How to choose wood carving tools? Types of wood carving tools

How to choose wood carving tools? Types of wood carving tools
If you are a beginner in wood carving you will need an information about how to choose wood carving tools and about types of wood carving tools before you will buy something for your hobby or job.
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How to choose wood carving tools? Types of wood carving tools

Wood carving has been an integral part of the art and culture of many civilisations through history. Despite a decline in popularity in the early 20th Century, woodcarving is as popular today as it ever was. From chip carved plaques to full sized carvings in the round, wood carving offers many different creative possibilities.

Anatomy of a wood carving tool

Any carving tool consists of the main parts; the blade and the handle. Starting from the cutting edge of the blade, the straight or curved shape of this edge is referred to as the sweep. From this point the blade will either be bevelled on both sides, if it is a straight sweep and bevelled on one side only if the sweep is curved. If the bevel is on the inside of the curve the gouge is said to be in-cannel and if the bevel is on the outside of the curve the gouge is out-cannel.

As the blade nears the handle, it starts to taper at the shoulder reaching its narrowest point at the neck.

From the neck, the blade flares out towards the handle to form the bolster. Unseen, a rod extends out from the bolster into the handle. This tang, gives extra support to the blade within the handle. The handles of carving chisels are usually made from wood. Slow growing, straight grained hardwoods such as ash, beech and hornbeam are best for handles as the wood is dense and strong and the straight grain is less likely to split due to inherent knots and faults.

A brass or steel ferrule usually supports the handle next to the bolster where the tang enters the handle.
Anatomy of a wood carving tool

Types of wood carving tools

Carving chisels
The carving chisel is, specifically, a flat bladed carving tool. Carving chisels differ to ordinary woodworking chisels in that they are bevelled on both sides of the blade instead of having a bevel and a flat back. The standard chisels have a cutting edge that is square to the sides but chisels are also available with a skewed edge, which is particularly useful when cleaning out tight corners where there is little clearance.
Chisel wood carving
Carving gouges
The carving gouge is the most commonly used type of carving tool. Available with varying degrees of blade curvature, gouges can produce all kinds of concave and convex shapes and surfaces. This curvature is called the sweep and is usually denoted by a number. The higher the number, the tighter the curve. It is the higher numbered gouges that are particularly good at cutting channels and deeper details.
wood carving gouge
Long bent gouges
The long bent tools have blades that are curved along their entire length. This shape allows them to hollow out and make the deeper cuts a straight gouge would be unable to make. Available with a range of sweeps and also as a V-tool, this type of gouge is extremely useful when relief carving.
Long bent gouges
Spoon bent gouges
Also known as the short bent gouge, spoon bent gouges get their name from having a blade that is mainly straight along its length and only curves at the end; looking like a spoon. Like the long bent gouges, the spoon bent gouges are used for hollowing and deep cutting however because of the unusual blade shape, these gouges excel at cutting in hard to reach areas.
spoon bent gouges
Carving knives
An important tool in any wood carver's collection, carving knives can be used for whittling, chip carving, letter carving and detailing as well as for general carving work. Carving knives are available with many different blade shapes, each one designed for a specific purpose. When choosing a carving knife, think about what the knife will be used for and then select a blade shape that will best suit your needs.
wood carving knife
V-tools get their name from the V profile of the blade. Producing a V shaped cut with a crisp angled bottom, V tools are used for detailing and adding decoration. Also known as V parting tools, V-tools are available in a variety of different angles with the most common being 30 and 45 degrees.
wood carving vtool

Size of a carving tool

The overall size of the tool can have some influence on how easy it is to control. Beginners and those carvers with smaller hands find medium sized tools far better to work with as they give greater control when cutting. Medium sized tools have shorter blades and smaller handles than full sized tools. Even smaller, palm tools give even greater control and are favoured for very fine work as well as for linoleum carving. 


When there is any drop in performance of the carving tool, it is time to sharpen the blade.

Carving tools can be sharpened either by hand with oil or water stones, or mechanically using a bench grinder.

To preserve the shape of gouges and V-tools, use a profiled stone or strop that matches closely the profile of the tool being sharpened.

For the best results, sharpen and polish both sides of the blade.