All Replies on What type of carving to learn first?

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View EngineerChic's profile

What type of carving to learn first?

by EngineerChic
posted 01-26-2017 05:08 PM

22 replies so far

View GR8HUNTER's profile


7914 posts in 1593 days

#1 posted 01-26-2017 06:38 PM

Tatiana … does excellent chip carving …mostly in basswood … I think she only uses 1 knife …best is talk with here …cuz she could deffinitly help you out

Welcome 2 LJ’s

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View ClaudeF's profile


1181 posts in 2588 days

#2 posted 01-26-2017 08:31 PM

For geometric chip carving, you’ll need three basic knives. Chip carvers often use various gouges to remove curved chips as well.

For relief carving, a couple of knives should suffice – one carving knife, one detail knife. But you’ll need some gouges as well. Here’s a blog article by a carver who makes his living at it. He does a lot of architectural carving, but also does “egg and dart” molding, picture frames, etc. The article is well worth the time it takes to read…

Here’s a site of an expert chip carving with free tutorials, as well as tons of specific info about chip carving – as well as a bunch of free patterns:



View them700project's profile


270 posts in 1899 days

#3 posted 01-26-2017 08:37 PM

flex cut goes on sale tommorrow at woodcraft 30% off. I was thinking of getting a basic blade for in case @&#^

View Bonvivant1's profile


31 posts in 1855 days

#4 posted 01-26-2017 08:54 PM

Those woods, with the exception of the Mahogany (depending on species), are going to be hard to carve. Most people use Linden, aka Basswood, or Butternut. I qualify this statement with the fact that I am new at carving.

-- You took your first pinch like a man and you learned the two greatest things in life...Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.--Jimmy Conway

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3747 days

#5 posted 01-26-2017 10:48 PM

I think that chip carving is a great place to start. All you need to get started is a couple of knives, a sharpening stone, and maybe some finger protection. You can do it anywhere and it’s very relaxing. It helps if you can get a couple of general books on it. Also take a look at My Chip Carving. Marty Leenhouts owns the site and is a fellow Lumberjocks and he’s a great teacher.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View EngineerChic's profile


34 posts in 1385 days

#6 posted 01-27-2017 12:21 PM

Thanks, everyone, these are great tips.

ClaudeF – I read the article you linked and I think that’s probably a great solution for him, but I get the sense he chose that working style to maximize productivity and income. I can see the value in that … I’m just at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Them700Project … Shucks, too bad about the sale, I work less than 10 miles from a woodcraft store ;). I might have to take a drive by … I need a new straight bit for my router, anyhow.

I’m going to google some more pics of chip carving, it sounds like the way to go and if I can find a style that isn’t overly folk-art-esque, I think it could be a winner.

View GR8HUNTER's profile


7914 posts in 1593 days

#7 posted 01-27-2017 04:14 PM

Also take a look at My Chip Carving. Marty Leenhouts owns the site and is a fellow Lumberjocks and he’s a great teacher.

also :

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View MikeinWaunakee's profile


4 posts in 1390 days

#8 posted 03-22-2017 10:28 PM

I ram a very experienced woodworker (also an Engineer) who recently started carving and found Mary May’s online carving school perfect for me ($15 per month, but you immediately get access to a couple hundred lessons previously released, which you can download and save for future use). She has beginner to advanced projects, mainly relief carving but a few other types as well. She does classical carving most often (think acanthus leaves) but many other kinds as well. She basically sets up a video camera (which her son then produces) and talks you through the entire project, commenting the entire time. If it takes 3 hrs to carve a project, she will release three one-hr videos, and she explains what she is doing and why she is doing it throughout (“I’m now using a #7 6mm gouge, and I’m going to go clockwise in this area to avoid grain tearout”). She also provides pdf photos of the finished product, tool lists, and outlines to copy. If you check out her website and see what she has to offer, I think you might be pleased.

View Planeman40's profile


1519 posts in 3641 days

#9 posted 03-23-2017 12:16 AM

A piece of advice here from an experienced carver.

No matter what type of carving you do, your knives must be RAZOR sharp!!! You must learn how to sharpen a gouge, knife, or chisel until it can shave the hair off your forearm (being a woman, you may have to select another part of your anatomy). Dull blades or blades with a poor cutting angle to the edge make carving difficult and usually give poor results.

Sharpening is not difficult, but understanding the process and having the right sharpening stones (only a very few are necessary) and strop are necessary. I suggest you watch some videos on YouTube about sharpening. One trick I find very necessary to me is to view the edge periodically under magnification while sharpening. I use a cheap $5 2X degree of magnification Chinese-made magnifying visor and look at the edge straight on under a powerful lamp. An un-sharp edge will show as a bright streak. A sharp edge will show nothing.

I recommend using Arkansas stones and slips for your final sharpening ( and a good leather strop with jeweler’s rouge rubbed on it to bring the edge to razor sharpness.

Good luck with your new venture and ask us any questions here that you come to.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View LittleShaver's profile


695 posts in 1500 days

#10 posted 03-23-2017 01:16 PM

I tried my hand at chip carving for the first time this past weekend. Softest wood in the shop was some cherry. Results were about what you’d expect for a first effort, without the “right” knife in relatively hard wood. I watched a number of youtube videos and found some free patterns to get me started. quite fun to do and could be relaxing once you move up the learning curve a bit.

-- Sawdust Maker

View Planeman40's profile


1519 posts in 3641 days

#11 posted 03-23-2017 01:36 PM

I feel sure you know Basswood, also called Linden, is the standard for carving. Relatively soft, not much grain, but holds detail well.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View Robert's profile


4042 posts in 2361 days

#12 posted 03-23-2017 02:38 PM

Those woods you have don’t lend themselves to chip carving. Basswood or butternut are the standards.

Chip carving is an excellent way to start out because you only need a couple knives. I find chip carving much more enjoyable than mallet carving and quite soothing to the soul, too.

The only drawback is carving wood can be difficult to find. There are many supplies who will ship short lengths of basswood and butternut for a reasonable price..

Mallet carving requires a much more extensive collection of gouges + sharpening stones.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View pontic's profile


801 posts in 1489 days

#13 posted 03-24-2017 12:48 AM

Don’t try to carve Cherry until you’ve gone thru quite a few board feet ot bass wood or mahogany. Cherry will break a carvers heart. ask me how I know.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4544 posts in 3442 days

#14 posted 03-24-2017 12:56 AM

I would also say chip carving since it gets you to know two tools very well and that is all it takes.

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

5987 posts in 1463 days

#15 posted 03-24-2017 10:07 AM

For what it’s worth, I started carving spoons in dry, well-cured cherry. It’s a pain, but you’ll learn a lot about working with the grain if you pay attention. Knocked out two spoons from some elm last night, and compared to cherry, it was a snap to work. By all means, work with the cherry if it appeals to you, but be aware that’s not the easiest path. The soft maple may be easier to work. And have fun!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View pontic's profile


801 posts in 1489 days

#16 posted 03-27-2017 11:43 PM

This is my attempt at relief carving on a Jewelry box made out of Pine.
Lesson: Sharp tools are a must.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View chrisstef's profile


18112 posts in 3887 days

#17 posted 03-27-2017 11:57 PM

Check out mary may for relief carving and on line classes. I find her very easy to understand and feel like she emphasizes the important parts multiple times during a tutorial which really drives it hone for me.

Edit – as said above – sharpening, very important. Were lookin for razor blades.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View LittleShaver's profile


695 posts in 1500 days

#18 posted 03-28-2017 01:08 PM

Continued my travels up the chip carving learning curve. After first trying cherry and having beginners level success, I gave it a shot using white oak this weekend. I some regards it was easier than cherry, but it did require a good deal more effort and a different approach. Sharp is absolutely necessary in any case.
Seems like this could be a fun skill to add. May have to breakdown and get some “proper” knives. Unfortunately, I have a huge supply of white oak to deal with, so getting bass or butternut is probably not in the cards.

-- Sawdust Maker

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4209 posts in 3989 days

#19 posted 03-31-2017 02:08 AM

If not already mentioned, look around for a local carvers club. We have one at our local Senior Center. I joined a couple of years ago after I retired. Ours has some chisels and gouges that a newby can use, plus the teacher knows his stuff and teaches people how to carve. You would learn what kind of carving you like that way.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View LDO2802's profile


167 posts in 1311 days

#20 posted 04-20-2017 09:34 PM

I don’t like chip carving. The geometry tends to require precision and when I am knifing through wood, it becomes difficult for me. If I over cut I freak out. Relief carving is more my speed, but I don’t use a lot of tools, just one knife and one gouge.

View runswithscissors's profile


3118 posts in 2906 days

#21 posted 04-21-2017 12:29 AM

I have found very soft woods actually more difficult. Unless the tools are very sharp (which of course they should be), in super soft woods, such as ponderosa pine or red cedar, they tend to crush rather than slice the wood. I have done chip carving in white oak and walnut. Alder is an especially nice wood for chip carving, as it’s not too hard or too soft, has a fine grain, and doesn’t easily break off or chip accidentally. In fact, of the woods easily available here, (Pac NW), I regard alder as my no. one choice.

I have to confess, I haven’t done any chip carving for years. But it’s a satisfactory kind of carving to do, as the work goes quickly, and a really nice looking end result isn’t hard to achieve.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Planeman40's profile


1519 posts in 3641 days

#22 posted 04-21-2017 01:06 PM

Being an old model airplane builder, I test the newly sharpened edges of my carving tools and other tools on scraps of balsa for the reason you mention. Only a very sharp edge will easily cut balsa and not crush it.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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