How do you prepare wood for carving? This question comes up all the time on wood carving forums, and it’s one of the most important steps in the entire process.
In this beginner’s guide to wood carving preparations, we’ll cover everything you need to know about picking out your wood, then sanding and finishing it to make it ready for carving—no prior knowledge required!
When you finish reading our guide, you should have a better understanding of what goes into woodcarving preparations—which will help you get more out of your project.
1. Prepping Wood for Woodcarving
Wood carving involves working with all manner of different woods, so you’ll need to know how each one preps.
Wood can be carved in many ways, including using chisels and even chainsaws. If you’re new to woodcarving, here are some tips for getting started: Check on our previous post on: Steps to woodcarving for beginners. and also read on How Hard is wood carving?
Learn about selecting a block of wood and then preparing it for carving.
Start by picking up a wood that feels good in your hands. Once you select a piece that feels right, choose an area free from knots to begin carving.
You’ll also want to choose the wood that has a straight grain and is in good condition (meaning not warped or cracked).
When choosing your wood, look closely at it: If you notice any cracks or knots anywhere on its surface, don’t choose it—your carving will likely crack along those lines when you remove it from the block. The last thing you want is an imperfect piece of art!
Knowing what type of wood you’re working with will impact which tools work best for carving your wood into works of art.
Then once you’ve chosen what type of wood you want to carve, be sure to read up on the best whittling kit so you know which tools are best suited for each project.
You might even want to invest in a woodworking tool kit if you plan on taking your carving projects seriously. To help get you started, check out some common woodcarving steps:
Find out what tools you’ll need before learning how to shape your raw material into something amazing.
Before you get started, you’ll need some basic tools, such as woodcarving chisels; fine-grain sandpaper; and a drill or electric hand sander with round sanding discs.
The Most Common Wood carving tools
There are lots of different types of woodcarving tools so don’t feel like you have to buy everything at once; it’s better to pick up a few tools and then see how they work for you first before buying more.
There are many different kinds of wood carving tools, but these are three of the most common:
• Knives – Knives are some of the oldest wood carving tools. While they aren’t used much by modern woodcarvers, knives were once quite popular with hobbyists as well as professional carvers.
It helps to know a few basic cutting techniques if you’re going to be using knives in your work since they have their own rules and methods.
• Chisels – Chisels come in various shapes and sizes from small hand chisels that resemble pencils up to giant broad chisels that weigh over 50 pounds.
Different types of wood carving require different types of chisels based on their hardness level – softer woods need smaller chisels while harder woods need larger ones – so keep that in mind when buying or choosing a tool.
• Gouges – A gouge is any wood carving tool that has a concave shape at its tip. A gouge consists of two parts: a handle and a blade (or shank). For safety reasons, you’ll want to get good quality gouges, especially if you’re just starting because poorly made gouges can break easily.
There are specialty cutters such as parting tools and rasps too, which we won’t go into here. However, let us say one thing: whether you’re experienced or not, we highly recommend looking up any specialized cutter before trying it for yourself; there are more risks associated with them than typical wood carving tools.
safety measures to take when using the woodcarving tools
As with all woodworking projects involving power tools like these, make sure all safety measures are taken:
- Wear protective clothing at all times—including goggles to protect your eyes—and keep long hair tied back. Also, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using your tools.
We know what we’re doing here, but if you aren’t familiar with power tools yet, ask someone who is to assist you during wood preparation steps. Remember, safety first!
2. Keep the moisture Content in Wood low
Wood is mostly made up of cellulose, a sugar-based compound that absorbs water. To properly carve wood, you must let it dry out for a long time—anywhere from 2 weeks up to 2 months.
The most common way woodcarvers make sure their boards are ready for carving is by placing them in a kiln and allowing them plenty of time to dry out.
This may be impractical for many woodworkers, however; an alternative solution might be to place wet wood in your basement or garage where it will still get lots of air but won’t freeze.
You should also take care not to leave your board near heaters or other sources of high humidity during its drying period.
Because temperature affects how quickly wood dries, you may want to check on it periodically; depending on factors like temperature and airflow, it could take anywhere from two days up to two weeks for your wood to reach optimum moisture content. Once it does, though, all you need to do is sand off any remaining bits of bark or rough edges before starting your project.
3. Clean the wood debris
The best way to begin preparing wood for carving is by using a wire brush attachment to help remove loose bits from its surface.
Then take off any remaining splinters or sharp edges using a hammer and coarse grit sandpaper before smoothing out texture irregularities using coarse grit paper as well.
However, never sand wood without wearing proper eye protection. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t sand over previously carved areas to avoid undoing previous work!
And even though woodcarving may seem intimidating at first, once you get going and experience firsthand how easy it is to carve, we think you’ll agree: It’s easier than it looks.
Once your wood is prepped and ready for use, start small —maybe carve something simple like a bowl or spoon —before moving on to something more complex (like a sculpture) once you feel more confident.
Use sandpaper to clean off any rough spots on your woodblock, rounding off sharp corners as needed
4. Sanding Down the Wood
Sanding is a crucial step in preparing your wood for carving. It evens out an object’s surface and makes it smooth so it can be painted without brush strokes showing through.
Be careful not to overdo it, though; you can always sand down too much and may find yourself starting from scratch. It’s also important to note that different types of wood require different levels of sanding.
The type of sandpaper you use for sanding also depends on what kind of project you’re working on—it can be coarse or very fine depending on how smooth your final product needs to be.
5. Treatments Before Carving
To protect your wood and make it easier to carve, you’ll need some supplies. Here are a few basic items you should use as part of your carving preparations:
- Safety Equipment;
- General Tools;
- Wood Treatments;
- Types of Wood; and Mapping Out Your Design.
In addition to getting your wood ready for carving, there are a few additional preparations you should make before you start chiseling.
To begin with, if you’re not working with kiln-dried lumber, dry it slowly over several weeks until it feels no heavier than an egg. If you’re planning on applying a finish after your carving is done, now’s also a good time to do so. Have fun! Good luck carving! Good luck! And happy woodcarving!
Conclusions: preparing wood for carving
Overall, wood carving is a relaxing hobby that may provide hours of fun. It also offers plenty of opportunities to explore fine motor skills while honing artistic abilities.
The next time you find yourself gazing at a tree trunk or fence post, start thinking about creative things you can carve out of it! You never know what might happen when wood meets woodcarver.
What will you create? Which wood species will you try first? And who knows… Maybe someone else will see your creation and order something custom-made from you. Whatever happens, we wish you luck on your woodcarving journey.