What is woodcarving?
Woodcarving is a form of decorative art that has been used for centuries. As long as man has made carving objects, he has carved wood. After all, wood is a beautiful and rewarding material that is also easy to work with. Being creative with wood gives the woodcarver unlimited possibilities when working out his or her ideas.
Woodcarving comes in many different shapes and styles. The best known are 2-dimensional carving, spoon carving, letter carving, chip carving, relief carving, 3D carving and abstract carving. These shapes usually fall under the category of traditional or European woodcarving. In addition, there is also American woodcarving, which includes caricature carving, and woodcarving with a knife.
What materials do you need?
Every hobby requires an investment. For woodcarving, this is actually quite easy because the purchase of chisels can be spread over time. You can already start with a set of 12 to 15 chisels and systematically expand your chisel set.
What do you definitely need as a novice woodcarver? Much depends on what type of wood carving you want to make. A sculptor who cuts large three-dimensional pieces will of course use different tools than, for example, a letter carver.
For example, an ornamental woodcarver quickly needs the following: hammer, woodcarving tools, knives, rasps, files, scrapers, stamps, grinding and finishing tools, various clamping tools, marking and checking tools, etc.…
The wood carving chisel
A traditional wood carving chisel consists out of 2 parts. The chisel is made of steel and its handle, usually of octagonal wood. In order to recognise the different types of chisels, they will be numbered during manufacturing. It goes without saying that some chisel brands use a different number system. This is certainly the case with the older English wood carving chisels that are sometimes offered for sale second-hand. Yet - as you will notice - there is a logic behind those figures.
Wood carving chisels come in various shapes and sizes. The most common are:
Flat chisels: almost always number 1. These can be compared to traditional joinery chisels, but are somewhat thinner in design and may also have been ground at an angle. These types are often used in relief carving.
Woodcarving gouges: usually numbered 2 to 11. These chisels have a recess along the length of the blade. This hollowing is possible from almost flat to a very deep U-shaped hollowing. The gouges are the most commonly used chisels in woodcarving.
V-tools: usually numbered from 12 to 16 or 39 to 47, these models are V-shaped and come in different angles from 30 to 90 degrees.
Bent gouges: These gouges have an additional curvature in the blade and allow access to hard-to-reach places.
Chisels are best kept in a chisel roll when you are not using them. This roll protects the chisels against damage to the sharp chisel cut and your hands. When working, take out all the chisels you think you need from the roll and deposit them on the workbench with the folding side facing you.
If you prefer to work with knives, different models are also available here, such as traditional wood carving knives, spoon knives, etc.
A hammer to drive your chisel into the wood is also an indispensable attribute of the woodcarver. It is best to take your time to choose a hammer, “it must lie well in the hand”. There is a choice of round, rectangular or conical models in wood or metal.
If possible, we also recommend a system to clamp your workpiece, which improves safety and ease of work. This can be done by using glue clamps, carver’s clamps or special wood carving benches.
Wood rasps are regularly used when finishing workpieces.
Grinding of wood cutting gouges
The bevel of the tool should be regularly honed to keep the chisel sharp.
You can hone in different ways: with whetstones or with felt discs and honing paste. Over time, the chisel must also be sharpened again. Professional grinding of the bevel is best done with a water grinder.
How to learn
Woodcarving is a hobby that you can do on your own. You can then search for information and inspiration in magazines, books, videos or the Internet. You can also opt for an entry-level course with the advantage that you will learn the right techniques under supervision. Ideas are exchanged in groups, new techniques are proposed and applied.
The making and use of wooden spoons is thousands of years old, long before our written history. Making it yourself with simple and solid hand tools gives a challenge, peace and satisfaction that is characteristic of a craft, where the maker is still in contact with the natural material and the end product.
Spoon cutting requires attention to the following:
- the wood: harvesting, species, structure
- properties of the tool: splitting knife, axe, wood carving knife and spoon knife
- safe use and maintenance of the tools
- from fresh log or pruning wood to spoon: there are different cutting techniques and finishes possible.
- sanding or not
- oils and decorative elements