Where to start? Advice for a beginner...

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Forum topic by RPhillips posted 06-08-2013 01:27 AM 1981 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1281 posts in 2313 days

06-08-2013 01:27 AM

I’m currently on vacation visiting my family back in VA and I received some nice goodies from my Dad. My uncle was an avid wood carver specializing in ducks and other wildlife. Well, he’s since retired from doing it and given all his stuff to my Dad, who in turn is passing it on to me.

The lot of tools includes several knives, chisels, and gouges, Craver Max pneumatic chisels w/ controller, a wood burner w/ several tips, a Foreman shaft driven rotary tool with several types of bits/chucks and few other odds and ends.

So it looks to me that I have a pretty foundation of tools to get started, now I need to find some good instruction for a beginner. I’m pretty open to anything as far as a subject matter to carve, but I find gnomes and tree spirits pretty cool.
Once I get back home, I’m sure I’ll be Googling and YouTubing til there’s no tomorrow.

So any info or advice would be very much appreciated.

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

16 replies so far

View SteveKnnn's profile


66 posts in 2365 days

#1 posted 06-08-2013 02:58 AM

Nah, you don’t need that stuff. While you are here in VA, why don’t you just drop the stuff of here?

-- Steve in Richmond, VA

View MisterInquisitive's profile


32 posts in 2573 days

#2 posted 06-08-2013 03:22 AM

1. Get an easy-to-carve wood like basswood or poplar and just dive in, doodle with the various gouges and carvers—but use protective glasses and read the instructions for anything with a motor attached, and train yourself to always keep your hands behind the edge of any tool.

2. Learn to sharpen. It gets to be intuitive but for initial instruction there’s scads of stuff on the internet. Check out Chris Pye, who has written a lot of books about wood carving.

Just enjoy yourself and the projects will suggest themselves, and you’re limited only by the amount of time you have to spare and your imagination. Here's an interesting place to look for inspiration. Sadly she’s stopped blogging, but Kari’s blog is a good place to start out.

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1281 posts in 2313 days

#3 posted 06-08-2013 11:52 AM

Haha…Steve I’ll be driving through Richmond on my way home from Hampton Roads, so keep an eye out on 64 and maybe you’ll find something that I’ve tossed your way. :P

Yeah, sharpening techniques are going to be my first priority. I have a pretty good sized piece of Basswood to get me started too. Too bad I don’t have a bandsaw yet, but I guess my old coping saw will do just fine.

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 2369 days

#4 posted 06-08-2013 01:19 PM

Yes, you will be googling endlessly. Plus Lumberjocking.

Oh, and don’t forget re-designing all your tool storage to accommodate all your new carving tools, haha.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3344 days

#5 posted 06-08-2013 01:32 PM

That’s a great beginning. You’ll have a ball. I recently got a copy of Fur, Feathers, and Fins. It’s a good introduction for power carving animals. I also got a copy of Pyrography Workshop by Sue Walters which is a good introduction to Pyrography.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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16712 posts in 3811 days

#6 posted 06-08-2013 10:38 PM

I have always found books a great way to learn woodworking of any kind, but you might check to see if there are any clubs in your area for carvers. Membership in such a club might provide you with some experienced mentors.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View MNgary's profile


313 posts in 2894 days

#7 posted 06-08-2013 11:08 PM

Don’t overlook the benefits of joining a local woodcarving club. Not only are the demo’s at the meetings helpful, but members are glad to provide free one-on-one mentoring, too.

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View RPhillips's profile


1281 posts in 2313 days

#8 posted 06-08-2013 11:50 PM

Cool, thanks for the input guys. I’ll check that out soon.

I plan to start with just the hand tools, I’ll move up the the powered stuff once I learned what I’m doing. :)

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1328 posts in 2412 days

#9 posted 06-09-2013 04:42 AM

Watch Paul Seller’s videos on sharpening. Having sharp tools will make your experience much more enjoyable. I am a novice too, but I have turned into one hell of a sharpener. I am way better at sharpening than I am at woodworking, but I think that is the natural progression. Learn to sharpen. You won’t regret it. Even if you don’t go on in woodworking, it is a useful skill to have.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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1281 posts in 2313 days

#10 posted 06-12-2013 01:03 AM

Thanks, I’ll give them a look. I definitely need to learn how to keep everything sharp and in tip top shape.

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

View Jay Wells's profile

Jay Wells

58 posts in 2369 days

#11 posted 06-12-2013 01:18 PM

Look at Intarsia and segmentation. You have some good tools to try it.

-- Find your limitations, and ignore them!

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717 posts in 2775 days

#12 posted 06-12-2013 02:10 PM

you tube has great info Charles Neil and all of them are on the youtube lots of good info and very detailed info onthe tube

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View Charlie's profile


1101 posts in 2763 days

#13 posted 06-12-2013 02:25 PM

Saburr Tooth burrs work great in that Foredom. And they’re so tough I use them for rough shaping soapstone, alabaster and serpentine.

I had to re-learn a bit as carving was where one of my “memory holes” was from a really bad car accident, but a friend of ours is a master carver so I worked with him for 2 summers, restoring old carousel horses and stuff. I used to do relief carving about 35 years ago. Had tools but the accident made me forget how to use most of them.

SHARPENING, I remembered. My carving tools are so sharp they’ll cut you on Sunday and you won’t know it until Wednesday. REALLY sharp. And once they’ve been shaped they almost never see a stone again (unless they get chipped or something). I have a low speed power strop set up. 600-750 RPM and it has no grinding wheels. Just leather and fabric wheels for stropping. I can make 8 or 10 cuts with a chisel or gouge and then give it a quick strop and keep carving. Right now I don’t think any of my carving edges have seen a stone in over 2 years.

Keep ‘em polished sharp and they are actually a TON safer than a tool that’s just pretty sharp.

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1122 posts in 3602 days

#14 posted 06-13-2013 04:53 PM

Also think of non-traditional tools.. since i do small carvings I use sharpened dental picks and for cheap tiny chisels I sharpen up those flat head screwdrivers you often find in the “cheap sale tool” bins at Ace Hardware… also for sanding your carvings I recommend the sanding mops from R&D Bandsaw ...

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View Robert Tutsky's profile

Robert Tutsky

58 posts in 2527 days

#15 posted 07-20-2013 04:33 AM

Carving wood is a most challenging but rewarding endeavor to pursue. The tools you mention are a great start but you will soon find that as you work with wood as a carver you’ll find the need for other tools.

For inspiration and advice try looking at There you will find a wealth of wood carving information.


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