While chip carving isn’t something that most people have heard of, it’s actually one of the oldest woodcarving methods in existence.
It also happens to be perfect for woodworkers looking to add an artistic touch to their projects, and it can help you get rid of any pesky excess wood that you might have leftover after your initial project planning stage!
In this article, we’ll cover what is chip carving, how to get started with it, and why it’s such a popular hobby among beginner and experienced carvers alike.
What Is Chip Carving?
So you have some wood, a chisel, and a mallet. What do you do now? Don’t worry. Let’s make sure you know what chip carving really is and understand how to get started with it.
In just a few simple steps, we’ll cover exactly What Is Chip Carving?, why it’s such an appealing hobby and how to begin mastering it yourself!
First of all, what is chip carving?
Chip carving…well…isn’t actually carving at all. Confusing as that may sound, chips are removed from your chosen material rather than carved away from it. That makes more sense when you think about what chip carvings look like up close.
is chip carving hard to learn
For many, chip carving appears to be a very difficult craft to master. But it isn’t actually that hard at all and anyone can do it! It just takes time, patience, and a little bit of creativity on your part. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you learn how to chip carve in no time.
What You Need to Start chip carving: tools and materials
first, you’ll need to source some tools and materials. While there are plenty of carving knives out there, it helps to have one designed specifically for chip carving like the.
These blades are typically shorter and made from high-carbon steel; what’s more, they usually come in a standard width that makes it easier to carve standardized cuts. In addition to your knife, you’ll also need some chisels.
Best tools for Chip carving
For every art and craft practiced, there are tools that are used to bring the art and craft to life. In chip carving, there are also the best tools to use. You will need chip carving knives or a chisel and when using a chisel, you can decide to use it with a mallet or hold the chisel with both hands. You’ll also need sharpening equipment and a few pieces of wood to get you started in chip carving.
Chip carving knives
Knives in chip carving are the dominant tools because without the chip carving knives you can’t even continue with the first step. Choosing a perfect knife to start chip carving you’ll need to check on whether the blades can give you desirable cuts and carve over the wood surface.
The blade of this type of knife is shorter compared to others with a larger raising handle. The grip in the chip carving knives must be comfortable when handling and this helps you as a beginner to have full control over the tool while carving.
With a shorter blade, your hand is closer to the material and this helps you as a beginner to deliver a more accurate cut. There are several sizes available for chip carving knives, ranging from small to large depending on the work you have at hand.
As a beginner, it is advisable to have both a detail knife and a stabbing knife for the purpose. What these two knives share in common is that they both have a small blade. Stab knives are made with straight-edge blades whereas detail knives although somewhat similar penetrate into the surface much comparatively.
Getting started with chip carving: Basic Techniques
Chip carving originated in Sweden and Denmark as a way to decorate wood without specialized tools or chisels.
You don’t need fancy equipment, though—chip carving is an art form you can master with just a few essential materials, like your knife and some patience.
But before you begin using your knife to carve designs into wood, it’s important to have some of the basics down first. Here are 5 tips on how to get started carving like a pro!
Hand positions for Chip Carving
Your hand position as a carver really matters a lot and, in this section, I will give you a couple types of gripping positions that you as a beginner must know. This are the most common types of chip carving;
Basic position; This is the position where the top size of the knife fits in the bend of your index finger while the whole handle lays in your clutched hands. The way you go about is applying a gentle force and carve through the material by pivoting on the handle alone.
Three and four-sided; This position is similar to the basic position and the difference is the angle at which the knife is held in this position (45 degrees) and it is pushed into one triangle leg at a time and cuts towards the center.
Straight-wall; In this position, you push deep into two sides of your triangle at an angle of 85-90 degrees.
Slopped Floor to Straight-wall; in this position, you need to cut low on the material, at almost horizontal position. You can relate it to peeling the chip instead of digging deep
Curved-edge; To cut curves, the hand is supposed to be positioned at a 45-degrees angle and gradually drop to a 30-degrees as you approach the center of the cut.
Free form; This position is used when carving 2-side patterns. The chip usually widens at the center point of the line. The 45-degrees to 30-degrees change can be used in this position in the curved-edge to make a free form chip.
Safety and sharpening chip carving tools
The chip carving tools have very sharp blades and as a beginner you should learn how to protect yourself from injuries. The blades also need sharpening because they get to be dull after some times and as a beginner you should know that there is more than one way to sharpen chip carving tools. The most garden sharpening supplies consist of sharpening stones, sandpaper and leather strops.
Designs and patterns for chip carving
There are two main techniques of chip carving patterns in the world of chip carving. As a beginner you should understand that it requires different chip carving knives as well as hand positions to create an outstanding pattern after some practice and enough experience.
These are the two chip carving techniques you can follow as a beginner that will assist you in forming your own patters;
- Fine triangle chip-I would recommend a beginner to learn this technique first as you will get used to all kinds of cuts made in the process. The first thing you do is make a triangle on the wooden surface, set it on the lap and use the gripping positions we talked about. The main advantage of fine triangle chip carving is it is in itself a guideline and allows you to produce the same pattern over and over again.
- Free-from Chip carving – This is the second form of chip carving where you make fine cutlines of different shapes from different directions. The technique produces random patterns and that allows you as a beginner to use your imagination to create different types of artworks.
These two techniques when combined allows you to make functional and diverse artwork. There are also several ways you as a beginner can transfer a pattern or design to wood or chip carving successfully. This are some of ways you can achieve that;
- Preparation -Before applying any design pattern, it is important to prepare the material. The best way to do that is using a light sanding paper with a grit of 320 or more, and this will simply sand any rough surface and make it smooth as possible before starting the chip carving.
- Pattern tracing -If you printed a pattern on a paper, it is very easy to transfer to your wood with the use of graphite. When tracing the pattern to your wood, you should use tools like a T-square, pencil and if you need to mark each line of the pattern, you can use a compass.
- Glue directly on wood– This is the easiest way to transfer a pattern to wood with a spray of wood glue. The best way to remove the design from your wood when you are finished is to leave it in lukewarm water for a few minutes. Avoid spraying a lot of glue on the wood because it might cause problems.
- Pattern simplifying– Some patterns might be difficult for you as beginner and a way to solve that issue is removing unnecessary lines and marking the centre point of every chip. Once you are done you can glue the pattern to the wood a try tracing the final pattern you have come up with.
Finishing chip carving piece
A finish preserves your art work for a very long period of time, protects it from moisture, and it also improves the aesthetic appearance for anyone who sees or touches it. Note that not every finish is good to use for chip carving pieces. So, it is important that your carvings are finished with the right kind of finish. There are ways to finish the chip carving pieces and the best commonly used include polyurethane spray finish, satin lacquer finish, and applying paste work finish. The type finish you use will depend on the outcome you are looking for, light or dark and also the type of wood, and also whether the wood is soft or hard.
What kind of wood is used for chip carving?
Most woodcarvers choose hardwoods as their carving material. This is because wood that isn’t hard enough will crack or break while being carved, while softwoods tend to absorb too much of your cutting tool’s energy, making your tool dull faster.
Softwoods include alder, birch, basswood, and balsa wood. Harder woods include mahogany, oak, and walnut. When it comes to the best wood to chip carve especially for a beginner it would be a good idea to start out with pine.
It’s inexpensive, easy to find, and has many varieties available. If you want to delve into harder woods like maple it would not hurt to use pine at first.
Once you are comfortable with basic shapes and details on smaller pieces it may be time to move onto maple, oak, or another variety of more hardwoods.
For beginners who want to learn how to chip carve, there are a few factors to consider. First, chip carving isn’t just a hobby—it’s an art form.
If you want to get good at it, you should be willing to put in practice.
Second, when learning how to chip carve, remember that it doesn’t matter where your chips fall; what matters is making sure your piece turns out nice and smooth. Always take care and have fun!