5 Woodcarving Cuts for Beginners

Traditional gouge tools are versatile starting points for woodcarving.

| October 19, 2012

Jump-start your woodcarving with simple, traditional techniques that beginners can learn to start transforming wood into beautiful works of art. Chris Pye’s Woodcarving Course & Reference Manual (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2012) is a guide to getting started. In the following excerpt, Pye gives instructions for seven cuts that form the basis of the woodworking craft. 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Chris Pye’s Woodcarving Course & Reference Manual: A Beginner’s Guide to Traditional Techniques.

In your hand is a sharp and well-shaped carving tool. You hold it in a safe grip that will let you carve with confidence and facility. Now you want to make things happen — but how exactly? What can you make these tools do? Well, a lot more than most newcomers think!

Here’s a learning-the-guitar analogy: After you have understood tuning (sharpening) and how to hold the guitar (grips), I imagine our guitar teacher would probably have you plucking strings. You would just play around lightly in a relaxed way, getting a sense of how the guitar works and the notes and chords you could make. So, before turning to woodcarving projects — our tunes proper, so to speak — I want to look at what we can call the outcome of the tool, the sort of notes you can play with a gouge.

Gouge Tools Needed

• Your gouges and V-tools. Do try what I suggest with different tools.

• A board of clean carveable wood held safely to the bench. I always like to start with a planed surface. A full cut is just one of the basic carving techniques you can do.

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