Wood carving techniques

Published On: August 31, 20230 Comments on Wood carving techniquesTags: Last Updated: January 27, 20244.3 min read

Wood carving is a very popular hobby and there are many different wood carving techniques. In our past articles we covered the types of wood carving tools and we explained how to sharpen wood carving tools! Now we will cover the all the most popular wood carving techniques in order to help beginners to select their preferable carving technique.

carving a relief in wood

Let’s get started with the most popular wood carving techniques.


Whittling is the oldest wood carving technique and it’s still very popular. It’s also the simplest type of wood carving and it’s ideal for beginners. All you need for whittling is a pocket knife or specialized whittling knife, a Leather thimble to protect your thumb and a cut-resistant glove. Naturally you need a piece of wood as well and the most popular ones are basswood, pine and balsa. Simply take a piece of wood and start cutting in the direction of the wood grain. Don’t ever cut against the grain! There are three main whittling techniques: straightaway rough cutting, pull stroke (pare cut) and a push stroke. Start with something simple as an egg, don’t try to whittle dwarf or a deer in your first attempt. When you whittle a perfect egg then you can try something more complicated.

whittling wood carving technique

Chip carving

Chip carving is carving on a flat piece of wood and it’s very much like a relief carving. You draw a pattern on a piece of wood and then you chip away the excess wood in order to get a carved image. There are two main types of chip carving: geometrical chip carving and freeform chip carving. Geometrical chip carving emphasis recurring patterns in order to get a 3D image. Freeform chip carving is essentially drawing with a carving knife in order to get a picture on wood. Geometrical chip carving is done with chisels and gouges taped by a hammer at a 45 degree angle in order to remove the piece of wood. Freeform chip carving is a bit more complicated and it’s best to master geometrical chip carving before you try to tackle freeform chip carving. Geometrical chip carving is considered to be as easy as whittling or maybe even easier and it can be a good starting point for beginners.

chip carving wood carving technique

Relief carving

As we said earlier, relief carving is a very similar wood carving technique with chip carving. The main difference is that with relief carving you’re essentially making a picture that stands out of the flat piece of wood while with chip carving you’re just making a pattern in the wood. Relief carving is done with chisels, gouges and a mallet and in similar way as in chip carving. Relief carving is much harder though and we don’t advise relief carving to beginners. If you mastered whittling and chip carving then you can try to tackle relief carving.

relief carving wood carving technique

Spoon carving

Spoon carving is also a very popular carving technique and there are a huge number of spoon carvers out there. If you want to carve a spoon, you’ll need some basic tools such as a whittling or wood carving knife, a hook tool, a chisel or curved gouge. As with all wood carving techniques you need to keep your instruments razor sharp and in top condition. You can get all this in one carving set without wasting time and money buying each tool separately. We can find your tool set in our guide to wood carving tool sets. Carved wooden spoons are used not only in everyday life but carved wooden spoons remain popular as an exclusive hand-made gift, original souvenir, and even as a collectible. Carving spoons is not easy and you’ll need to be patient until you master the technique. We advise you to start with large spoons and then gradually try to carve smaller and smaller spoons.

spoon carving wood carving techniques

Chainsaw carving

The most unusual type of wood carving is chainsaw carving. As you imagined from the name itself it doesn’t involve standard wood carving tools like chisels and gouges. Chainsaw carving is done only with using a chainsaw without any other tools. For chainsaw carving you’ll need to be a true chainsaw master and an artist because there is no space for making errors. Chainsaw carvers use tree stumps or logs to create a piece of art only by using a chainsaw. We do not recommend those type to anyone who isn’t a master in using a chainsaw because it is the most dangerous type of wood carving.

chainsaw carving


Now that you’re familiar with the most popular wood carving techniques you can choose the one that is most suitable for you. All that you need is a good piece of wood and a small set of wood carving tools and you can start making masterpieces. If this article inspired you to start carving please share your wood carving artworks with us.

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