Exquisite wood carvings

Methods of Carving Wood (Part I)

Wood carving is a craft that has been passed down in folklore and has a long history. The art of wood carving in China is commonly said to have originated in the Neolithic period. According to historical records, people in ancient times usually used this technique in the process of creating illustrations and prints for books. In modern times, most people apply wood carving in making personalized items and decorations.

Along with the progress of science and technology, wood carving has undergone great changes. In modern times, engraving machines and CNC machines have become the newest addition to the engraving field, and they have greatly simplified the laborious task of engraving. With these tools, it is possible to produce more complex and delicate works.

This article focuses on some of the methods of wood carving and will take you through a range of traditional hand carving and Electric carving methods and the tools involved in each.

I. Handmade wood carving

Handmade woodcarving, a type of sculpture, represents the purest technique in the art of woodcarving. Unlike modern carving methods that rely on automated equipment, handmade woodcarving relies entirely on people's hands, and requires a high degree of patience, precision, and a deep understanding of the texture and grain of the wood by the maker.


The tools used for hand carving are characterized by solidity and durability, and they usually have no additional moving parts, which allows the craftsman to more easily control the amount of wood to be cut, and thus to carve finer designs.

Tools needed for handmade wood carving

  1. Chisels: Chisels are available in various shapes and widths such as flat, round and angled.These chisels are mainly used to assist workers in removing wood in a controlled manner. Common chisels have two marked values on them: one indicates the depth of cut of the chisel, also known as sweep, and the other represents the width of its cutting edge.
  2. Carving mallet: The common carving mallet is round, which is designed to make it effective in spreading out the force borne when striking. By adjusting the force of the hammer and the angle of the chisel, the maker is able to change the depth and direction of the cut.
  3. Grain planer: The grain planer is used as a unique chisel with a V-shaped blade, which allows you to create lines or veins in your carvings, which emphasize the sharpness and complexity of the design elements.

Hand Carving Wood Step by Step

To carve with a set of chisels, follow these steps:

  1. Preparation of the wood surface: Sanding It is recommended to start with coarse sandpaper and gradually replace it with finer grits until the surface of the wood is smooth. If you find that the surface is already smooth enough, you can simply skip this step.
  2. Sketch or transfer the design: if you already have a unique idea, you can start by sketching the design on the wood with a pencil, or you can choose to print the sketch on paper and cut it out and paste it onto the
  3. Start sketching: Hold the chisel at an angle and use the mallet to strike along the lines of the design. Just trace the rough outline of the design.
  4. Remove the paper: After outlining the pattern, use a card scraper to gently remove the patterned paper previously adhered to the wood.
  5. Fine engraving: In order to emphasize the three-dimensionality  of the design, please repeatedly deepen the engraving of the lines. Where a V-cut is required, use a liner for precise carving; and for parts that require bending or gouging,  use a chisel.
  6. Cleaning the surface: Next, use a soft brush or dampened rag to remove the dust and waste materials generated during the work.

II. Wood carving with power tools

Wood carving with power tools exists similar to traditional handmade wood carving, but it has a uniquely modern style. Instead of carving exclusively by hand, people are more frequently utilizing power tools for wood carving. This does not reduce the familiarity of the craftsmen with their skills, but rather improves them. Because of these tools, carpenters are able to complete intricate designs in less time, significantly increasing their efficiency.

Wood carving tools

Electric Engraving Tools

  1. Electric chisel: A modernized version of the chisel, it does not require hand power but relies on pneumatic pressure or an electric motor to carve. The motorized chisel can be set for speed and is also equipped with interchangeable tips, which makes it possible to make large cuts in a short time, as well as having the ability to work with more intricate details.
  2. Rotary tool: This is a multifunctional power tool that can be rotated quickly. It is equipped with a number of accessories such as grinding wheels, whetstones and carving knives. This tool is characterised by its compact size and high precision, so it is often used for fine engraving, especially in those hard-to-reach areas.
  3. Planing Knife: It's used to hollow out a spot in the wood, but if you choose the right blade, it can be used for carving as well, such as creating large patterns or designs on the surface of the wood.

Steps for Carving Wood

  1. Preparation: Pick a relatively smooth piece of wood. For beginners, it is recommended to choose a softer textured wood that is more conducive to carving and shaping, such as pine or basswood.
  2. Printing design production: It is recommended to choose a black and white printing design for the blueprint of the carving.
  3. Transferring the design: Place the prepared design on the wood and transfer the pattern with copy paper, or drill some small holes as marking points at key locations to help clarify the outline of the pattern.
  4. Carve the outline with a pen: After the initial outline is drawn on the wood, use a pen to further refine it. You can use the small holes as reference points and connect the individual holes with the pen to get a pattern that matches the pattern on the paper.
  5. Carve: Follow the lines outlined with the pen and carefully carve with the power tool. You are free to decide on the depth of the engraving, but note that the depth of the engraving must be consistent throughout the pattern.
  6. Refine the inside of the carving: After finishing the carving, you can change to a sanding drill and carefully sand the inside of the carving. This is to make the inside of the work more flat and smooth.
  7. Sanding the surface: It is recommended that the exterior of the piece be sanded with fine sandpaper. After sanding, the piece can be gently inverted and shaken slightly to remove any debris.
  8. Apply acrylic resin: Brown paint is recommended as it is similar to the colour of the wood itself, but you can choose your own colour. Next, apply the acrylic to the carving. It is not necessary to achieve a perfect finish, as the excess paint will be removed during the sanding process.
  9. Remove excess paint: After the paint has dried, use fine sandpaper to sand the surface. This is to remove the excess paint and make the surface look cleaner and neater.
    Back to blog