How to Shave Wood


Wood can be cut and shaped with many different kinds of hand and power tools. For shaving, or removing fine slivers of wood to shape it, hand planes, chisels and knives work best. The tool used for shaving wood will depend on the desired effect. Edges of doors and other finished work are best shaved with planes. Mortises and most other fitting work is best done with a chisel. Whittling, for fitting dowels, pegs and handles, is best done with a knife.

Hand Planes

  • Set the plane on the wood to be shaved. Twist the blade locknut, located on top in the center, counterclockwise to release the blade for depth adjustment. Shift the blade toward the front for a deeper cut, or toward the rear for a shallower cut. Tighten the nut once it is adjusted.

  • Grasp the plane with both hands, the dominant hand on the handle at the rear and your other hand on the knob at the front.

  • Run the blade along the surface of the wood to be shaved, focusing the pressure into a forward motion, with steady pressure down. Keep the plane level to prevent the blade digging in. Repeat the motion as required to shave as much wood as needed from the surface.

Wood Chisels

  • Hold the chisel handle firmly in your non-dominant hand, with the blade extending out the side of the hand nearest your pinkie finger, perpendicular to your arm with the wedge of the blade pointing down. Position the striking face of the chisel between thumb and forefinger with it protruding.

  • Position the blade of the chisel on the surface of the wood at a slight angle where you intend to shave it. Grasp a hammer firmly in your dominant hand.

  • Swing the hammer lightly, striking the end of the chisel handle. Press down on the chisel with your non-dominant hand lightly, keeping the tip of the chisel at the same angle and allowing it to cut into the wood. Shift the chisel as required to remove the wood you need to shave and continue striking the chisel to shave a small sliver of wood with each stroke.


  • Hold the wood firmly in your non-dominant hand, with the end to be shaved pointing away from you. Tuck long wooden pieces under the elbow of the non-dominant arm to support them against the body.

  • Hold the knife with the edge of the blade pointing away from you, grasping the handle firmly in your dominant hand, with the thumb pressing on the top of the handle on the side opposite the blade of the knife. Lay the blade on the wood tilted at a slight angle.

  • Press into the wood lightly, keeping the blade tilted slightly, dragging it along the wood toward the end, lifting up a small shaving of wood. Continue shaving, positioning the knife in the same way each time. Turn the wood to shave it as needed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Safety should always come first when working with bladed tools. To prevent injury, wear eye protection and never cut toward yourself.

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  • "Woodworking"; John Kelsey; 2008
  • "Encyclopedia of Woodworking"; Alan Bridgewater, et al.; 2007
  • Photo Credit Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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