How to Use Wood-Carving Hand Tools

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Machines create the wood carvings that you see on mass-produced modern furniture. There are, however, some craftsmen and furniture makers who still carve wood by hand. These craftsmen, whether professional or hobby carvers, use a set of hand tools and basic methods to create smooth lines. Make sure your tools are sharp for best results and handle these tools carefully.

Things You'll Need

  • Clamp
  • Carving knife
  • Flat chisel
  • U-shaped chisel
  • V-shaped chisel
  • Draw the design on the wood. Even the most skilled craftsmen draw their design directly onto the piece of wood with a pencil before beginning to cut the shape. This allows them to conceptualize the idea and make even and consistent lines.

  • Clamp the item to a table if it is too large to be held in one hand. This will ensure that it does not slip while you are working on it. If the item is small enough to be held in one hand, hold it in your left, or less-dominant hand, and use carving tools in your dominant hand.

  • Carve the wood from the top of the item toward the center of the item if possible. If you carve upward you run the risk of tearing the wood and making rough cuts.

  • Cut the wood as you would cut an apple, with your thumb in front of the blade, if the item is small enough to be held in your hand. This will prevent you from rotating the blade toward a wrist and cutting it. Be careful not to cut your thumb.

  • Press the carving knife into the lines to make the initial cuts. Make sure that your knife is as sharp as possible. This will allow you to make professional cuts. Dull knives will slip and tear pieces of the wood rather than cutting through them.

  • Press a flat chisel so that it is parallel to the surface of the wood and the point is pressed into the surface. Gently tap the chisel with a hammer to remove the top few layers of the wood. Using chisels of varying thicknesses helps you carve out the basic shape of the item. Ensure that the chisels are as sharp as possible.

  • Press a V- or U-shaped chisel against a piece of wood in the same way as the flat chisel. This allows you to carve valleys and concave recesses in the item, and to carve details. Again, ensure that the chisels are as sharp as possible as this will give you more control over the hand tool.

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