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Wood Carving How to Choose the Right Tools

If youíre going to be a wood carver and not just a whittler, youíll need to select a number of tools. Thereís just no way around it. So what are the right tools for wood carving?

Tools for Sharpening. Before the carving tools, it seems appropriate that tools for sharpening them should come first. After all, first we sharpen and then we carve.

At the very minimum, you should have a sharpening stone and a strop. The sharpening stone is used to get your edges to sharpness. Many sharpening stones come in different shapes and in different sizes. Some are very accommodating to the typically short blade lengths of wood carving blade edges. Diamond coated slipstones are very nice. Some sharpening stones can even be found on a key chain or be as small as a credit card. So very convenient.

A strop is meant to remove the burr and all micro-bits still clinging to your well-sharpened blade edge. This is very important in wood carving. Anything added to the edge will only slow your progress. Youíve got to get everything off. If you prefer, you could use a honing compound or a honing board to smooth out your edges.

If youíre really serious about becoming a wood carver, it is highly recommended that you learn how to sharpen and strop a knife. Once youíve learned that, youíll also be able to sharpen most other carving edges. The need for smooth sharp edges is a constant in wood carving. Knowing how to achieve them will put you way ahead of the game.

Tools for Shaping. Each type of carving tool that is meant to shape wood has a specific function. At the very minimum, you should have carving knives, wood chisels, wood gouges, wood rasps and rifflers, a mallet and maybe even a power drill.

◦ Carving knives. This is your most basic of all carving tools and there are many kinds. There are straight-edged knives, skewed knives, bent knives, chip knives, detail knives, special pocket knives modified for carving and folding knives with lockable blades. And these arenít all of them. There are even micro-knives or micro-tool kits, if youíd like.

Itís a matter of functionality. Each edge is target specific. When youíve learned what each type of knife can do, and youíve considered the carving project ahead of you, then youíll know which knives are best for that job. The best knives used for one specific task may not be the same knives that are best for another. Thatís why youíve got choices.

◦ Wood chisels. Most chisels are ground on both sides but it is possible to find them with a bevel on only one side. The head may be slanted or square in shape. They may even be bent forward or backward. Youíll have quite a selection.

◦ Wood gouges. This is one of the most used tools in wood carving. There are many shapes and sizes. Some are very short and stout while others extend for a few inches with an extended blade edge. Youíll probably end up with several kinds. Thatís not a problem. Surely, youíll use each one at some time or another.

◦ Wood Rasps or Riffler files. Shopping for these tools could be a bit confusing. Really. Some stores call it a rasp, others will call it a riffler. And yet another will call it a rasp riffler. How to know, how to know. Well, the majority of merchants appear to agree that a rasp is a very coarse, straight file. The tool itself may be thick and rectangular like a sharpening file but donít be surprised to find those that are slender with a curving head, looking just like a riffler.

Rifflers, on the other hand, are usually slender with a curved head. Many times these curved heads can be found on both ends of the riffler. You can even find kits that offer you different shaped heads and at different sizes.

◦ Mallets. These little hammers are invaluable in the right circumstance. They are a must for chip carving, relief carving and intaglio carving. (What am I saying?) Mallets are a must for all wood carving. You may need just a few millimeters off of here and no more, maybe add a little notch there, an indent over here, maybe create a shadow. It really is such a valuable tool.

◦ Power tools. There are some pretty nice power tools for wood carving. There are power drills, rotor saw burrs, power chisels and mini grinders. You can even find power carving kits. Thereís even a wood carverís kit that offers its own selection of power grinders.

These tools are quite extraordinary in how much time and labor they can save wood carvers. Many consider them only for life-size or extremely large carvings. Itís all up to the carver. Hey, how about a carving created entirely by power tools? (Wonder how big thatíd be.)

Tools for Sanding and Smoothing. When all the wood carving and shaping is done, youíll want to sand and smooth all surfaces. This is an important step that precedes any painting or varnishing. In doing so, youíll remove any remains from any previous finishing process and youíll also prepare the wood to bond with any non-penetrating chemicals. Sanding can be done using sand paper, sanding clothes or sanding sticks.

◦ Sanding is often accomplished using sand paper. There are many grades, from very, very coarse to very, very fine. Thereís quite a selection. Something very similar to this is the defuzzing pad. It does as it sounds. It removes all fuzz still clinging to the wood surface.

◦ There are sanding clothes that come in a roll and are available in varying grit sizes. Sections may be cut from the roll and rolled or folded as you wish. Best thing is, you donít have to worry about it cracking or falling apart on you.

◦ Sanding sticks may also be found in varying grit sizes. You can also find sanding stick kits or sanding detail kits that can remove glue or minute remains of your finishing products. Mini-belt sanding sticks or sanding belts may be used for large sanding jobs.

Wood carving is an amazing craft to develop. You could use just a handful of tools and work with small projects. Or you could use a bunch of tools, including power tools, to work on really large projects. Either way, itís very relaxing, oftentimes exhilarating and extremely satisfying. Have fun!
About Author Len Q. :

Len Q. is a master blade sharpener. If you would like to learn more about ª Knife Sharpening: How to Sharpen Knives, Maintain and Store Them ª Sharpening Other Edges (i.e. Chain Saws, Lawn Mower Blades, Gardening Tools, Axes) Find it at

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Article Added on Sunday, October 5, 2008
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