Learning to carve?
August 10, 2010 11:10 AM   Subscribe

How long does it take to learn how to carve wooden objects, and how expensive is it to get set up?

I have an idea for a birthday present for someone special. Wood carving is something of a national heritage in the country I was born in, but I have never done it myself and I'm not at all artistic or practically inclined either.

I have until March to learn, but I also have a very busy work schedule until then. I could just buy something beautiful that's made by someone else, but I thought something I've done myself, however uh... rustic, might be worth more. Not sure.

Thank you.
posted by mattkh to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So define carving. Are you talking about using hand tools or a lathe or something? Mark Frauenfelder has written about carving wooden spoons from a beginner's perspective.
posted by mecran01 at 11:12 AM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: Well, specifically talking Welsh love spoons actually. Soft wood, lots of curves, quite small, nothing overly complicated (I think!) but I'm sure I'd still find it difficult.
posted by mattkh at 11:17 AM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: Welsh Cawl Spoons. (via BoingBoing)
posted by mecran01 at 11:20 AM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: And as for tools, I have no idea. A saw to cut the initial block down to size, then a band saw for the holes, and a chisel for the rest followed by sanding. I would imagine. But I've never done it before, and I only have a vague idea of what a band saw even is. Thanks for the Frauenfelder tip though, I've read his stuff on Boing Boing for a while, so I'll check it out.
posted by mattkh at 11:21 AM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: Brilliant, thank you!
posted by mattkh at 11:22 AM on August 10, 2010

Not sure which country you're in, but if you're in the US, see if there's a Woodcraft store near you? They offer carving materials, supplies, and some classes.
posted by BZArcher at 11:26 AM on August 10, 2010

Response by poster: Temporarily in Germany for a month or so, then England via a brief stint "home" in Wales. If I were in Wales for longer I'm sure there would be classes I could take but unfortunately I don't have the opportunity.
posted by mattkh at 11:28 AM on August 10, 2010

You'll be much better off if you can find someone who's got some experience to help you through this. Machinery such as band or scroll saws can get quite expensive. Sharpening edge tools such as knives and gouges is tricky, and is even more important with softwoods than with hardwood.

I would start by getting a good knife. Learn to sharpen it, and start whittling on scraps of wood whenever you can. The spoons you finally produce will not take very long to make. Most of your time will go into developing skills.
posted by jon1270 at 11:47 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Starting with whittling would seem to be the way to go, mainly because all you need is a knife and some wood - it's something you can do on the go (well, on the go anywhere you won't get jumped by paranoid security for having a pocket knife). Basics here.

Or you could start with a big bit of wood and a chainsaw, if you prefer more drama in your life. You would end up with a ridiculously huge love spoon at the end though!
posted by Coobeastie at 11:49 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I briefly picked up wood carving as hobby, and carved a small Welsh love spoon in a couple days. I don't think I spent more than a month at it, but made a few small objects (the spoon, a couple chess pieces, a chain link, etc). So not that hard to pick up.

I bought a lower mid range carving knife (I believe a Flexcut detail knife) which was a good improvement over the cheap carving knife kit I started with.

I enjoyed it, and stopped mainly because it tended to make a mess.
posted by alikins at 11:58 AM on August 10, 2010

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