Wood carving tools and their uses

Wood carving is a very interesting craft to learn if done with the right tools. There are different tools in carving that serve a different purpose to shape your projects to the desired outcome. There are two categories when it comes to wood carving.

Hand tools– These are the tools that do not require electricity or any other power source like batteries and only require your hands to function.

Power Tools– These tools need electricity or batteries to run because they have a motor that rotates the blades making it easier to carve compared to hand tools.

Below, we will discuss wood carving tools and their uses and this will give you the knowledge you will need. You will know what tool to use at a certain level. We will discuss hand tools and if you want to learn more about power tools, check out our article on that.

What Are The Different Wood Carving Tools

Here are the tools you need to use when carving wood

Carving Knife

When starting off the carving journey, the first tool you will probably buy first is a knife. The primary uses for this knife are whittling and chip carving. The chip carving knife has a blade about 1 1/2 inches long and most knives’ blades are made from carbon steel, the reason is that it holds an edge for a long time. It also has an ergonomic handle that is designed to fit comfortably in your hand.

So if you have an easy wood to carve like Basswood you will only need to use a chip carving knife to whittle and chip your project.


Chisels are tools that have straight blades across the width. In wood carving, a chisel is a very common tool, having a level on one side of the cutting edge and a flat face. Wood carving chisels differ from those used in carpentry by having a bevel on both sides.

When buying one, make sure you choose one with an impact-resistant plastic handle just in case you plan to use it with a mallet.

You will mostly use a chisel with a mallet in shaping, dressing, or working a solid material such as wood.


U-Gouges are basically carved chisels. The cutting edge of these blades is curved in cross-section to a greater or a lesser degree. The curvature usually forms an arc of a circle, which case is known as the sweep of the blade.

The advantage of the U-gouge is that the tool can be rotated slightly as it is pushed forward, giving a slicing action that severs the wood cleaner than chiseled wood.

The smaller representative of U-gouge that is approximately (3mm) or less are also referred to as eye tools because this is what you use when you want to form the eyes.

The extended walls of the U -gouges prevent rocking.


V-gouge looks like two chisels joined together by one edge. This tool can be used to separate or divide one area of carving from another and it is easily seen in shallow relief carving, where the subject is ‘relieved’ from its background.

The most common angles you will find on these tools are 45, 60, and 90 degrees but this may vary considerably in practice. The angles are chosen depending on the work the parting tool is needed. The junction in the bevel between the two faces of the parting tool is called the Keel and its function is to guide the tool when carving.

The corners are made more acute and this is also very important for getting into corners and also when lettering your projects

The downside is that their cutting edge gradually becomes narrower as they are sharpened.

Bent Tools

The bend of this tool is seen when you looking it from the side, whereby, it curves from one way and then the other. The bend can start from one of two places:

  • Long-bent– the curvature is long and elegant and enables the carver to get into a shallow recess without the handle fouling the wood. Long-bent are not available in the standard ranges, only ‘microtools’
  • Short-bent-This tool has a couple of names like shallow bent, front bent, or spoon bit gouges. In turn, it can bend in opposite directions as you move from the cutting edge towards the handle.
  • Back-bent-These are similar to short-bent gouges but the carve is made in the opposite way. The tool comes into its own when carving a bead or other convex surface which curves concavely along its length.

Skewed Chisel

A skewed chisel’s cutting edge is angled back from the leading edge at a 45-degree angle. This tool is probably considered to be one of the most intimidating because, even the slightest misstep with it, it can cause a dig-in, gouging the wood, and likely, the woodturner’s nerves at the same time. The worst dig-ins could even cause the tool to be pulled from the woodcarver’s hands.

The skew chisel is a long, flat, flat, bevel-edged chisel with an angled tip. The long point of the chisel’s cutting edge is called the toe, whereas the shortest point of the cutting edge is called the heel.

Since most dig-ins occur when the toe contacts the wood too aggressively, you’ll want to position the skew chisel so that the toe is not in contact with the wood.

Palm Tools

Palm tools and gouges are very common in wood carving and these tools are used for relief carving where you get to carve small figures in a flat pane wood.

Chip carving knives with the help of palm gouges is all that is needed for creating small carvings in easy woods like Basswood. It mostly comes in sets because they come in different shapes.


Mallet is one of the ancient tools in carving and the traditional mallet for carving is cylindrical and made from heavy, dense hardwood.

The modern mallet is made from rubber, although it’s very good to use, it doesn’t have the driving power, but it is less noisy and easier on the chisel handles. It also has a spring that brings it back up for the next swing.

Conclusion on carving tools and their uses

When using tools with blades. make sure they are properly sharpened. With the information shared you will know what you will need to use every step of the way, If you are asking yourself how to sharpen your tools, check out our article on sharpening. Not discussed here is Power carving tools check but we have covered it in detail here.

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