspen can tackle:

  • Walking stick;
  • Simple animal figurine;
  • Wooden spoon and fork;
  • Canoe paddle;
  • Wooden egg.

If you’re new to carving wood and want to get serious about it, invest in the right tools. A pocket knife is a great start, but you’ll have many more creative options with a few more. Read on for a list of seven tools every aspiring woodcarver should have.

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Whittling Knife

Whittling is a woodcarving technique involving slicing away thin shavings to form the desired shape. It’s one of the easiest to master.

Before investing in a slew of woodcarving tools, get yourself a good old-fashioned whittling knife. They’re simple and versatile. Some come with sheaths so you can carry them around, ready to start carving the moment you find a promising scrap of wood.

This whittling knife features a medium-sized blade, suitable for lots of projects. It’s reasonably priced, made of quality high-carbon steel and comes with a handy leather sheath.

If you’re looking for a beginner wood carving project, a duck is a great place to start. Follow these steps to learn how to carve a wooden duck.

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Chip Carving Knife Set

Chip carving involves cutting small, intricate patterns on the surface of wood with the point and edge of a certain type of knife. It takes more time and skill than whittling, and can lead to spectacular results.

As a beginner, it’s important to invest in high-quality woodcarving tools that will last you a lifetime. That’s why I love this five-knife chip carving set. It’s the best I’ve used, with finely forged blades and solid beech wood handles for a great feel.

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Carving Gouge Set

Carving gouges are chisels with curved blades, good for carving concave shapes or removing slivers without creating raised “shelves” on either side of each stroke. This is a common problem for beginners while whittling or using straight chisels.

Carving gouges can be used with hands only, or with a mallet for more aggressive, less detailed work. At $120, this 12-piece set is fantastic for beginner woodcarvers. It comes with nine gouges of various widths and curvatures, plus a flat chisel, skew chisel and V-tool. (More on those later.)

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Straight Chisel Set

Straight chisels are a woodcarving mainstay. In my experience, it pays to own a large set.

Straight chisels of various widths and bevel angles are good for shaving off thin slivers, defining straight rectangular parts and carving pockets and openings for interlocking components. I rarely tackle a carving project without reaching for my straight chisel set at some point.

This versatile, well-made 10-piece set comes with a nice box. It contains chisels of various widths, ranging from two inches down to 1/4-inch.

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Skew Chisel

Skew chisels are similar to straight chisels, only with slanted blades. They’re usually beveled from both sides rather than just one.

Most often used for woodturning on a lathe, skew chisels are handy for delicately “planing” bits of wood off your project, and can double as an effective chip carving knife.

As a beginner woodcarver, you probably won’t need skew chisels often, which is why the gouge set mentioned above makes sense. It comes with one medium width (8-mm) skew chisel, so when you need one, you have it!

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As you might expect, V-tools (aka V-chisels) feature a V-shaped blade. They carve sharp grooves and lines and can be helpful for detail work.

As a beginner woodcarver, you probably won’t be do a lot of detail work right away. So the medium-sized V-tool included in this kit mentioned above is more than enough to get you started.

Advanced woodworkers often own extensive sets of V-tools, ranging greatly in size and blade shape. If you get to that stage, feel free to invest accordingly. Personally, I find one sharp V-tool is almost always enough for basic carving projects.

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Carving Mallet

Roughly half the carving I do involves nothing more than my hands and a sharp-edged woodcarving tool. The other half requires a mallet, too.

Mallets are cylindrical tools used to pound the butt-end of chisels and gouges when carving aggressively. The force removes wood faster than hand pressure alone. I’ve tried a good many mallets in my time, but this hardwood beauty from Lee Valley is by far my favorite. It’s fairly light and feels great to hold and swing.