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



Flexible Finger Tape 2 Pack


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



I use two basic knives and one chisel.


 Roughing Knife with wooden handle and 1 1/4 " blade


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.


 1/2" Mini Detail Knife with wooden handle


A 1/2″ mini detail knife, like the one shown above. It’s a very small blade used for detailing intricate designs


 2.4 mm Small Dogleg Chisel with med brown wooden handle mini tool


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.

3 Diamond encrusted Sharpening Plates for shaepening carving knives, course, medium,& fine

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.

Leather Strop for cleaning carving knives


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.


Blue Velvet & Flexcut Gold Compounds for polishing carvings knives


 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.


 Kevlar Carving Glove Palm side up with rubber dots on palm


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.


 Kevlar Carving Glove Back side made from heavy nylon


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.

Thumb Gaurds both homemade, one with masking tape, one with band-aide


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.



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 fixes any accidents that happen.


 CA Glue And Accelerator for gluing wood


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.


packs of Sandpaper 80,220, & 170 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.



I use a quilting pencil with white lead to draw the doors and windows on the dark-colored bark.


 Quilting Pencil With White Lead click pen style


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.



I use Cottonwood bark for all my fairy houses.


piece of Cottonwood Bark, bark side up


 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.


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. (Usually within 24 hours or less.)

Lynne Clay
Founder of Carved Fairy Houses


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

  1. Michael says:

    Great info!!!

    • Lynne Clay says:

      Thanks, Michael
      I’m so glad you enjoyed my article on Wood Carving For Beginners, It’s Easier Than You Think.
      I hope you found the information helpful and will return often.
      Good luck and have fun carving.

  2. Rick Loscar says:

    Love you article on Wood Carving for Beginners, It’s easier than you think. I especially like the safety aspect that you discussed and the different items that are used in the wood carving process. Very informative and although I do not take part in much wood carving (other than with a pocket knife occasionally) , I may start doing it more now that I know just how easy it is and with the articles that you have provided then I know I will have a “go to” resource for future references.

    • Lynne Clay says:

      Thank you, Rick, for your comment on my article on Wood carving for beginners, it’s easier than you think.

      I very glad you found the safety parts useful, I believe that if you can’t do it safely, you shouldn’t be doing it at all.

      I’m glad to hear you’re considering carving more in the future. I think you’ll find the articles will give you the help and guidance you’re looking for. If you ever have any question, please feel free to ask, I would love to help in any way I can.

  3. 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.

  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. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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