The 10 Best Wood Carving Sets
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in June of 2016. Few building materials possess the versatility and beauty of natural wood. Whether your skill is in crafting bespoke furniture, creating crown molding and baseboards, or whittling stunning sculptures, one of these carving sets will provide you with the tools for projects in which precision and sharpness is required. Among other things, we've considered steel and grind quality, and comfort. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
August 12, 2020:
Removed the VonHaus Woodworking because they are not woodcarving chisels, they are just bench chisels. Removed the Pfeil Swiss because of availability issues. Removed the Gimars SK5 because they are identical to the Mudder Tools Kit.
If you're serious about getting into woodcarving, you'll likely need several of these sets. With carving, most of the time you start out by drawing on some stock and your drawings will often come with details of wildly different sizes. If you wish to more or less stick to the outline, you'll need many different gouge chisels with different sweeps, you'll need some v-tools, skew chisels, some spoons, and different sorts of knives.
The Two Cherries 3441000 come with several chisels that will get regular use including some knives, gouges and even some flat and skewed chisels. The quality is clearly incredible given that they're hand forged and highly polished. The bevels have an excellent grind that really only requires some initial stropping. The Narex 894813 are very good chisels for the money. As with their regular bench chisels, they come with really good grinds and you won't need to spend very much time on a stone flattening or resurfacing the bevels.
May 01, 2019:
Since several users highlighted it as offering impressive bang for the buck, we decided to give the Flexcut SK107 a slight bump in the rankings. In addition to quality craftsmanship, reports indicate that it keeps an edge for a long time, which minimizes the amount of maintenance it requires.
As the list already included some solid, low-cost beginner sets, the three new additions are all suitable for experienced wood carvers. While the Schaaf Full is affordable enough to serve as a comprehensive option for novices as well, the Kirschen 3441000 and Pfeil Starter are more high-end choices that should satisfy seasoned artisans; users of both laud the sharpness of the blades.
Had to remove the X-Acto X5175 Deluxe from the list upon finding several complaints regarding thin, brittle blades that incur damage too easily. Reports that the handle would not adequately hold the blade on some tools proved troubling as well, creating a safety concern. We also removed the Two Cherries 12-Piece as it is no longer available.
Understanding The Different Woodworking Tools And Their Uses
Unfortunately, many people use them incorrectly and try and cut through large chunks of wood at one time using the force of the hammer.
As with any activity that involves the use of tools, understanding how each tool works and its intended application is vital. It often means the difference between working hard and hardly working. The saying, "You are only as good as your tools" is just as true in woodworking as anything else. While we aren't saying that skill doesn't come into play, using good quality tools and the right tool for the job will play a major factor in how successful you are as a woodworker.
Woodworking tools come in three basic types: chip carving knives, gouges, and chisels, each of which serves a very different purpose. Chip carving knives are used to shape the wood by removing small chips and are the most basic of carving tools. They are comprised of a blade, usually less than two inches long, and a long handle designed to fit comfortably in the hand. Chip carving knives come in straight and slightly curved varieties. Higher quality models will be made from lightweight, yet durable carbon steel, while lower cost models may be made from other forms of steel, which are just as durable, but heavier.
All gouges have a curved front cutting edge that can be used for cross-grain and with-grain cutting. They are generally used to scoop out areas of wood, creating indentations. In woodworking terminology, the curve of a gouge is referred to as its sweep. The deeper the sweep, the more wood it can remove with each cut. Tools with a large sweep are used for digging holes and roughing out areas before using a model with a shallow gouge for smoothing and finish work. Gouges come in different types, including straight, fishtail, bent, and spoon. They can have either a V-shaped or U-shaped tip. Each type and tip shape is best suited to a specific purpose.
Chisels are designed for use in conjunction with a mallet or small hammer to remove thin slices of wood. Unfortunately, many people use them incorrectly and try and cut through large chunks of wood at one time using the force of the hammer. This will dull the chisel quickly, and also results in imprecise cuts. Chiseling should often be done against the grain.
Woodworking Tips For Beginners
If you are just starting out as a woodworker, there are may things you can do to make carving safer, easier, and more fun. Wearing a carving glove is one such thing. It is not uncommon for even advanced woodworkers to slip here and there. When carving wood, you are applying force with a sharp object into a medium that will chip or carve away at some point. Until we are familiar with our tools and the type of wood we are using, we often don't know exactly how much force will be required before the wood gives. Placing a carving glove on the hand holding the piece can save yourself from needless injury. This way, even if you do slip, you won't wind up cutting your hand. Another option is to use a vice to hold your wood. If you choose to go with this method, placing a pad or small cloth between the vice and the wood can help prevent any damage to the wood's surface.
When cutting away at wood, always use your wrist to control the knife and not your elbow.
In woodworking, there is nothing more dangerous than a dull tool. Wood can quickly dull the edges of even the best of tools, though. A good rule of thumb is to sharpen or hone your tools after each hour of use. This can be easily accomplished using a good sharpening stone. You can also use a belt sander if you prefer a less manually intensive process. Just be sure to use proper honing techniques.
If you ever drop a tool, never try and catch it. instead, just let it fall, and if wearing open-toed shoes (which we don't recommend), jump back. A dented tip is much easier to repair than a finger or toe.
When cutting away at wood, always use your wrist to control the knife and not your elbow. When the force is coming from the elbow, there is a greater chance of slipping. Using the wrist allows for better control and more precise cuts. Not only will your hands thank you for not needlessly putting them in danger, but your work will come out looking better, too. You should also cut with the grain whenever possible. It is easier and won't rough up the wood's surface as much. Sketching out your cuts with a pencil before you start can also be helpful. It ensures you have a solid game plan of what you need to do and what you are trying to produce.
The Main Types Of Wood Carving
There are four main wood carving techniques, and each produces a very different result. Before you start purchasing materials and tools, you should determine which technique is most appealing to you. For most, the first technique that comes to mind when thinking of woodworking is whittling. Whittled objects tend to have sharp, textured cuts with visible knife strokes in the finished piece. This results in sculptures with an angular appearance. True whittling should be accomplished using solely a knife and no other tools.
Relief carving is the process of caving figures and shapes into a flat or curved piece of wood so that the objects project out slightly from the background. The back of the worked piece is left untouched. Carving in the round is another technique and is much like relief carving. The main differences are that the finished products often have a rounded appearance and they are carved on all sides.
Chip carving, sometimes referred to spoon carving, makes use of both knives and chisels to remove chips of wood in single pieces. It is often used to create highly intricate patterns on plates and other flat surfaces, but rarely incorporates figures or lifelike objects.