No announcement yet.

A Beginner's Carving Project

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • A Beginner's Carving Project

    There have been many discussions on this forum about how to start carving. Most have suggested using a pocket knife and a piece of wood, and "have at it!" Doesn't work? Sharpen the knife! Still doesn't work? Buy a different knife. Try different wood. Cut yourself? Wear a glove!

    I'd like to suggest a different approach and illustrate it with two photos. Start with a small basswood board, a clamp, and a #5 gouge.

    1. Draw a simple shape in the middle of the board - like this flower.
    2. Clamp the board to a sturdy bench or work surface.
    3. With the gouge held vertical to the wood, go around the shape, pressing the gouge into the wood as far as it will go.
    4. Next, with the gouge at an angle to the wood and 1/4" outside the shape, make a series of shaving cuts to the vertical stop cuts.
    5. Repeat all the way around the shape.
    6. Repeat the vertical stop cuts to deepen the relief and repeat the shaving cuts 1/8" outside the first row.
    7. When the outline is about half the thickness of the wood, start rounding the shape (such as the petals & center on this flower)
    8. If you have a pointed knife, you can add details like the veins in the leaves or creases in the petals.
    9. Smooth out any ragged spots with a sharp gouge or knife.

    Paint it and enjoy it. This was a successful first carving of my 9-year-old grand-daughter. No cuts - no tears

    flower 002.JPGflower 001.JPG

  • #2
    Hot start. Thanks. I realize that you have decades of experience with relief carving.
    What make you pick that for a beginner's first work?

    Hope she's pleased with it. It's the right time of year for some big flowers and bright colors.
    Brian T


    • #3
      I think your approach is an excellent one, Phil for those interested in relief carving, but most beginner carvers that I know of are more interested in carving with a knife in three dimensions. Just my opinion.
      Keep On Carvin'
      Bob K.

      My Etsy page:

      My Facebook page:

      My RWK Woodcarving Facebook page:

      My Pinterest page:


      • #4
        Phil's advice exactly parallels the method and subject I used in teaching three of my grand's to carve, except for painting. I schooled them continuously about using the gouges away from themselves, and had them often repeat three rules of carving: 1. Be careful, 2. Have fun, 3. Be careful. All three completed their carvings with no blood shed,

        Whether or not they pursue the craft in the future is not important to me. What is important is that they wanted to try it, stuck to it, have had the experience, and have some appreciation of the art and the creative process. I have experienced several arts and crafts in my life, some of which I enjoyed more than others and continued, but have learned something from each one. I wish the same exposure for my children and grandchildren, but you can't force it, just have the opportunities there for them.


        • #5
          I am convinced that most beginners - adult or youth - do not have enough manual dexterity to start with hand-held knife carving. To become familiar with wood and the forces required to carve it, the wood should be clamped down and both hands guiding the tool. Instead, they are taught to choose an end product, and go at it with whatever tools they have. Getting cut is explained away as a necessary part of the hobby. Nonsense!


          • #6
            In teaching anyone.. We need to teach basics. If they know the basics then the risk of getting cut is less. I have taught adults who have so-called no talent, how to make really nice paintings. It is like riding a bike....basics and more basics and then if the bug bites some real hardcore learning how to do better. Teaching kids like Phil is a great way to start, I agree depending on the age how much dexterity they have. If they are talented they will learn super fast and if not they will learn...but more slowly with more information. I believe doing art does help people with learning how to use tools, which I will continue to point out......everyone needs to learn. How to paint, how to use a knife, how to point and use...helps people screw in light


            • #7
              I would hand my nine year old grandson a gouge and teach him to use it, i would NOT hand him a knife- not yet. He's not ready. Thank you Pallin
              Buffalo Bif


              • #8
                I started carving in the round with a knife and still do it. However, I made a small 8X7 inch piece of 3/4 pine, with two strips of paint paddles on the edges of the top board side. I put a small piece of 1x1 square piece at the corner bottom so it hangs over the edge of a table. That keeps it steady when you carve a piece of wood up against a paint paddle edge...kind of in the belly between the two paddles.

                Anyway, it holds a workpiece up against the raised edge so you can make the "hard" cuts...if you slip, no problem. It makes for a nice steady miniature work table. I also put a piece of plastic cutting board stuff in the bottom to protect the board bottom. The knives do cut through it but I just replace it. It is a small price and the $ store carries sheets of it.

                I should probably post a picture, but the main point is it holds the wood for the risky and difficult cuts. Very safe.

                Of course, common sense goes a long way in wood carving.

                I figure if you can teach a kid gun safety...he/she can learn to carve with a knife?

                Living among knives and fire.



                • #9
                  Woodburner, what you've described is called a bench hook. Thanks for mentioning it, I've been trying to figure out a good way for the grandson to hold a piece of wood still.

                  You can see one here:
                  Buffalo Bif


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Buffalo Bif View Post
                    Woodburner, what you've described is called a bench hook. Thanks for mentioning it, I've been trying to figure out a good way for the grandson to hold a piece of wood still.

                    You can see one here:
                    Yep, looks similar except for a few variations since mine was a home brew. But yes, same concept and I find it a wonderful asset. I also took a Dollar Store tape measure and cut it off at 7 inches and attached it to the side of the bench hook. Seems I use that ruler a lot.

                    I also put a little 45 degree angled piece in one corner. That little bench hook has become a work horse for me, since most of my carvings are on the smaller side.

                    Thanks for the "name" and now I can refer to it as such.

                    Living among knives and fire.