Wood Carving For Beginners: Style Of Cuts, Knife Skills

Welcome Back
Today in Wood Carving For Beginners: Style Of Cuts, Knife Skills we’ll be focusing on the different styles of cuts to use in your carvings.

Style Of Cuts:- Super Easy Process

Rough Cut:- Middle of the blade cut-pushing away from you

All carving projects begin with the rough cut.

You will be using the Roughing knife for this cut, it looks like this.

Close up of roughing knife.

Close up of Roughing Knife

Hold your knife with your fingers wrapped around the grip and your thumb resting flat on top of the blades back. Placing your thumb here will give you control over the blade

How to hold the knife

Rough Cut Hold

Hold the wood near the bottom of the piece, to keep your fingers well out of the way of the blade. You’re going to be using the middle of the blade for this cut.
You want to place your blade at a slight angle and push gently through the wood, going away from you. This is a twisting motion with your wrist.

The start of the rough cut.

The start of rough cut.

DO NOT use your whole arm for this, you’re not trying to power through the wood. You want to shave off pieces, instead of taking out large chunks. Cutting to deep will have a tendency to break off pieces instead of cutting them.

You want to end up with small pieces of wood like these.

Close up of rough cut wood with shavings.

This is what the wood should look like after you’re done cutting. Notice the small shavings on the table. This is what you want. This cut will enable you to take off a lot of small amounts (that will add up to a large amount), and rough out your basic shape.

Thumb Cut: Middle of the blade cut-pushing away from you

This style is used when absolute control of the blade is needed. The thumb cut is used for small changes to a project, when only a smidgen needs to be shaved off.

Hold your knife in the same manner as described in the rough cut style.

How to hold the knife

Rough Cut Hold

Hold the carving in your left hand with your thumb on top, close to where you want to cut. Now place your left thumb over your right thumb and gently push your right thumb through the small cut.

Place your left thumb over the right thumb.

Thumb Cut Hold Regular Hold

You’re guiding the knife through the cut with your left thumb. This is a twisting motion with your right wrist.

Thumb cut into the wood, using regular hold.

Thumb Cut Regular Hold

Sometimes I find the point of the blade gets a bit too close to my fingers with this style, notice how close it is to my gloved finger, so I use a modified version to solve the problem.

Close up of modified thumb cut with out wood.

Close Up Of Modified Thumb Cut with Out Wood.

Hold the knife the same way, but instead of placing you left thumb over your right, place your left thumb on top of the back of the blade next to your right thumb. This gives you just as much control and keeps the tip further away from your fingers. Then gently push the blade through the cut using the middle portion of the blade.

Left thumb sets on back of blade next to right thumb.

Thumb Cut Modified With Wood

To simplify, you’re using your knife hand to control the blade while your other thumb supplies the pressure for the cut.

Paring Cut:

Middle of the blade cut- pulling toward you


I didn’t have mine with me when I took these pictures, but you should wear one. Do as I say, not as I do. Giggle.

Your knife blade will face your body for this cut. Your right thumb will be directly opposite the edge of the blade to stabilize the wood. Here the blade in slightly angled into the top of the cut.

Pairing cut on babk of wood

Pairing cut on back of bark.

You’ll pull the knife towards your thumb, just like peeling an apple. This cut causes safety concerns as the blade is drawn toward your thumb holding the knife. However, using a thumb guard protects you from the blade. Now the blade is around half way through the cut.

Pairing cut in middle of cut.

Pairing cut in middle of cut.

Be very careful while using this cut, so you don’t injure yourself. You want to make small cuts, not large ones. Your cut should look something like this.

Pairing cut close up of cut.

Pairing cut, close up of cut. Notice the left edge isn’t even.










Notice the left edge isn’t even. If you want it to be clean and even, go back over the left edge again with a slow straight cut angling the blade slightly down, and pulling it toward you. . You can do this several times to even it up and make it look how you want it.


Tip of the blade cut-pulling toward the right/

middle of the blade cut -pushing away from you

The stop cut is done in a two-step process. The first uses only the tip of the blade. The second uses the middle of the blade. You hold the handle like this.

Stop cut hold part 1

Stop Cut Hold Part 1










The first step is cutting along a line with the tip of the blade. Only do a shallow cut and a short distance, removing the blade after the cut.

Stop cut part 1 step 2

Draw a fine line, and place tip of knife at beginning. Make a small cut on a 1/4 of the line.










Now place the blade tip back in the middle of the cut you just made, and repeat the same process going a little further each time. Do this until the line is fully cut.

Stop Cut Part 1 Step 2

Stop Cut Part 1 Step 2









The second step is to remove wood with a Thumb cut, going toward the stop cut.
You want to angle the blade into the wood then push it toward the stop cut, leveling the blade flat as you go. It’s a twisting motion with your wrist. A side view should look like this. \_____ You’re using the middle of the blade for this part of the cut.

Stop Cut Part 2

Stop Cut Part 2









The cut you just made will end at the stop cut. (Hence the name.) If you want the line more pronounced or deeper, just repeat the two-step process again or as many times as needed to achieve the look you want. Your cut should look something like this.

Stop Cut Close Up

Stop Cut Close Up











Tip of the blade cut- pulling toward the right

This is a notching movement used for hair, fur, or deep cuts to outline something. It’s a two-step process.

Hold the knife with your fingers up around the top of the handle, having your middle finger at the handles tip. This position leaves your index finger hanging out there.

V Cut Hold Step 1

V Cut Hold Step 1








Now gently rest your index finger along the side of the blade and slide it toward the blades base. Having your index finger in this position gives you control over the blade for this cut.
Your hand position should look like this.

V Cut Hold Step 2

V Cut Hold Step 2









Your thumb rests either on the side of the wood or on the top of it to stabilize the knife. Your thumb should be here, or here.


Make a cut into the wood at a 30 degree angle to the desired depth and length, pulling the blade toward the right. Don’t go to deep, so the wood doesn’t chip out. Pull the blade back out and make the same 30 degree cut parallel to the first cut. You will be angling your second cut to meet the first.

To simplify, you’re making a v shape into the wood. You should have a groove the whole length of your cut. Your cut should look something like this.

V Cut Close Up

V Cut Close Up






Summing it all up:

Today in Wood Carving For Beginners: Style Of Cuts, Knife Skills we learned the five basic knife skills to use in our wood carving tutorial. You learned the rough cut, the thumb cut, the paring cut, the stop cut, and the v cut.

You’ve learned a lot; now let’s move on to the next step.

If you have any questions or would like to leave a comment please feel free to do so. I would love to hear from you and help in any way I can.

Lynne Clay
Founder of Carved Fairy Houses


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8 Responses to Wood Carving For Beginners: Style Of Cuts, Knife Skills

  1. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the wood carving lesson in Wood Carving For Beginners: Style Of Cuts, Knife Skills . I have always been intrigued with it but never thought I could do it. It would be nice to see a video for us slow learners.

    • Lynne Clay says:

      Thanks for your comment Melissa. I’m glad you enjoyed my site and took the time to read my lesson in Wood Carving For Beginners: Style Of Cuts, Knife Skills.

      Carving really is easier than most people think. All you need is a step by step tutorial to show you the way, and that’s what I’m trying to do here at carvedfairyhouses.com .

      You can do this, it doesn’t take any talent.

      I do plan on adding a lot more pictures and some videos to my site. It just takes time, so please come back and join in future lessons on carving fairy houses.

  2. Megawinner says:

    Wood Carving For Beginners:The Style Of Cuts, Knife Skills, reminded me of my project in grade four where I carved a lion. Using carving knives and other tools are quite dangerous if you were not skillful or taking precaution.The fundamental lesson I received is to carve away from my fingers. I have learned a lot on the different cut using the techniques of rough, thumb, paring, V and stop. Great topic.

    • lynne clay says:

      @megawinner Thank you for your comment on my carvedfairyhouses.com website. I’m trying to give the basics of Wood Carving For Beginners in this set of tutorials. Later I will cover intermediate and advanced techniques. I’m glad you learned a few new things about the different style of cuts, and that you liked my topic in Wood Carving For Beginners: Style Of Cuts, Knife Skills.

      I’m sure your lion turned out well. Right? Do you still own that lion? I know the very first thing I ever carved was a donkey, or at least that’s what it was meant to be. It looked more like a horse skeleton. Ha Ha. I don’t have it now, but I wish I did. With the skill that I now have, I could turn him onto a real skeleton; he would be so cool to set out for Halloween.

      Yes carving can cause some minor injuries if precautions are not taken. That’s why I went over some safety tips and will cover more in the actual carving tutorials. Most of the cut styles are done with the knife blade facing away from you. Only the pairing cut is the other way around, but this cut is only used for small precise cuts and details, so the chance of cutting yourself is small if you’re wearing a thumb guard.

      Hope to see you return to my website and enjoy more of my carving tutorials in the future.

  3. Gary says:

    This is very good information. I like your article on Wood Carving For Beginners: Style Of Cuts, Knife Skills. It has helped me improve my knife skills.
    I didn’t know there were so many different kinds of basic cut I could use. I would have liked to see some more pictures of the different cuts though, beside that this article helped me a lot. Thank you for it.

    • Lynne Clay says:

      Thanks for your comment Gary, I’m very glad to hear that I helped you with your knife skills.

      There are more knife cuts in wood carving than I mentioned in my article, but I’ll cover that in other future articles. I only covered the basic cuts in Wood Carving For Beginners: Style Of Cuts & Knife Skills. I’ll be discussing more advanced cuts as we get further along in the tutorials. I’m sorry I didn’t have that article totally finished before I published it, I do plan on adding pictures to the article in the near future. I hope you’ll join me for that too.

  4. Adeyanju3398 says:

    You have a very desirable website and captivating graphs. Kudos to you. Your articles caught my attention because you wrote like an expert in the field. Overall you have super work.

  5. Lynne says:

    @adeyanju3398 Thanks for the comment on my website. I’m glad you found my website clean and easy to read. Thanks for the comment about my writing style too. I write like an expert, because I am an expert on the subject. I’ve been carving for 20 years now, but it’s very nice to know that it shows.

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