The 25 Essential Wood Carving Tools for Beginners


If you are looking to start your wood carving journey, you will need to know what kind of tools are available and where they are best used. These tools range from simple knives for whittling to electronic equipment for power carving and wood turning.

For any wood carving project to be successful, you will need the right tool for the right job. Still, this doesn’t mean that you will need all the tools shown below. Some disciplines in wood carving, like chip carving and power carving, use specialized tools that are not usually used in other types of wood carving.

Below we will explore the different types of tools, where they are usually used, and where you can find them.

Whittling and Wood Carving Knives

The most basic tool that any wood carver will need in their tool box is a knife that is designed to cut and carve wood. Without a good carving knife, you may find it hard to add simple details or even start carving in general.

Of all the wood carving tools, a good wood carving knife is going to be the most essential tool you will need. Whittling and wood carving knives are usually made of high carbon steel and is tempered to the right hardness needed to hold a sharp cutting edge when slicing through wood.

There are several different types of wood carving knives and each will have their own primary functions and applications. Lets go over these knives and how they are used.

Sloyd Knives

The most commonly used wood carving knife available is the Sloyd knife as they offer the user a strong blade that can easily remove large sections of wood and typically have a sharp pointed tip that can be used for adding in details.

Sloyd knives are widely considered to be a general purpose wood carving knife with a long 2 to 3 inch blade with a full tang and a smooth, rounded handle. These knives excel at removing wood and are widely used for roughing out a carving, carving spoons, or most general purpose wood carvings.

These knives are very common at most wood carving stores and are easy to maintain. If you want to see some great sloyd knife options, click my link here for the best knives on the market.

Bench Knives

For anyone who wishes to make smaller wood carvings and add in fine details to their work, bench knives will be your go to standard tool.

Bench knives are the most common type of wood carving knife for anyone who wants to get into whittling and do basic wood carving. These knives are typically between 1 to 2 inches in length and excel at making small, precise cuts like adding details to hair and eyes.

These types of knives are just as common as sloyd knives but come in a wide variety of different blade and handle styles from dozens of different companies. If you want to see the best options on the market, check out my list of best whittling knives by clicking here.

Chip Carving Knives

If you are into carving designs into a flat piece of wood, making a beautiful design or image, you will want to pick up a chip carving knife.

Chip Carving knives are a specially shaped knife that allows the carver to remove, or chip, wood from a flat piece of wood to create intricate designs and patterns. These tools are designed to allow the user to create smooth and flowing cuts in the surface of the wood to precisely create beautiful patterns.

If you are looking to get into chip carving, Flexcut has the perfect chip carving knife set to cover almost all of your chip carving needs. You can pick up the Flexcut 3 knife set on Amazon for a great price by clicking here.

Wood Carving Tools

Most wood carvers will want to have a wider variety of tools available to them besides a straight cutting blade, this is where different types of tools like gouges, chisels, and rifflers come in handy.

By using these specialty tools, the wood carver will have a much wider set of capabilities to different methods of efficiently cutting and shaping wood to the exact needs they are looking for.

Scoops and Hook Knives

A very popular carving knife, especially among spoon carvers, are scoops and hook knives.

Hook knives are wood carving knives that have a rounded bend to them, allowing the wood carver to “scoop” wood, creating a concave effect in the wood. These types of wood tools are used in spoon and kuksa cup carvings as you can easily create a recess in the wood to store liquids in.

These tools are found just about everywhere wood carving tools are sold, including Amazon, Woodcraft, TreelineUSA, and Rockler from a wide variety of companies like Mora, Beavercraft, Flexcut, and OCC Tools.

Chisels and Mallets

Quite possibly, the most common wood carving tool that most everyone has is a good old fashion chisel and mallet. Even people who don’t do wood carving will usually have a set for general use.

Wood carving chisels are designed to cut directly into wood and is typically driven into the wood by a mallet. These two tools combined create an efficient method to rapidly and precisely remove wood for carving and joinery work.

These tools can be found at almost any hardware store that sells wood working tools of any kind.

Gouges

Another extremely common wood carving tool are gouges, and they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

A wood carving gouge is basically a chisel that has the cutting edge bent into a rounded curve. Gouges are designed to quickly remove wood from a flat surface where the use of a flat chisel would dig into the wood and get stuck.

Wood gouges are sold at most stores that sell wood carving tools and come in both palm gouges and variants designed to be pushed with a mallet.

Skew and Corner Chisels

Another variation to chisels and gouges are Skew and Corner Chisels.

Skew chisels have a flat cutting edge just like a regular chisel but are ground at a slight angle. These are primarily used in wood turning and in some cases to cut into corners.

Corner chisels look like regular flat chisels but bent at a sharp angle to cut corners in wood and is used primarily for creating joints.

These tools are sold in most places that specialty wood carving tools are sold for larger projects like furniture and wood turning.

Long and Short Bent Tools

If you are having trouble getting your chisel or gouge in a tight recess, you may want to look into getting a bent tool.

Long and short bent tools are basically chisels and gouges but with an upward bend at the tip of the tool to allow the user to reach into tight corners that aren’t accessible with regular straight tools.

These are typically considered to be specialty tools and may only be found at places that sell a wide variety of wood carving tools like Woodcraft.com.

Fishtail Chisels

If you are doing a lot of joinery work and need a good way to clean up your dovetails, fishtail chisels may make the task a little easier.

Fishtail Chisels cutting edges are shaped like a regular chisel but the body of the chisel quickly tapers down going towards the handle, ending up with a shape similar to a fishtail as is its namesake. These tools are perfect for cleaning up blind dovetails and other cuts into wood.

While fishtail chisels can be found at specialty wood carving shops, some people have been able to make their own versions from a standard chisel and a metal grinder to create the same shape tool.

Wood Rifflers

Sometimes you need a different type of carving tool that doesn’t necessarily cut but shapes the wood, this is where rifflers come in to play.

Wood Rifflers are typically double ended tools used to shape either wood or stone. They come with a variety of shapes and bends that allow the carver to grind different shapes into their carving by hand.

Not many places sell wood rifflers, but the place that I buy mine are on Amazon. You can pick up a set for a really good price by clicking here.

Power Carving

Not everyone may want to carve with a knife but instead quickly and nearly effortlessly carve wood with rotary tools and specialized wood carving bits.

Power carving is a form of wood carving that utilizes rotary tools and bits that quickly grind and shape wood to create beautiful works of art.

Rotary Tools

The most basic tool you will need for wood carving will be a rotary tool.

You can use most any rotary tool that uses a flexible shaft connecting the motor to the cutting bit to allow precise and controlled cuts into the wood.

While there are many specialized rotary tools that are made for woodcarving, you can use a basic Dremel rotary tool with the flex shaft attachment for a great price. You can pick up a basic set on Amazon by clicking here.

Wood Carving Burs

In order to efficiently carve wood with a rotary tool, you will need the right wood carving bits.

Most wood carving bits will look like a wood rasp and attach directly into the tool slot of a rotory tool allowing the carver to quickly create a wide variety of cuts into wood and create some amazing works of art.

These bits are typically available anywhere power carving tools are sold, like TreelineUSA.com.

Wood Turning

One of the coolest ways to carve wood is wood turning. This allows the carver to create symmetrical works of art quickly and easily. However, there is typically a much higher cost due to the specialized equipment needed.

Wood Lathe

The primary tool needed for any sort of wood turning is the machine to turn the wood itself, called a wood lathe.

Wood lathes are specialized power tools designed to secure to a block or chunk of wood and continuously rotate at high rates of speed. This allows for the wood carver to create a symmetrical cut both inside and outside of the wood block at a rapid pace.

These tools can be found at most hardware shops that sell wood working equipment and smaller setups can be found online for a decent price.

Turning Tools

You typically don’t want to use the same chisel and gouges you use for general wood carving while turning wood. Instead you want to use specialized turning tools to both prevent injury and damaging equipment or your wood carving.

Wood turning tools will typically have a longer handle or shaft so you may properly lay the tool on the tool rest while the wood is turning. Some of these wood turning tools may also have a different cutting edge design that make them excel for wood turning when compared to your traditional hand carving tools.

You will need to find a specialized wood craft store that sells wood turning tools to make sure you don’t end up with an inferior product. Check out Rockler.com for a wide variety of different turning tools.

Pen Turning Tools

Some of you may just want to create beautiful pens and don’t need any of the larger wood turning tools. Thankfully, there are smaller scale pen turning equipment from smaller laths to smaller tools to get you everything you need to get started.

A great, one stop shop for all of your pen turning needs is Rockler.com. They sell the tools and supplies needed from start to finish. If you are looking for a well priced mini lathe, Rockler sells the Excelsior Mini Lathe which is a well built lathe to get you started and last you a long time.

If you need some quality made pen turning cutting tools, Rockler sells a really nice 3 piece carbide tip set that should be all you will need to start carving.

Alternatively, you could check out Amazon for all of your tool and supply needs. Click here to check out the amazing deals on Amazon for pen turning lathes.

Sand Paper and Sanders

Of course, you will probably want to smooth out your wood carvings after they are done. The universally agreed tool for this is sandpaper!

Most wood carvers will want to have sandpaper on hand ranging from 10 grit to 220 grit to allow for a wider range to help roughly shape the wood and then to smooth the surface before applying a wood finish.

You can pick up sandpaper at any hardware store as well as any sanding tools you may need.

Sharpening

One of the most important items any wood carver will have are the tools needed to keep your blades and cutting edges sharp!

Without proper sharpening equipment, your wood carving tools will start to dull, chip, and become unsafe to use. You can ask any woodcarver and they will tell you that they frequently hone their blades to maintain a razor sharp cutting edge.

Lets go over several different types of sharpening tools and when is the appropriate time to use them. If you want tips on how to sharpen your wood carving knives, check out my how to guide linked below:
https://carvingisfun.com/sharpening-a-knfie/

Sharpening Stones

The most basic sharpening tool that just about everyone has is a sharpening stone. These come in many different sizes and grits and all have their roll to play when sharpening your tools.

If you are using a sharpening stone to bring life back to your wood carving tools, you will primarily only use two grit ranges, 400 to 600 grit for shaping the cutting edge and 800 to 1000 grit to refine the edge. You can use 1000 to 2000 grit stones to further refine and polish the edge, but most people move on to a leather strop instead.

If you are looking for a great sharpening stone to get started with, I suggest a two sided water stone like the Sharp Pebble 400/1000 grit whetstone as it is a two sided stone that uses water as the sharpening fluid and does exactly what you need for a sharpening stone!

You can pick up the Sharp Pebble whetstone on Amazon for a great price by clicking here.

Diamond Plates

If you want something a little nicer than sharpening stones, Diamond Plates are usually the way to go. These do the exact same thing as sharpening stones but are basically a metal plate with an abrasive surface instead.

I personally like and use DMT diamond plates as they sell traveling versions, but some of the best ones on the market are made by Ultra Sharp. They are typically more expensive but really do a great job at sharpening your tools.

You can pick up the Ultra Sharp diamond plate kits on Amazon for a decent price for a 3 piece kit by clicking here, or you can pick up some of the cheaper, travel ready DMT sets on Amazon for a really good price by clicking here.

Leather Strops

The statuesque for any wood carving sharpening tool is a quality leather strop with sharpening compound.

In order to hone your cutting tools to a razor sharp edge, you will need to use a quality leather strop with polishing compound designed to polish steel. This will remove any burs, rough grinds created by sharpening stones, and produce a refined cutting edge that glides through wood.

If you don’t have your own leather strop with polishing compound, there are plenty available on the market for a great price! I personally enjoy the BeaverCraft leather strop kit as the leather is already adhered to a ridged block of wood and comes with green polishing compound, which is the only compound you will really need throughout your wood carving journey. You can pick up yours on Amazon for a great price by clicking here.

Sharpening Wheels and Systems

https://youtu.be/LNSWeI8Sqf4

For those of you who want a faster way to hone your tools, a sharpening wheel or complete honing system is the way to go.

Sharpening wheels and systems can be quite expensive but the time saved can really add up, especially if you are using multiple tools on a large project.

If you are just starting out, you can pick up a simple sharpening wheel that attaches to your power drill from BeaverCraft. This is an inexpensive option that anyone with a power drill can use, pick up yours on amazon by clicking here.

Safety

If you are a beginner and are going to be working with sharp tools and have woodchips or sawdust flying all over the place, you may want to consider some safety equipment to protect your hands, eyes, and lungs.

Gloves

The most basic safety gear that most whittlers and traditional wood carvers will have are quality slice resistant gloves.

Carving gloves are typically made of some sort of slice resistant material, like Kevlar, and allow the carver reduce the chance of cuts from the sharp tools they are using. These gloves are highly important for beginners to have as they may still be learning the proper way to handle the tools and will be more susceptible to injury.

If you want to see a comparison of several different carving gloves and finger protectors plus where to get them, check out my link below:
https://carvingisfun.com/whittling-gloves/

Goggles and Safety Visors

If you are going to be doing power carving or even wood turning, you may want to consider some sort of a face shield to protect your entire face from flying wood chips!

There are many different types of face shields on the market, with some really nice versions that have built in air ventilation, but if you need something basic to get started off with the Uvex Bionic Face shield will get the job done and is available on Amazon for a great price, click here to check them out. If you are just looking for a more basic version, the Pyramex Safety Face Shield will keep you safe, check it out on Amazon by clicking here.

Dust Masks

For those of you who are going to get into power carving, I highly recommend picking up a quality dust mask. I have done plenty of carpentry work and stone carving over the years and can tell you that a quality dust mask is mandatory for these situations.

If you are looking for a good quality dust mask with replaceable filters, the GVS Elipse P100 is a great and affordable choice to get started with. You can pick them up for a great price on Amazon by clicking here.

Wood Carving Starter kits

If you are just getting into whittling and wood carving and want to try your hand at carving wood at a good price, you can pick up some great starter kits from Beavercraft and Flexcut

Beavercraft whittling and wood carving kits are an affordable way to get into the hobby with just about everything you will need from the beginning.

These kits will usually be less than $50 and come with all the basic tools you will need to get started. If you want to see my full review on Beavercraft tools and where to buy them, check out the link below:
https://carvingisfun.com/beavercraft-review/

If you are looking for a slightly better quality carving tool and don’t mind spending a little more money, Flexcut is the way to go.

Flexcut offers a wide variety of different tools and kits available for just about anyone. Right out of the box, they are razor sharp and easily cut through wood without any need to hone the tools. If you can afford them, this is the better option for beginners. For my full Flexcut review and where to buy them, check out the link below:
https://carvingisfun.com/flexcut-review/

More Whittling Information For Beginners

If you are new to whittling and wood carving and want to learn more, check out my one stop whittling resource for beginners linked below:
https://carvingisfun.com/Whittling/

Brian Carver

A long time carving hobbyist that enjoys everything from whittling to stone carving. A firm believer that you should have the right tool for the right job but shouldn't be afraid to just wing it.

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