How to Hand Carve Wood

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Things You'll Need

  • Wood
  • Pattern
  • Graphite paper
  • Razor blade
  • 1/4-inch chisel
  • Wood-carving knife
  • Sandpaper

Woodworking is performed both by accomplished, seasoned professionals and beginning novices. Make small figures such as animals, trees and figures as well as large wood carvings with simple tools. Give carvings as gifts or use them to decorate a home with a rustic, country look.

Select a soft wood such as basswood, aspen or butternut if you are new to carving. Examine the direction of the grain. The grain should run up and down on the most fragile parts of a carving, such as animal legs. For a relief carving where a picture is carved into a piece of wood, the grain should be vertical.

Choose a pattern you want to carve such as a picture of an animal, a tree or a person. Trace the pattern onto the surface of the wood. You can also use graphite paper to transfer the pattern onto the wood. This allows you to erase lines without leaving marks.

Score around the pattern using a razor blade. Make small, gradual cuts.

Cut out a relief around the pattern using a 1/4-inch chisel. Cut just a little bit at a time until you have a wide relief around the pattern. Work slowly and carefully when you are carving near the edge of the pattern.

Use a wood-carving knife to carve away the rest of the wood, leaving the finished carving.

Sand the edges of the carving with sandpaper for a smooth finish.


  • Never cut toward your hand as you risk cutting yourself. Always carve away from yourself.