5 Woodcarving Cuts for Beginners

Traditional gouge tools are versatile starting points for woodcarving.

| October 19, 2012

  • Chris Pye Woodcarving Course Cover
    The first step into a new craft can be overwhelming: Where to start? What tools to buy? What projects to begin with? Thanks to author and internationally acclaimed woodcarver Chris Pye, “Chris Pye’s Woodcarving Course & Reference Manual: A Beginner’s Guide to Traditional Techniques” is filled with everything a beginning woodcarver needs to know. 
    Cover Courtesy Fox Chapel Publishing
  • Running Cuts
    Running cuts are a great technique to clear out the background in a relief carving. 
    Photo Courtesy Fox Chapel Publishing
  • Stab Cuts
    Stab cuts can create patterns. 
    Photo Courtesy Fox Chapel Publishing
  • Scoop Meeting A Stop Cut
    A scoop meeting a stop cut creates a thumbnail. 
    Photo Courtesy Fox Chapel Publishing
  • Beginning of Sweep Cut
    To begin a sweep cut, keep the corners of the tool clear of wood. 
    Photo Courtesy Fox Chapel Publishing
  • Second Step Of Sweep Cut
    Drop the handle a little and move the edge along as you rotate. 
    Photo Courtesy Fox Chapel Publishing
  • Slicing Cut
    Begin a slicing cut with the corners clear of the wood. 
    Photo Courtesy Fox Chapel Publishing
  • Complete Slicing Cut
    Drift the edge over the wood to complete the slicing cut. Do not rotate the handle. 
    Photo Courtesy Fox Chapel Publishing

  • Chris Pye Woodcarving Course Cover
  • Running Cuts
  • Stab Cuts
  • Scoop Meeting A Stop Cut
  • Beginning of Sweep Cut
  • Second Step Of Sweep Cut
  • Slicing Cut
  • Complete Slicing Cut

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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