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Wood carving is the type of hobby that is rewarding over all, but initially a bit of a conundrum to understand how to begin. If you at least already have an idea of what you want your project to look like, then the next step would be to find the right tools to make it look how you imagine. Whittling, chip, and relief carving are the three ways to carve wood by hand, and below we have included the best wood carving set available for all types.
Whittling – BeaverCraft S15 kit has a great beginner kit for whittling, and includes a chipping knife to add diverse designs.
Chip carving – BeaverCraft C6 knife is optimally designed for consistent pattern making.
Relief carving – Schaaf 12 piece set of chisels and gouges provides a diverse amount of shapes to do any project.
Power carving – The Dremel 4300 has a variable speed function and adequate ventilation for smooth carving making it a staple for carving wood.
Consider this article as an introduction to the basic kinds of carving, tools used for each one, guides to learn how to use your tool for a specific project or technique, designs that are easy to follow, and various types of wood that are great for carving.
Best Wood Carving Set
Whether it be whittling, chip, relief, or even power carving, you’ll certainly find what you need by the end of this informative review. Refer to our “About” section below the review for an all-inclusive take on getting started to finding the best wood carving tools for you.
BeaverCraft S15 Whittling Set
6 piece set that comes with three carbon fiber knives (roughing, detail, chip), leather, strop, and a storage pouch for creating either figures or patterns.
Consider for a moment what the best wood carving set should have, then take a look at what comes with Beaver Craft’s ready to go set. Most items that you see in this package cost up to half the price for the entire kit. While their price is often congruent with their quality, some prefer to use cheaper alternatives and just take really good care of the tools. I’m one of those people I’ll admit, because the tools will last just as long.
The S15 kit by BeaverCraft actually doubles as a full set for both whittling and chip carving. The chipping technique is often times used in conjunction with general cuts to add some design depth to the project. Whether or not you prefer one style over the other, the S15 is a great example of a long lasting set for carving that provides all the fundamental tools to keep working on your project.
The set comes with three knives: a whittling knife, detail knife, and a chipping knife. Each are purposed for various circumstances (you can find what each knife is specifically designed for in the “About..” section following these reviews). They’re blade material is made of high carbon steel in Europe with ergonomically designed handles for extended handling time.
Additionally, the stropping kit is combined with the knives to keep your tools razor sharp and ready to use. It’s worth noting that keeping your tools clean and sharp determines the length of its lifespan, not the price of the tool. Sharpening tools are important to have before you start carving because you’ll figure out early on (if you haven’t already) is that carving wood dulls out knives pretty quickly, which makes having a stropping kit necessary.
My only qualm with this set is that a roughing knife, a pretty important one to have, isn’t included with it. A roughing knife is needed for removing large amounts of material, something that this whittling knife, with a 3.15 inch blade, might struggle with. It’s not that it can’t do it, but it is much easier to accomplish with a longer blade.
Even the most expensive, high quality blades, after enough use, will dull. It’s really convenient that BeaverCraft includes a strop and honing compound to get the blade back to normal. Something that you will find yourself doing so often that learning to do it is almost an art itself.
The quality of blades run equal with the company’s effort to inform carvers the fundamental practices for carving and how to take care of their tools. While it’s great to see a company that makes a good product, it’s even better to see a company that cares.
Ultimately, if you’re looking to start whittling you’ll find that this set provides everything you need to get started, and even allows you to dip your toe into other hand carving styles and techniques.
Flexcut Beginner Set
Popular starter option with a cutting, roughing, and detailer. Other mix and match tools can be chosen.
Before I made my first cut into a piece of wood, I started out with Flexcut, and while it seems the business has had some hiccups regarding the blade fixation in the wood handle (a really easy fix by the way), I’ll be damned if this isn’t the best wood carving set for beginners.
Granted it doesn’t come with the strop and compound to keep the knives sharp, but it comes razor sharp out of packaging. A huge advantage Flexcut has over many other knives is the shape of their handle. The wide middle body and tapered edge fits inside the hand in such a way that it would be a crime for a handle to be shaped any other way. It’s almost like a car that’s too comfortable to sit in because it’s potentially hazardous, and here I am recommending it to beginners. Reason being is if this is your first time carving then you shouldn’t worry about how something fits in your hand right away, instead you should focus on building your technique and taking proper care of your tools. Proper whittling kit for beginners are going to be much similar to what Flexcut has to offer in this kit.
The high carbon steel blades is the preferred material type for blades, it puts up best with wood and it lasts a lot longer than steel does. If you take care of your tools, you won’t run into any problems with chipping or edge folding, however the blades are a partial tang which means the blade is inserted into the handle then fastened in. Problem with partial tang is that after a while the blade might begin to feel loose. Fortunately, it is a quick and easy fix. Easily the best whittling kit for beginners and will remain a staple among other wood carving tools.
BeaverCraft C6 chip carver
BeaverCraft chip carving knife is a solid option for beginning this style. Its straight edge and ergonomic handle make chipping designs easier and consistent.
If you’re looking to just get into chip carving, then the C6 chipping knife by BeaverCraft (same knife from the whittling set) is definitely a staple in the game. It sports the same ergonomic handle and high carbon steel material so it is just as robust and reliable.
The C6 has a specifically designed blade that makes it much more efficient at geometric shaping than any other kind. Shapes like triangles, squares, and lines are an important part of chipping, and encompasses many of the basic kinds of cuts that this blade is made for.
Two Cherries 3 Piece
Two Cherries is up there in terms of quality next to Pfeil. Unlike our previous suggestion, this best wood carving knife set is designated for chip carving only.
Huge disclaimer first, this product does contain lead so do not place your hands in your mouth or any other orifice after using. It’s highly recommended you wear hand protection when handling these tools.
Crafted as fine German hand made tools, Two Cherries Tools is less well known compared to other companies of similar caliber. They are a diamond in rough of wood carving tools. Each of these three knives included in this kit are specific to chip carving, and should be limited to that otherwise you might damage the blades.
As for the blades themselves, they are fine, accurate, and lightweight so using them is a breeze.
Schaaf 12 piece set of chisels and gouges
Schaaf relief tool set offers 12 pieces of various chisels and gouges available for experienced and inexperienced carvers.
The relief carving style requires an adequate, high quality set like Schaaf’s 12 piece set in order to perform to the degree that is necessary for finishing projects. This specific one has chisels and gouges that come with it, but it’s diverse gouge designs is what makes it as valuable as it is. The hand-selected gouges and chisels provide beginners the necessary tools to get started, intermediates to grow their arsenal, and professionals a backup set to grind at a different bevel.
All gouges and chisels are slightly different than the rest. They are set at distinct angles, both the bevels and their shape, in order to accomplish certain tasks. Essentially, this expands the amount of applicable projects, and will help develop and hone your skills as a carver.
The blade material is made of alloy chromium vanadium steel that’s hardened to a Rockwell rating of C60. This helps the blade maintain an edge for much longer without it
TIMESETL Sculpting Set
The best chisel set is going to be appropriate for its designated purpose, for the case of this set it will be for small pieces and delicate cuts. Typically, you might need to hammer a mallet against a chisel to hack away at your project, but for this type of carving all that is necessary is the pressure from your hand.
All 12 pieces come attached with a SK2 carbon steel blade and a diverse range of compatible applications from wood carving to pumpkin carving. These smaller chisel type sets are often combined with whittling to offer a further range of capabilities. The combined usage of gouges and a roughing knife can produce a project that would be otherwise incredibly difficult to do without the other. Each tool in this kit is different in looks and in purpose. While many of them are really just a slight variation in size, there are a couple special shaped blade that are for specific types of cuts. The best way to get accustomed to knowing when it is best to apply a certain tool is by jumping right into carving.
Like any other best wood carving set, this kit also comes with various whetstones to sharpen your tools. Pay attention to which stone is necessary for which tool, otherwise you might end up permanently defeating the purpose of that blade.
Pfeil Carving Tools Set
High quality wood chisels are unfortunately hard to come by and it’s refreshing to have a company like Pfeil around who gives quality much more attention than the average. This Swiss made kit is by far the most thoughtfully crafted best chisel set available.
Pfeil has the best wood chisel set in the higher budget bracket. Carvers who are well versed among their own tools along with the potential of other tools including the reputation of them are going to be more familiar with this brand. That’s not to say that this professional wood carving chisel set is exclusive to them, far from it. In fact, they wouldn’t be one of the top selling competitors in the wood carving industry if only veteran wood carvers bought from them.
Six different shaped hand tools are included with this kit which are 3 gouges ranging from sizes 7mm, 5mm, and 3mm. One 8mm skew chisel, a 1mm veiner, and 2mm v-parting tool. The square tang each blade has refers to its small body size, and instead of there being a typical tapered edge on the tang it is square. Couple the square tang with its alloy chrome-vanadium steel blade and that’ll be the recipe for a resilient tool.
The kit itself obviously doesn’t come wrapped in a bow as neatly as some of the other sets available in this post, but its quality is unparalleled making it perhaps the top high quality wood chisels you can get.
VonHaus 16 Piece Palm Chisels & Gouges
Now, I’m not that big of a tool head that I start drooling over any and everything I find online. However, there are rare exceptions to this, like this amazing 16 piece professional wood carving set.
The VonHaus kit is designated for heavy wood carving and provides everything you’ll need to continue to do just that. It is by far the most convenient, fairly priced, and easily portable best chisel set you’ll find online.
VonHaus as a company is featured in lots of outdoor and home appliance magazines like Notebook, Style at Home, and the Independent, so their commitment to help people create homes and decorative projects have certainly not gone unnoticed. What makes them stand out from the rest is their attention to detail and most importantly customer needs. The VonHaus 16 piece professional wood chisel set is a prime example of this. Where most companies will just give you the tools, VonHaus gives you the tools and everything that is necessary to continue using them and doing what you love.
I’m skipping ahead of the tools for a minute to go over the accessories that are included because I feel it is important to point out how crucial they are to have. The black canvas carry case has individual elastic holders and compartments to maintain organization among your tools and generally make it easier and safe to carry around. A mallet is needed for the type of carving these tools are meant for along with a sharpening stone, and two files that you’ll find yourself using as often as your chisels and gouges. It should go without saying that buying this equipment separately is a huge pain, but starting without them is even more detrimental than just biting the bullet. Completing a full project without these accessories is a fools errand.
The five short palm wood gouges and seven long shaft chisels have chrome vanadium steel alloy blades that are heat treated, meaning it increases the hardness of the blade without making the whole blade brittle. It’s typically the industry standard for quality. The durability is clearly present when using these tools and easily slides through the wood with minimal hiccups, if at all noticeable.
Grimars 12 Piece Set for Beginners
I wouldn’t take a mallet to this kit if I were you. Awarded as #1 Best Seller, Gimars’ 12 piece set is great for micro detail carving for any hobbyist. The best wood carving set uses comfortable yet incredibly accurate tools for precise cutting.
The blades are made of SK5 carbon steel with electrolylic coating that come razor sharp straight out of packaging. For those of you who draw at all, they are like stencils for wood carving in order to create as much detail in your work as needed. That being said, I would be very careful how you handle these knives and actually recommend using hand protection with all tools.
They work best against softwood such as pine or basswood, so they might struggle against hardwoods like oak or cherry. If you are looking to carve hardwood, I would suggest grabbing a different set.
Dremel 4300-5/40 rotary tool
Dremel 4300 is the best power carving tool that is portable, easy to use, and has a low barrier to entry.
For power carving, the Dremel 4300 is an essential staple. A highly meticulous craft requires an adequate tool to support it. With over 40 different Dremel accessories, this rotary tool starts you off with everything you’ll need. Eventually you might want to replace certain bits you find favorable, but this kit is fully equipped to practice with before spending money on higher quality bits.
Aside from all the accessories, the 1.8 amp tool itself has a variable speed function that allows you to control the RPMs between 5,000 and 35,000. Considering the diverse requirements of some projects, accurate performance control is absolutely necessary. It also has a universal 3-jaw chuck that is compatible with all Dremel accessory shank sizes. Accompanied with it is a pivot light that shines any spaces that are difficult to see.
All power is supported by an innovative air flow ventilation mechanism to prevent heat accumulation. This helps to to make your tool quieter during application, and cooler for extended operation time, and smoother to allow precise detailing.
About Wood Carving
Wood carving is categorized by different types, each sports different effects even though it utilizes the same techniques. The tools they use are designed differently, and so you can expect their cuts to be different too.
The most popular type of hand carving is whittling. It’s cheap to start, easy to learn, and fun to do. This type of carving is mostly used for making 3 dimensional shapes and figures from a spoon to a face.
It’s best to use a fixed blade or folding knife with a locking blade for this type of carving. Some knives are made with half or partial tang blades, meaning the blade does not extend the length of the blade and is potentially hazardous. A lot of partial tang blades become loose after they’ve been seasoned a bit, which either requires some maintenance to fix it into place or replace it completely. Since this is the knife you will be using most often, I advise to just get a full tang whittling knife instead to avoid that issue.
There are several other kinds of knives that are used in conjunction with a whittling knife that you will eventually find quite useful:
- For roughing: Slightly different in shape compared to the standard whittling knife. The blade is slightly longer and is used to remove larger amounts of wood material at the start of a project.
- For detail: A short blade with a pointed tip. It is best used for making precise details that are difficult to do with a traditional whittling knife. There are certain nooks and hard to reach areas that only finely tipped blades can reach.
- Hook (spoon carver): Used to create a concave shape in your project and are most often used for carving spoons or bowls.
- Foldable: Can be an alternative that is mostly used for general techniques. Fixed tools are typically kept in a designated area for safety, so using one that folds is more for convenience.
Those are all the basic tools that are used for even some of the most complex carvings. The techniques required to accomplish those types of projects are pretty rudimentary and aren’t difficult to learn. Check out our guide to whittling to get started.
2. Chip Carving
Although not nearly as popular as whittling, chip carving is used for creating intricate patterns and designs into a flat surface. The knife is punctured into the wood at various angles that meet at a point chipping the material creating a symmetrical shape.
There’s a couple different methods to chip carving. First, the chip carving knife itself has a blade that is rounded on top with a straight, flat edge. This knife is used in conjunction with a detail knife or a draw type blade (blade is drawn towards the user), and sometimes both.
Chip carving is slightly more difficult since it is less forgiving. The chipping method works great when it is done right consistently, but if you aren’t great at a specific technique, I would suggest working on that before beginning a chip carving project. A simple chip carving guide will suffice in informing you how to accomplish a consistent and accurate cut.
3. Relief Carving
One of the more difficult methods of hand crafting wood is relief carving where a combination of chisels and gouges are used to create depth in a portrait. Also, it is one of the more expensive methods since the tools (of good quality) don’t come cheap, and there are numerous kinds you might need.
Since there are quite a few variations between the tools, it is difficult to list them all. However, I’m a big advocate for purchasing tools as you need them, not as you want them. If a project calls for a specific tool, then it’s probably time to get it, but until then don’t get it. It’s best to stick to the basics then work your way up.
Here are some of the basic kinds of tools required for relief carving:
- Chisels are, for the most part, tools that have a flat blade with a bevel on the end that can be at a number of different angles.
- Gouges, on the other hand, are slightly similar to chisels, except they have a U shape or a V shape.
Generally, it’s good to have several types of chisels and gouges (they usually come in a set) since most relief carving projects require a conservatively diverse amount to complete it.
Although, none of it can actually be completed unless you know how to use your tools. Even though relief carving isn’t as easy as others, you’re fully capable of learning from a relief carving guide that is detailed and descriptive enough to learn on your own.
3. Power Carving
Lastly, and perhaps the most difficult to learn, is power/electric carving. Power carving encompasses the use of several types of tools to carve wood, and with a wide range of techniques. It’s not nearly as straightforward as the traditional use of hand tools are, but it’s ability to rapidly remove material makes it better suited for tackling bigger and more detailed projects.
The kinds of tools that are used for power carving are as followed:
- Rotary tools, such as a Dremel, for carving are a handheld device with a small motor that spins rapidly in order to remove wood material. Rotary bits can be attached to achieve various effects.
- Chainsaws are the best type of tool to use for large scale projects.
Power carving is an interesting category of woodcarving because it doesn’t have any fundamental techniques that are used. Instead, your familiarity, in regards to working with wood, grows so that you’re able to know what a project needs without having to follow a guide.
Honing and Sharpening
Once you get a knife and start working with it, you’ll quickly come to two conclusions: You’ll need something to sharpen your tools with, and a dull blade is more dangerous than a sharp one
Even the best wood carving tools get dull after so much activity. Knives can only hold an edge so long until they need to be honed or sharpened. However minor or major the damage is to your blade, using a sharpening stone is the best way to fix your blade like new.
If your blade is dull, sometimes you just need to hone it in order to realign its edge and put it back in the proper position. This can be done as often as you like, but eventually, after so much use, the blade accumulates dents and chips which only a sharpening stone can fix.
There are several kinds of sharpening stones that can be applicable to your tools. Any number of veteran carvers will prefer one type over another, but it is ultimately up to you to make that judgment.
Regardless, there are three types of stones to sharpen your tools with:
- Oil stones are the most common. They require you to oil them (with petroleum-based like mineral oil, or non-petroleum based like vegetable oil) prior to sharpening in order to reduce the friction between the stone and the blade. Though they perform great and are affordable, they cut at a slower rate than others.
- Water stones are relatively new to the knife sharpening world. They come in natural and synthetic materials, and are comparatively softer than oil stones. It is true that a softer surface does facilitate faster sharpening, but the flip side to that is that the surface wears down quicker.
- Diamond stones are actually thin metal plates with micron-sized diamonds embedded into the surface. They are harder, coarser, can sharpen blades quickly, and retain their shape easier than other stones, but they are more expensive.
How to sharpen your knife
By acquiring the best wood carving set, you also adopt certain responsibilities that come with the power to make wonderful pieces. Yes, these knives are sharp, but there’s nothing more dangerous than a dull blade. On top of keeping your equipment work ready, knowing how to use them is equally as important as taking care of them.
Although it may seem easy to do, sharpening your tools is a craft in its own and you’ll probably end up spending more time learning how to sharpen your tools than you will be using them.
The video only shows how to sharpen a whittling knife, however the same concept applies to your best chisel set as well. Focus on sharpening the edge of the blade rather than the whole blade itself.
There are different types of ways to sharpen your equipment. In this video, a strop and compound are utilized to get a razor sharp finish, but a sharpening stone can be used as well to get the same effect.
How to carve
Creating good habits is essential to mastering the techniques of wood carving, and to keep yourself from hurting..well..yourself. You can follow our guides for whichever types of carving style you are wanting to learn!
Learning how to whittle isn’t quite as difficult compared to some of the other style of carving, however it is nonetheless important to do right.
How to relief carve is arguably the hardest because it takes the longest and requires the most effort. Anytime a mallet is needed to carve into wood, chances are it isn’t going to be as easy as picking daisies.
You’ll find out when following our chip carving guide that this style is a little more unorthodox compared to the other styles because it requires you to basically stab the wood in order to create designs. Still lots of fun and incredibly rewarding.
As I’ve briefly mentioned previously: A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. A dull blade is inconsistent and, at times, unpredictable, and that is the perfect mixture for accidents. By keeping the blade sharp you can carve comfortably and efficiently.
Hand protection is not an option around sharp blades that have the potential to do serious damage, yes even dull blades can. Some simply wrap their fingers with cut resistant tape, however I recommend either getting a finger guard or glove to cover everything for extra measure.
Additionally, you will be carving wood after all, and inhaling any amount of wood fibers is really damaging to your lungs. Face masks are recommended to have on during operations to reduce any risk of bodily damage it may have.
However, you won’t always be able to protect yourself from every potential accident without the proper protection. Woodworkers can be pretty particular about their protocols, but I’m certainly an advocate for wearing safety equipment whenever I’m in the shop.
Different carving style call for other kinds of safety equipment, here’s some that are most useful:
- Thumb guard: Most effective with pull-cuts when hand carving. Protective coverage is limited to thumb.
- Carving glove: Useful for any kind of carving. Gloves are cut-resistant, protecting your hand from slips and accidents, but does not protect against punctures.
- Safety goggle: Great for power carving. Prevents wood material from being thrown into your eyes.
- Respirator: Also good for power carving. Wood shavings (sawdust) is a carcinogen and is known to cause cancer of the nose (nasal cavities and paranasal sinuses). Wear a mask when your project creates saw dust.
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