The Basics of Woodcarving

There is nothing quite like creating something with your own hands. Woodcarving is a great way to express yourself. You can create ornaments, figurines, decorations, toys, puzzles, and sculptures from a piece of wood, using your own personal interpretation of how the finished product should look. Many people love this hobby because they love to work with their hands. Most woodcarvers use only a piece of wood and a few hand tools. Hand rubbed finishes help to bring out the wood grain and detail of the piece.

The wood that you choose can have a bearing on what you are able to carve. Wood is stronger when you work with the grain. Working across the grain will result in a more brittle piece. Many woodworkers plan their most intricate pieces before deciding where to start carving. Whichever piece will be the thinnest or most delicate should be carved with the grain.

For very detailed or fine pieces, consider hardwoods that are sturdy when taken down to a tiny degree. Sycamore, maple, plum, apple, pear, and Italian walnut are common. For all other work, choose the hardwood that is easiest to work with for you. Basswood, Tupelo, mahogany, teak, chestnut, and American walnut are most popular. Softwoods are easier to carve, but they do not have the longevity that hardwoods do. In general, you want a tight grain for detail work and a fuller grain for larger tasks.

Once you've chosen your wood and picked out the best areas for your details, you can start shaping your wood. If the wood is very hard and you have a lot to take away, you may want to use a chisel and a mallet to start. If it's not too hard, you can start with a gouge and smooth peel away layer after layer. Knives can be used on smaller projects while saws and power tools can be used on larger projects. Never cut or gouge against the grain. Always go with the grain or against it.

Tools used for finishing vary broadly. Your artistic impression of what the should look like will have a bearing on what you end up using. Some like the sharp lines left by chisels and gouges. Smoothing can be performed with a rasp, which is like a rough version of a file. Smaller rasps and files can be used to smooth out fine details.

You can carve from a solid block of wood, a board, a dowel , a stump, or an an entree tree. For small projects, like chess pieces, are easily carved from dowels. You can purchase dowel rods in varying diameters and types of wood. Some people will combine different types of wood to create unique pieces. No matter what you make, you will surely enjoy the process of woodcarving.