If you want to learn how to carve wood and make great pieces of art, the first step in the right direction is to familiarize yourself with the different styles. Why? Because, just like any other craft, you don’t become an expert by being all over the place. Focus and the art will follow.
The first style in wood carvings is easily the oldest style in the world. It is called whittling. With whittling, you use a carving knife to chip away at a piece of wood until it is formed into the image of your choice. Whittling pieces, though, are not smooth, and you can easily see and feel the carving marks on the finished work. However, this is actually deliberate and pays homage to the oldest wood carving technique in the world.
The style that offers a smooth and three-dimensional finished product is called carving-in-the-round. To master this style, you will need more than a carving knife. We shall talk about the different instruments used in carving in the later part of this article. For now, let’s talk about the two other different styles.
While whittling and carving-in-the-round wood carvings are three-dimensional, the next two are two-dimensional.
Bas-relief carving is very much like making an elaborate piece of big stamp from a large piece of rectangular wood. The result is a painting that sticks out of a canvass, so to speak. Masters of bas-relief can make the most spectacular images that speak a thousand words.
Chip carving is mostly about chipping away at a piece of wood to make elaborate geometric shapes.
If you want to get ideas on each type of wood carving style, there are many picture boards on the subject on Pinterest. But of course, you do not want to stop at appreciating the masterpieces you can find in there. You will want to become a master yourself.
Once you’ve decided on the style you want to specialize in, take classes on the subject. You can take online classes or classes in a studio near you. Supplement your learning with books. Above all, practice, practice, practice.
How well you develop your skills really depends on how well you are able to handle the different tools in the trade, and there are several of them. Aside from carving knives, there are chisels, gouges, and V-tools.
Chisels are characterized by their straight or slightly diagonal edge. They are best used on sculptures where you will be chipping away at a wood block. Never use a chisel for a bas-relief or chip carving project because it will tear the wood. Use a gouge instead.
A gouge has a curved edge called a sweep. There are different grades of gouges which indicate on how curved the sweep is. A #2 gouge only has a slight curve while #11 is very curved, and is used mainly to carve out hair.
V-tools are used as finishing tools to give more dimension to a project. The edge of a v-tool comes in different degrees. There are v-shaped tips that have a 45-degree angle. Still, there are others that have a 60, 70, or 90-degree angle.