It can be a little overwhelming carving from scratch because you don’t know where to start. What tools do you use, what kind of wood do you carve, and do you need talent?
So many questions. Let’s talk about answers.
In the Wood Carving For Beginners, It’s Easier Than You Think tutorial you’ll learn the answers to all those questions and more. I’m going to break it down into a step-by-step, easy-to-do tutorial.
The first part is the equipment you’ll need.
The second is how to use the tools safely.
Lastly, I’ll deal with talent.
Don’t worry you can do this.
Equipment: Only a few tools needed
I am going to be carving a Cottonwood bark fairy house. I’ve chosen Cottonwood bark because it’s very easy to cut and gives the piece a bit of character in the process. Bark carving, unlike other forms of carving only, requires a few simple tools.
2 basic knives
1 small dogleg bench chisel
2 diamond honing plates
1 Leather strop and compound
1 Kevlar carving glove
1 thumb guard
CA Insta-Set Accelerator
Quilting pencil with white lead
CARVING KNIVES & CHISELS:
I use two basic knives and one chisel.
A 1 1/4″ roughing knife like the one shown above. The blade is long and thick, it’s used for roughing out the majority of the design.
A 1/2″ mini detail knife, like the one shown above. It’s a very small blade used for detailing intricate designs
A 2.4 mm small dogleg bench chisel, like the one shown above. It’s used for cleaning out small spaces and scraping straight lines.
You need two diamond-encrusted honing plates, a 250 grit, & a 400 grit plate. Here I show three plates, the red one is a 600 grit plate, but you really don’t need to hone your knives to that degree at this point in time.
These are used to sharpen the blades. Sharpening the knife makes carving easier and safer. A dull blade does more damage than a sharp blade, if and when you slip.
I use a wooden base strop with a soft leather cover over the top. This is used for taking the burs off your blade and cleaning up the edge.
I’ll discuss how a strop is used in another article.
Compounds come in two forms, a powder and a stick. Either one works fine. These are used on the strop to allow the blade to glide through the compound easily.
I want to point out that the pink powder in the picture above is called Blue Velvet compound, even though it’s a pink color.
This compound used to be blue when the company first started out, but since then they have added many colors to their line. I’ll discuss these in more detail in the next article.
I use a Kevlar carving glove to protect our hands from cuts. This is a must-have item.
These gloves feature a rubber dotted pattern across the palm and fingers, as shown in the picture above. This increases your grip on the wood.
Kevlar gloves give great protection from cuts but offer minimal protection from stabs, so be careful.
Wear the glove on the hand you’re holding the piece of wood with, not the hand you’re using the knife with.
The picture above shows the backside of the glove. It’s made of a Kevlar knit material with a ribbed wrist band. I’ll discuss more safety gloves in another article.
This guard is used on your right hand, the hand that holds the knife.
Its purpose is to protect the thumb from the paring cut, which is directed toward the thumb.
I’ll show you how to make one of these in another article.
GLUE AND ACCELERATOR:
There are a lot of different glues out on the market today. I suggest using CA glue. (cyanoacrylate glue) It works the best on Cottonwood bark, helps stabilize the bark, and fix any accidents that happen.
Be careful while using this glue, as it’s similar to super glue and sets very quickly. I’ve glued my fingers together many times, and so will you.
Don’t worry though, you can remove the glue from your skin by rubbing some asatone fingernail polish remover on it and rubbing till gone. You can also buy CA glue remover if you prefer to go that route. The CS glue remover does work better than the asatone, but I prefer to use the cheaper version.
The CA Insta-set accelerator is used to set the CA glue instantly and make the wood stronger than without it. This is the reason I use it, to help strengthen the bark.
I use 3M Sandpaper in coarse 80-grit, medium 120-grit, and fine 220-grit.
The higher the number on sandpaper the finer the grit. The sandpaper is used to sand down the bark and remove the rough edges.
The best sandpaper for carving depends on what you need it for. Sandpaper is chosen by its grit, and the grit determines how much material is taken off.
80-grit sandpaper is a very rough grade and we recommend it for rough surfaces, dents, gouges, splinters, or loose fibers in the wood. It does remove wood pretty fast though, so check your piece often while using it.
When you’re done with a carving project there will be leftover scratches, and defects to clean up. Use 120-grit sandpaper to remove the remaining defects and uneven edges.
I use the 220-grit sandpaper for cleaning up the door frames, window frames, and anything else we want a smooth finish on or anything that will get a lot of touching.
QUILTING PENCIL WITH WHITE LEAD:
I use a quilting pencil with white lead to draw the doors and windows on the dark-colored bark.
You can buy these at any store that sells sewing material. Drawing the design in advance allows you to keep track of progress as you are cutting away the wood bit by bit.
Don’t worry about losing your marks while you’re cutting, you can always redraw them in.
I use Cottonwood bark for all my fairy houses.
It’s great for beginner carvers because it’s easy to cut, and gives the finished piece a lot of character. It just seems to lean itself to that whimsical look you want in a fairy house.
Cottonwood bark is just that, bark. It’s the bark of the Cottonwood tree. It’s not wood at all, this is the reason it’s so soft and easy to carve. It’s also why I suggest it for all beginner carving projects.
The best kind of bark is northern Cottonwood bark, it’s a much thicker bark than other trees. It ranges from one inch to six inches thick.
The more forest fires the cottonwood tree goes through the thicker the bark becomes. The thicker the bark the more detail you can carve into it, and the more expensive it is to buy.
TALENT: don’t worry you CAN do this
As far as I’m concerned, you don’t need talent to carve. Anyone that practices can become a good carver. Practice leads to perfection and by using the basics we’ve shown you, you’re going to be an awesome carver.
By participating in the wood carving for beginner’s step-by-step class, it’s easy to become an artist in woodcarving. The more carvings you do the better you’ll get and the more detail will be put into your creations.
YOU CAN DO THIS!
Summing it all up:
In this article on Wood Carving For Beginners, It’s Easier Than You Think you’ve learned about the tools you require to carve.
I hope you enjoyed this overview of carving materials, if you have any questions, would like to leave a comment, or your own personal views on carving, please feel free to do so below.
I would love to hear from you and help in any way I can. I will get back to you as soon as possible with answers to your questions. (Usually within 24 hours or less.)
Founder of Carved Fairy Houses