How to Hand Carve Wood

By Aubrey Carter
Use a chisel and wood-carving knife to hand carve wood.

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.

Warning

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

About the Author

Aubrey Carter began writing professionally in 2002. She writes for AOL City's Best. She moved back to Scottsdale after completing the New York City Teaching Fellows program, where she taught 10th-grade French and English language arts in the Bronx. She completed a Master of Science in teaching English to speakers of other languages at City University of New York.