Woodcarving is an enchanting art form that is rewarding and therapeutic. If you’ve ever looked at a carving and wished you, too, could pull off something similar, I can understand. My hands also itched to create whenever I saw a beautiful sculpture. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to get started and how long woodcarving takes to do and learn.
It takes a month of consistent practice to get good at beginner-level wood carving. Small carvings can take a week to finish, and large sculptures can take well over a month of consistent carving. One can go from never holding a carving tool to selling carvings within 6 months.
In this article, you will learn exactly what you can expect when you get started on your woodworking journey. Everything from the beginner projects and the best practices for starting out will be covered. By the end, you will be ready to get started while saving money along the way.
I will show you how to get started with these 12 Beginner Wood Carving Projects Anyone Can Carve! Be sure to check it out!
Is Wood Carving Hard To Learn?
Wood carving is not hard to learn but is hard to master. It is easy to complete beginner projects within weeks of starting. However, creating detailed sculptures requires a lot of patience, passion, and practice.
There are three ways to approach wood carving.
- The first is to take it up as a passive hobby, in which case, you can enjoy making easy projects over and over.
- Another is to see it as a profession, which is tougher. You need to understand how to produce marketable work and how to sell it.
- This takes time, as does reaching a level of mastery that is marketable. Finally, there is the hybrid approach. When you see woodcarving as a hobby that you might eventually monetize, you have to be serious about leveling up your skills after you master each stage. Fortunately, mastering detail-free whittling is easy, so you have momentum on your side.
I compiled the 15 Most Famous Woodworkers In The World. Check it out to get inspired and see their jaw-dropping works!
How Easy Is Wood Carving?
Wood carving is easy to get started in and is technically possible for anyone with two thumbs. But don’t let that mislead you. The fact that anyone can start whittling over a weekend of obsessive practice doesn’t mean woodcarving mastery is easy.
Let’s take the example of a different craft that is easy to get a technical start in photography. Quite literally, anyone can shoot photos. But to be a good photographer, you need patience and persistence alongside regular practice.
Is woodcarving expensive? This may come as a surprise. I have broken down all the costs in my article Is woodcarving an expensive hobby?
Woodcarving is similar in that you can pick up a whittling knife, a chunk of basswood, and an easy DIY plan and have a product within 48 hours. But to make the said product truly awe-inspiring requires a lifetime commitment. The upside, however, is that you don’t get discouraged by your first attempt. Beginner wood carving projects are very easy. Let’s look further into this and other advantages alongside the drawbacks of hand carving wood.
|Advantages of Woodcarving as a Hobby||Disadvantages of Woodcarving as a Hobby|
|Easy to get started||Easy to get stuck in your comfort zone|
|Not expensive to start (Less than $115/quarter)||No upper limit to how much you can spend on it if you want|
|Can be monetized in 3 to 6 months||Tools are sharp, and you can injure your fingers|
|Has classic appeal and won’t go out of fashion||Has a hard limit on how much you can earn from it|
|Plenty of resources and tutorials on how to do it||Easy to get trapped in copying plans instead of being creative|
With the above, you should be able to decide if woodworking is for you. Generally, people who like wood and vintage aesthetics and want to make something with their own hands like to get involved in woodworking. If you like the idea, you need to take the right steps to avoid getting stuck, frustrated, or confused.
Best Practices of Starting Woodworking
Woodworking is fairly easy for beginners and accommodates all skill levels. There are some woodworkers whose projects I cannot follow despite working with wood for two decades.
In contrast, there are plans like BeaverCraft’s Comfort Bird Whittling Kit that can be implemented by a complete novice within a week.
The best practices in this section will ensure that you can go from working on novice projects to becoming a master smoothly.
Do It for Yourself
The first thing to do woodcarving right is to do it for yourself. If you get into woodcarving to show off your skills to others, you’ll end up rushing yourself. When you truly do something for yourself, you don’t care if anyone’s watching. Taking your time is what will help you become a master.
Start off Easy
Enjoyment is the greatest companion of a new woodcarver. But if you try to start off with a project that’s too difficult for your skill level, you will end up frustrated. Frustration breaks momentum and saps the fun out of any hobby or career.
Don’t Rush Perfection for Progress
Right from the start. You might have the urge to finish your first project. If you’ve read my article on how much it costs to get started with wood carving, you will find in it a number of projects that can technically be finished overnight. But if you really want to say “the end” as soon as you start chiseling bits of wood, you belong to the fast-moving creator category. In that case, you must remind yourself not to rush to perfection.
Don’t Paralyze Progress for Perfection
While there are plenty of ideas men who are fast-moving creators willing to compromise details to label a project finished, many woodcarvers have the opposite personality. I’ve been guilty of this on occasion. Sometimes, it is too easy to get stuck on making a finished project more finished. And that’s just procrastination because starting the next project can be daunting.
Don’t Get All the Supplies at Once
As mentioned in the disclaimer, I make a commission on any purchase you make based on my recommendations. Despite that, I wouldn’t recommend buying all the possible supplies at once. I’d appreciate it if you bookmark this post for later purchases, but it is in your interest to start off with a single kit that will help you finish one project.
Check out my article on the 7 best online woodworking stores that I have proven and tested. That made me even more confident in purchasing tools online!
Complete One Thing
Completion affects identity. When you finish a project in any lane, whether it is woodturning, wood carving, glass blowing, pottery, or any other craft, your inner self acknowledges it. You develop experience-driven self-belief that “I can pull this off.” That’s why I recommend getting a super easy A-to-Z project kit like the whittle bird linked earlier or the NEWURBAN Rhino for Beginners.
Show up Every Day
You won’t be carving beginner rhinos and detail-free birds forever, but you should be carving something each day, forever. Showing up every day is the key to becoming a master woodcarver. You will not even notice yourself getting better until you accidentally come across your earlier projects. You’ll be seriously impressed by how far you have come. But to get there, you really need to keep working every day.
Compare Yourself to Your Past
I have at times made the mistake of comparing my work to the projects that were posted on specialized forums. This was over a decade ago, when forums were bigger than Instagram. Now, social media has made it easier to just keep scrolling endlessly through others’ work. No one wins if you compare yourself to others.
How Long Do Wood Carvings Last?
Wood carvings last for at least one decade, even if they are untreated. Woodcarvings coated in a preservative layer like a sealer last even longer. Erosion of finer details and the deterioration of wood core are the two ways wood carvings lose their form.
The wood itself isn’t a living being. It is derived from plants that are alive, but when you start carving it, you carve dead matter. Like all organic matter, the carving is a buffet for microbes and insects. Termites can affect carvings at a broad level, while a combination of fungi and moisture can deal serious damage on a microscopic level.
Best practices to make wood carvings last:
- Don’t make your carvings too porous – If the wood is very porous and the details increase its surface area, it is bound to get damaged more quickly.
- Make sure they have significantly broad details – Broad details persist across a longer period. A carving of a striker taking a swing doesn’t get destroyed as easily as a face etched into untreated lumber. The smaller details are easy to erase.
- Apply a coat of Shellac or Spar Varnish over the coating – Moisture and humidity are the enemies of wood. But if you coat your carving in a layer of waterproof material like an outdoor varnish, you will prevent water from getting to the wood. Moreover, the organic matter gets sealed in material that insects and microbes cannot digest or attack.
- Refresh the coat once a year – While insects might be unable to attack a coat of varnish, the elements can. And with time, varnish can start to wear off. Recoating once a year ensures that the wood underneath it doesn’t get exposed to the elements or to microbes.
How Long Does It Take To Dry Wood for Carving?
It takes 3 weeks for wood to dry in a tropical climate in the summer and 8 to 12 weeks in oceanic climates during the winter. Generally, it is advisable to wait 6 weeks for the wood to dry for carving. After that, you can use a moisture meter to double-check if you have waited long enough.
The moisture content of wood must be 5% to 9% to make it ideal for carving. In contrast, moisture in wood in humid areas can be 8% to 19%. This also depends on the type of wood. Knowing which lumber lends itself to carving will let you get past many of your initial road bumps.
Wood to use for wood carving:
- Butternut – Butternut wood is beautiful because rings, spires, and tree layer markings are visible all across its surface. It can be turned into perfect carvings that don’t need to be painted.
- Black Walnut – This wood has a dark, rich appearance and is used for expensive, large-scale carvings and sculptures.
- Basswood – This is one of the easiest woods to carve into. It is fairly inexpensive and is the first choice and recommendation for beginning wood carvers.
- Aspen – Aspen wood is very light with tree layer impressions and a pale appearance. It can be used for carving projects, but you have to waterproof it sufficiently.
It takes two weeks to get good at beginner wood carving projects, but it can take years to master larger sculpture carving. The more details you want to add, and the finer they are, the more time you need to spend on your craft.
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