How To Carve Wood With A Knife ( A Step by Step Guides)

Wood carving is not an easy art likewise is it just a hobby. It is a form of self-expression, a means of relieving stress and as well, and an outlet for creativity.

To begin with, there are several things that can actually be done to make the learning and carving procedure much easier for you. One of the fundamental game on how to carve wood with a knife is by changing strategies as regards the learning experience is your choice of wood.

Once you’re able to get an easy wood to work on, then you’ll find that carving wood generally, will become a reasonably easy process.

Also, with the right touch and right tools, you can basically create a masterpiece for the mantle or furniture fit. All you need is a set of basic wood carving tools for beginners.

However, this article will give you a rundown of some of the easiest wood to work on for novice wood carvers such that you’re able to decide which one works best for you. We will also go through some of the diverse tools that can be used to carve wood but most especially, how to carve wood with a knife.

Trust me, this topic seems exciting already and you really want to follow through till the end while we provide you with well-detailed information.

How To Carve Wood With A Knife.

What makes wood easily carved?

There are quite a couple of factors that must be considered when choosing wood for your carving project. Some of these factors include; Will I paint the final piece or leave it with a final finish?

Will I be making use of a chisel and mallet for sculpting or a carving knife to draw detailed designs? If you’re able to answer those questions, then you can go ahead to choose your timber because ideally, you can only choose the right timber based on your target requirements.

Funnily, some wood carvers actually go for shaped sticks or logs. A newly cut log can cause problems since it still contains a great deal of moisture. Perhaps the log dries too early, it may crack badly.

So it is always best that you allow the log to dry for a long period of time until it reaches an acceptable moisture content level in order to prevent unwanted cracking. Another way to go about this is to purchase kiln-dried wood that has already been cut into boards.

Also, in most cases, the wood has to be softened to make the carving easier. Since the moisture content in freshly cut logs is high, it can lead to difficulty in carving.

So you really want to ensure the log is dried in a methodical manner for an extensive time frame because if it dries too quickly, I’m afraid it may experience crack which will possibly ruin the entire job.

Also Read: 10 Best wood carving set for beginners

How to carve wood using a carving knife.

Carving knife tends to be one of the best wood carving tools for beginners due to their versatility and also the fact that come in a range of sizes. We have some projects that only require a carving knife to be completed.

Your carving knife can be used to trace an outline on wood, carve out pieces of different sizes, or even add details. The wood types used for carving usually have a wide range between soft and hard which means you really need to practice how to control your cuts and also, ensure your knives are extremely sharp in order to get your desired cuts.

If you intend to start your wood carving education with whittling, all you need is a set of knives. Whittling projects often have a rougher finish and fewer details.

How it works:

If you’re working on a small carving that can be held in the hand, ensure the wood is held in the left hand(for a right-handed person) while you position the knife in the right hand.

Keep the left hand behind the knife and make use of the left thumb on the blunt side of the blade such that you act like a fulcrum to control the cut. So with the thumbs stationary, rotate your right hand and wrist to make the cut.

In this position, let’s just assume the knife slips, trust me, you won’t be cut. Never should the knife go flying uncontrollably out off the piece of wood.

Another way to get this done is to hold the knife as if you were peeling an apple. But you just should be very careful not to nick your thumb.

So you carefully cut with the grain of wood as much as you can. There darker streaks running through the wood are the grain. So you cut parallel to these grains in the direction that provides the least resistance.

Note: If it seems like the wood is chipping or tearing when you cut, that’s possible because you’re cutting against the grain. So in this case, you flip the wood around and cut the other way. If you find it much easier, then that is the correct way to cut the wood grain of your piece of wood.

The next step is for you to work in stages so as to first obtain the basic shape before refining the shape. You want to make some larger cuts to remove more wood while you get the rough shape of your design first.

Then gradually, you begin to make smaller and finer cuts as your piece takes shape until you finally achieve your desired design.

I mentioned the carving knife is used to add details earlier, so this is where it comes in. Once you’re satisfied with the overall shape of your design, you can now make use of the tip of the carving knife to add fine details. For instance, if you’re carving a person or animal, you can use the tip of the knife to carve fine lines that look like hair.

How To Carve Wood With A Knife.

Some of the easiest woods to carve.

Here is a list of the easiest woods to carve:

Oak – Best for larger projects.

This is a classic carving choice that has been popular among craftsmen since time immemorial. Oaks are very easy to work on while using hands and carving tools.

The grains density is quite higher than basswood, but that’s nothing to worry about since it allows you to work on larger pieces with intricate designs easily. The strength, versatility and sturdiness all work together in its favor hence making oak the universal choice for larger projects such as making interior and exterior furniture.

Yellow cedar

Yellow cedar or cypress is a personal favorite of many wood carvers. The wood is easy paint on as it has a nice grain density. The effect of it’s hue can be experimented since the timber tends to mature with age, generally taking a uniform medium to fine texting. You can work on yellow cedar both with hands and machinery which makes it an ideal choice for beginners as well as advanced carving projects.

American cherry

This is also one excellent timber that is easily carved on. The heartwood texture of American cherry varies from light pink to a rich red-brown texture, which makes it highly coveted by wood carvers all over the world. The sapwood of the American cherry is cream-colored and has a straight grain.


Aspen gives off a nice glossy appearance when oiled, hence making it an ideal choice for both furniture and show pieces. Despite having a dark greenish bark, the timber itself has a light brown texture. The timber is light and highly durable and can be easily gotten From most timber suppliers.


The butternut tends to be a rare softwood timber that is beginner-friendly and also, easy to work on. There must have been a certain level of practice before anyone can start working on a softwood timber. The color of the heartwood of butternut is light-browned and the wood is coarse with straight large grains which makes the butternut a great choice for wood carving artwork. You’d really enjoy working on this with a whittling knife.

Black walnut – For luxury carving.

Although not as widely used as the previous mentions in the list, black walnut is very much coveted among wood carvers. It is mainly used for luxury carving because it has a very gorgeous appearance.

The timber has a rich dark chocolate-brown color and a dense grain pattern that gives it a strong lustrous look. As expected, black walnut has a high price tag but if you really want your carvings to look splendid and opulent, then trust me, there’s no better candidate.

Conclusion: How To Carve Wood With A Knife.

Wood carving is quite an easy task to do when you know the wood type you’re working with, you have the basic requirements and tools that’d help make your work easier while helping you create a perfect furniture fit.

Meanwhile, this article has done a major breakdown on what it takes to carve wood using a knife. Trust me, it is something anyone can do successfully and come out with a great outcome only if there are specific instructions to guide you through. And this, we have been able to provide. I hope this post is able to help you out.

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