Wood Carving For Beginners, It’s Easier Than You Think

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 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, we’ll deal with talent. Don’t worry you can do this.

Equipment: Only a few tools needed

We are 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 glue
CA Insta-Set Accelerator
Quilting pencil with white lead
Cottonwood Bark


Wood Carving For Beginners Roughing Knife

1 1/4″ roughing knife.

I use two basic knives and one chisel
A 11/4″ roughing knife. The blade is long and thick, it’s used for roughing out the majority of the design.


Wood Carving For Beginners 1/2" Mini Detail Knife.

1/2″ mini detail knife.

A 1/2″ mini detail A 1/2″ mini detail knife. It’s a very small blade used for detailing intricate designs


Wood Carving For Beginners 2.4 mm Small Dogleg Chisel

2.4 mm small dogleg bench chisel

A 2.4 mm small dogleg bench chisel that’s used for cleaning out small spaces and scraping straight lines.



Wood Carving For Beginners Sharpening Plates

Sharpening plates

You need two diamond encrusted honing plates, a 250 grit, & a 400 grit. 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.




Wood Carving For Beginners Strop

Leather strop

I use a wooden base strop with a soft leather cover over the top. We’ll discuss what a strop is used for in the next article.


Blue Velvet & Flexcut Gold Compounds

Blue Velvet powder compound & Flexcut Gold stick compound

Compounds come in two forms, a powder and a stick. Either one works fine. I want to point out that the pink powder in the picture is called Blue Velvet compound, even though it’s a pink color. This compound use to be blue when the company first started out, but sense then they have added many colors to their line. We’ll discuss these in more detail in the next article.



Wood Carving For Beginners Kevlar Carving Glove Palm

Kevlar carving glove palm side

I use a Kevlar carving glove to protect my hand from cuts. This is a must have item. These gloves feature a rubber dotted pattern across the palm and fingers. 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.


Wood Carving For Beginners Kevlar Carving Glove Back

Kevlar carving glove back side









Wood Carving For Beginners Thumb Gaurds

Band-Aide Thumb Guard & Masking Tape Thumb Guard

This guard is used on your right hand,( the hand that holds the knife). It’s 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 the next article.




Wood Carving For Beginners CA Glue And Accelerator

CA glue & CA Insta-set accelerator

There are a lot of different glues out on the market today. I suggest using a CA glue (cyanoacrylate glue) It works the best on Cottonwood bark and 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

The CA Insta-set accelerator is used to set the CA glue super-fast and make the wood stronger than without it



Wood Carving For Beginners Sandpaper

3M sandpaper 80 grit, 120 grit, & 220 grit

I use 3M Sandpaper in course 80 grit, medium 120 grit, & very fine 220grit. 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 I 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.

When you’re done with a carving project there will be left over scratches, and defects to clean up. Use a 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 I want a smooth finish on.


Wood Carving For Beginners 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.


Wood Carving For Beginners Cottonwood Bark

Cottonwood bark front side

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 then other trees. It ranges between 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 I’ve shown you, you’re going to be an awesome beginner carver.

By participating in the woodcarving 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.


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.

Now let’s move on to the next lesson: Taking care of your tools.

If you have any questions or comments to share, please feel free to leave them below. I am more than happy to help you out, and can’t wait to hear from you.

Lynne Clay
Founder of Carved Fairy Houses

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10 Responses to Wood Carving For Beginners, It’s Easier Than You Think

  1. Thembi says:

    Wow that is really awesome information, really as a beginner I have learnt a lot I will hang around for more
    Thanks for sharing super useful information in Wood Carving For Beginners: It’s Easier Than You Think, the safety tips are just brilliant.

    • Lynne Clay says:

      Thank you for your comment on Wood Carving For Beginners: It’s Easier Than You Think. I’m very glad you found my new site helpful.
      Glad to have you here, there’s much more carving information on the way.

  2. Gary says:

    I enjoyed your article on Wood Carving For Beginners: It’s Easier Than You Think, it helped me very much. Thank you for writing this article. I liked all the pictures of the products you use, that was helpful. I’ve never seen a dogleg bench chisel before, so seeing a picture was useful to me. I will have to buy one. Can you suggest a place to get one at a reasonable price?

    Thanks for the idea of using the quilting pencil on the dark colored wood. That’s a wonderful idea. I can see where it would make it a lot easier to see my marks. I will have to get one of these too. Where can I buy one?

    I’ve never used Cottonwood bark before, I’ve always used Basswood. Can you tell me if Cottonwood bark is easier to use then Basswood? I find that Basswood has very hard spots in it and at times can be kind of hard to carve.

    • Lynne Clay says:

      Thanks for your comment Gary, I’m so glad you enjoy Wood Carving For Beginners” It’s Easier Than You Think and all my pictures.

      All my tool pictures are there to help my readers understand that I use basic tools myself and make it easier to know what to buy if they needed to.

      You can buy a dogleg bench chisel from many places on the internet, but I got mine from http://www.mdiwoodcarvers.com .
      They have several different ones to choose from, you could get a set of
      Dockyard Tools USA 4 piece Bench Chisel Set 55-BCS for $63.95,

      or a single Flexcut 1/8″ Micro Dogleg Chisel MT44 for $16.95,

      or if you’re a beginner you could try a dental probe,
      6 Piece Stainless Single End Tools for $5.75,

      but I haven’t tried these probes myself, so I’m not sure how sharp they are, but hay for under $6.00 their worth a try.

      You can buy a quilting pencil at Joann fabrics, get a
      Dritz Quilting Water Soluble Marker Pencil White lead for $3.99,
      or buy one from Amazon.

      I think Cottonwood bark is a lot easier to use then Basswood for that very reason. If you have an old piece of Basswood it can not only have hard spots, but the whole thing can be hardened. I find the older the Basswood is, the harder it becomes. It does hold fine detail though.

      I have my beginners use Cottonwood bark because it’s soft and easy to carve. Because it’s bark it’s more fragile than Basswood, so you have to be a bit light handed with it. I will be discussing Cottonwood bark in my next article, as I’m using it to start my first picture tutorial on carving a fairy house.

      I hope you will join in the fun and carve along with me in the next article.

  3. Lokhi says:

    Wood Carving For Beginners, It’s Easier Than You Think has showed me what goes into wood carving – and how to do it safely. Your advice and information are very helpful, and constructive. Thanks for sharing this article, you write really well.

    • Lynne Clay says:

      Thanks for your comment Lokhi. I’m so glad you enjoyed Wood Carving For Beginners, It’s Easier Than You Think here at carvedfairyhouses.com. You’re very welcome, I love sharing this wonderful past time. There is a lot that goes into carving, but it’s so relaxing once you know what you’re doing. Hours go by without you realizing it, or that’s the way it is for me.

  4. Rhonda says:

    You know, I’ve never really considered wood carving before, probably because I’ve always been so afraid of cutting myself… But you definitely made me feel much better about trying it!

    I’m a bit of an artist in my spare time and more recently I’ve gained an affinity to working with 3D shapes, so I might have to add woodcarving to my list of creative outlets now. I’m an animal lover who’s particularly fond of cats, so I’ll have to try caring my own wooden cat statues 🙂

    • Lynne says:

      Thanks Rhonda for taking the time to read my article on Wood Carving For Beginners, It’s Easier Than You Think. I’m very glad I could help make you more comfortable about trying wood carving in the future. I glad you decided to add wood carving to your list of activities and am sure you will be able to carve a wooden cat statue. I look forward to seeing your comments on future articles.

  5. Victor says:

    Another good article by the way especially the one about the knife safety part. I was taught in boy scouts that the best knife to use is a clean-cut one that doesn’t have any nicks in the blade.

    • Lynne says:

      Thanks for reading my article on Wood Carving For Beginners, It’s Easier Than You Think. I’m glad you thought it was a good article and found the safety tips useful. The boy scouts taught you right, it is easier to carve with a clean edge. Nicks in the blade can cause the edge to take out chunks, and you are more likely to cut yourself as you don’t have control over what the edge does.

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