Is Wood Carving Hard? The Complete Intro for Beginners

Nothing is more satisfying to me than shaping the wood in my hands and seeing the final result. Wood carving has been around for thousands of years and is practiced by many people all over the world using different techniques, some more difficult than others.

Even though wood carving is a very popular hobby, the initial thought of shaping a block of wood into a figure or design is intimidating or even thought to be too hard for some.

Wood carving isn’t hard to learn or do, especially if you start off with the right tools and begin with easy projects. Using quality made tools designed specifically for wood carving and using wood that is easy to carve, like basswood, will make the learning process fast and easy.

Wood carving is a fun hobby that anyone can enjoy and only gets easier the more you practice. All you need is wood and the correct tools for the technique that you want to use. Apart from that, there are some other tips and tricks that can help you get started on your first project. So, if you are interested, please keep reading!

Ways to Make Wood Carving Easier to Learn

There are several things that will make wood carving easier, here are a few that you should consider when getting started.

  • The sharpness of the tools
    Working with a sharp tool makes any wood carving project easier to work the wood. Using a dull or halfway sharp tool is also dangerous as you have to apply more force to the tool and it could possibly fly off in an unsafe direction once it is free of the wood.
  • Different types of wood
    Some wood types are harder than others and many beginners make the mistake of using the wrong wood to learn on. Using softer woods like basswood and pine are better choices for beginners.
  • Starting with a pre cut shape
    The initial process of shaping the wood into the rough outline you wish to carve can be time consuming and intimidating for those who don’t have all the tools yet. Thankfully, there are various pre-cut shapes that you can buy online that will give you a head start on your carving.
  • Having a wide selection of tools
    Over time, you will slowly start to accumulate different types of carving tools for different types of cuts. At the beginning, you will still be able to make many of the cuts with the standard carving tools you start off with, the only difference is that it may take longer to make the same cuts vs with a specific shaped tool.
  • Using power tools
    While I don’t recommend power tools for beginners, these tools will definitely speed up the carving process. These tools are much more expensive and has its own set of tools for the craft. Many professional carvers either focus on just using power tools or only hand tools, rarely do they use both.
  • Experience
    The more experience you have the quicker you will be able to carve. In the beginning it is best to take your time so you can understand the basics and become more proficient.

Is Wood Carving an Expensive Hobby?

While wood carving does require you to purchase tools and wood but it doesn’t have to be an overly expensive hobby. There are many wood carving techniques and styles that are inexpensive and perfect for beginners getting into the hobby, like whittling and spoon carving.

It isn’t expensive to get into wood carving. Many people start off by buying a beginners carving set with the majority of the tools they need for $100 or less and some basic wood from the local hardware store.

Depending on what you want to buy and your budget, it can be as expensive and inexpensive as you want it to be. I suggest for beginners to buy decent quality tools to start off with and wood that is inexpensive and easy to work with.

For example, many beginners will want to work on smaller wood carvings so tool kits like Flexcut’s Beginner Palm and Knife set on Amazon (click here to check it out) is an affordable and versatile option to start with. This kit offers a basic cutting knife, detail knife, small gouge, and a small v-tool to allow for many different carving options.

How Long Does it Take to Carve Wood?

Another concern for many wood carving beginners is how long it will take to make their first wood carving. Many will be 2 or 3 hours into their first carving and think they are taking too long, when in fact they are probably right on track for their first time.

The length of time it takes to carve wood will differ from person to person and project to project. Some simple wood carving projects that have little to no detail and fit in your hand can take 1 to 3 hours to finish while larger projects with many intricate details will take days to months to complete.

What is the Easiest Wood to Carve?

One of the biggest mistakes that I see many beginners getting into wood carving make is picking the wrong types of wood to carve. This simple choice can either make your first experiences enjoyable or extremely frustrating.

Wood carving should be fun, and some of the most enjoyable woods to start carving as a beginner are basswood, pine, and butternut as they are among some of the easiest woods to carve. These woods are soft enough to carve with a knife but yet still hard enough to allow for fine details.

Another wood trait you have to keep in mind is the wood grain itself. Ideally, you want to pick a wood that has a fine and uniform wood grain to prevent your wood from splitting while carving.

For more information on wood grain, check out this video I made about how to determine the direction of the wood grain and how to cut into the wood to prevent splits.

Woodcarving tools

Picking the right tool for the job at hand is essential to making the job easier and resulting in a better carving. You won’t need all the tools listed below, but this will help guide you to find the right tool you are looking for!


If you are planning to carve wood, then you will need knives. There are many different knives. Some of which you will use almost every time you make a wood carving.

  • Sloyd knives
    These are great for general purpose wood carving and are perfect for removing large sections of wood. They have a round handle and full tang blade.
  • Bench Knives
    If you want some detail in your sculpture, I recommend using a bench knife. With this knife, you can make precise and small cuts to add intricate patterns and textures to your carvings
  • Chip carving knives
    If you want to make patterns inside a flat piece of wood, you will need a chip carving knife. These knives make fluent and steady cuts that are easy to control.

Scoops and Hook Knives

As the name indicates, these knives have a scoop or hook. This allows the carver to scoop wood so you can make a spoon or kuksa cups with ease.

Chisel and Mallets

If you want to remove larger sections of wood, using a chisel and mallet would be recommended. Using a mallet to drive the chisel into the wood allows for controlled cuts that allow you to carve larger sculptures without having to manually push the chisel through the wood.


Gouges are similar to chisels. The difference is that the end of the tool is shaped into a curve. There are a few different ones.

  • U-Gouge
    This tool is used a lot by carvers. You can get them in many sizes, widths, and sweeps. Also, the shape can vary from straight to bent to spoon-shaped. The U-Gouge is used to take out larger pieces of wood at the same time.
  • V-Gouge
    A V-Gouge is similar to a U-Gouge. The difference is the shape. Instead of a U shape, the edge is shaped like a V- to make smaller incisions. 
  • Bent and Spoon Gouges
    If you need to make a carving in an area where a straight gouge doesn’t fit, then a bent or spoon gouge can be handy to have.

Beginners Kits

As mentioned before in the article, there are also plenty of beginner kits on the market. These kits don’t have to be expensive. They consist of the basic tools you will need to start your wood carving project. The kits often have different kinds of knives and gouges. Therefore, you will have tools to make small precise cuts and bigger cuts or chips inside the wood.

Some Final Thoughts

How Difficult is Wood Carving?
Woodcarving is a process where you use tools to make a shape into a piece of wood. The shape can range from staying a flat piece with some nice figures inside of it to a three-dimensional form. Depending on what you want to do with your sculpture and how you want it to be shaped, Wood carving does not have to be hard. 

Some techniques are more challenging than others. For example, relief carving (Read about Relief carving here)  is something more experienced carvers will tackle than beginners. In comparison, spoon carving is a great start for a beginner. 

I recommend whittling for beginners. Whittling is a technique where you carve a piece of wood that is the size of your hand. The only tool you will need to whittling is a knife, making it affordable and easy to start. It is great fun for anyone who wants to get the feeling of different wood and knife types and how to make different kinds of incisions. 

Some Last Thoughts About Wood Carving
After reading this article, I hope it has become clear that anyone can carve wood and that it does not have to be hard. If you are a beginner, some techniques are easier to get you started. Once you have had some practice, you can make the wood carvings as challenging as you want. In the end, it should be fun and what you end up creating is a bonus. I can’t wait to see what your first woodcarving will look like, can you?! 

If you want to start whittling today, check out my complete guide to whittling here:

Brian Carver

A long time carving enthusiast that enjoys carving wood and stone. The main person behind the Carving is Fun website and YouTube channel. Always has way to many carving tools and is willing to try new and exciting carving projects!

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