How to Carve Wood Designs

Things You'll Need

  • Wood carving tools
  • Design patterns (optional)
  • Sand paper
  • Varnish, lacquer and paint

In the old days, wood projects were carved by hand using a whittler's knife and his imagination. Today, with so many wonderful wood-carving tools available, wood designs and craft projects are more popular than ever. Wood carving is not only fun, it can be a profitable business as well.

Choose the type of wood you want to work with. Cherry wood, oak and maple are fairly hard woods and will require more than a simple carving knife. Softer woods such as cedar and pine are more suited to traditional design carving methods.

Decide what design you'd like to carve. Sketch a pattern or carve from a reference photo or your imagination. You can also use one of the many free carving patterns found online (see Resources). However you choose to do it, have an idea what design you want to accomplish before you begin.

Use a Dremel tool, which features various drill, chisel, cutting, engraving and sanding attachments that allow you to complete most projects.

Consider using a power handsaw or a table saw for larger wood designs with less detail. Cut the main design using the larger power saw, then use a Dremel tool or hand chisels for sculpting details.

Incorporate wood burning into some of your designs. Use a wood-burning pen to burn art work into your wood projects for an extra touch of artistic flair.

Take as much care choosing the finish of your wood designs as you do making them. Clear lacquer finishes might suit some of your projects, while others may benefit from a dark stain or varnish. Use acrylic paints to add decorative touches as well.


  • Dremel tools are excellent wood-carving power tools treasured by many wood-carving professionals and hobbyists.