Help me start woodcarving!
May 9, 2017 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Hi all, Every year I like to pick up a new little hobby and put some time into it. Its great! I get to learn a little more about the world and cultivate a deep appreciation for the things around me. This year I'd love to give a little time to wood carving but I well and truly don't know where to start. Is there a good book/video series on this? What're my 101-tools and investments? Where does one get good carving wood? Is there a difference between carving and whittling? Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. Still very much in the, "I don't even know what questions to ask" realm.
posted by GilloD to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
The BREAD issue of Taproot Magazine had a great article on learning how to whittle, but it looks like the issue is sold out. Here is an accompanying video on knife sharpening that went with the article. Here is a blog post about a family teaching their kids how to whittle based on that magazine article.
We talked about how to find the grain of the wood, and examined different parts of the stick he chose, and talked about what made it a good piece, or a bad piece. I’ve never whittled wood, but we just talked. We talked about thinking where the knife would go if it slipped. We always wanted it to hit air if it slipped.
I really enjoy the Wisdom of the Hands blog by a woodcrafter who also writes for Fine Woodworking magazine and teaches children sloyd. has simple woodworking projects with instructions and videos on how to build them.

I guess, what kinds of woodworking stuff are you looking to do?
posted by jillithd at 2:57 PM on May 9, 2017

You could do worse than learning to carve spoons. They're relatively small and simple, but still a challenge, and a good way to develop skills. When you're done you have something useful. And, you can attack the problem with as little as a utility knife, or with a shop full of carving tools.
posted by mr vino at 3:31 PM on May 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I took a class (in the summer, from my local university) on how to carve a greenwood spoon, and I needed two knives, a sloyd knife and a hook knife. It was fun. And now I can (poorly) carve spoons, and know how to carve enough to be able to make my daughters toy swords out of wood.

I think you'll be happier if you find a class or two on getting started carving. Locally, we have a Folk School that offers such classes. If the location in your profile is good, you should have something like that too, right? (Surely there are opportunities to do anything you want to do in California.)

Here is a list of a whole bunch of places around the country that offer craft courses.

Of those, the Community Woodshop looked like it might have the sort of classes you are interested in and might be in the right general area, although it looks more focussed on making furniture. But you could call them and see if they had suggestions, anyway.

Is Oakland near you? This woman offers spoon-carving classes. June 3rd. You should do this, if you can---she will have tools there and then you can buy them if you like it. The $79 for the set of tools looks like a good deal to me.

And another spoon carving workshop, that's passed, but they might do another one soon if you called.

(I think I googled "spoon carving class [your location]". Clearly there are lots. But I think you'll have a better time if you start out talking to someone who knows what they're doing.)
posted by leahwrenn at 4:24 PM on May 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mary May is amazing and has some helpful free YouTube videos.
posted by delight at 5:09 PM on May 9, 2017

I don't know where you are but look for a local lumberyard. There are also online suppliers selling wood blanks online e.g. this one (randomly googled)

This is my favorite wood reference site. I'm not a woodworker but I own a lot of custom wooden tools and I consult this when ordering exotic woods. You will probably want to start with something cheaper and more common like maple or cherry though.
posted by whitelotus at 5:25 PM on May 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can also look into printmaking. I learned how to make prints in school using boards of soft wood, like poplar or pine. We'd carve pictures into the wood and then use Speedball ink to roll out the prints on high-quality paper. It's fairly inexpensive to invest in, and easy to learn.

Years ago I took a picture of my then-toddler-age cousin and and it was one of the most thoughtful (and appreciated) gifts I've ever given. I gave his mom the prints and also the block.
posted by onecircleaday at 12:51 PM on May 10, 2017

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