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8 Different Types of Wood Carving (With Pictures)

a talented artist carving wood

Wood carving is a unique artform using various techniques to create stunning sculptures and decorations with wood. It’s been popular for centuries and continues to be today.

In this article, we’ll look at 8 different types of wood carving, as well as the techniques, tools, and wood used for carving. Let’s get started!

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Before You Begin

Regardless of the wood carving technique you choose, there are some important guidelines to consider before starting your first carving project. First of all, you need to protect your hands and eyes. Wood carving tools are usually very sharp, and small chips of the wood you’re working with could potentially get in your eyes. Always wear safety gloves and eye goggles to protect yourself from possible injury.

Always keep your tools sharp because they will be more efficient and far easier to use, and if you’re a first-time woodcarver, choose softwoods and try simple projects until you improve your skills.

The 8 Types of Wood Carving

1. Whittling

Examples of whittling
Examples of whittling (Image Credit: GWphotograph, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 4.0 International)
Tools and equipment Sharp knife designed for whittling
Wood type Pine, Balsa, Basswood

Whittling is a basic wood carving technique, but it can be pretty tricky. It’s a hobby for many people who enjoy creating interesting wooden sculptures. Whittlers mostly use softwoods such as Pine, Balsa, or Basswood as they are easier to work with and are great for those beginning their carving journey.

You could use hardwoods, but even whittlers with experience can have difficulties carving a hard, dense wood. For whittling, you will need a sharp whittling knife to carve and make small figures, shapes, and objects. While cutting, make sure you are cutting away from the hand, and always make sure your whittling knife is sharp enough.

2. Lovespoon Carving

Tools and equipment Wood carving mallet, knives, gouges, chisels
Wood type Oak, Birch, Maple, Walnut

Lovespoon carving has been around for centuries, and men in certain traditions have long created lovespoons for their potential partners to show their interest. It’s a tradition that’s filled with history and hidden meanings.

Nowadays, lovespoon carving is more of a hobby, and lovespoons today are primarily decorative pieces to put on display. Most woodworkers who practice lovespoon carving do it by hand, although some utilize power tools for lovespoon carving too. Lovespoons are usually small spoons with ornamental details made from different hardwood species. Each lovespoon is unique and there is no pattern for making them, so you can always add your personal touch or stamp.

3. Treen Carving

Treen snuff
Treen snuff (Image Credit: Sobebunny, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 3.0 Unported)
Tools and equipment Gouges, chisels, sharpeners
Wood type Oak, Cherry, Beech

Treen carving is a wood carving technique to create functional, small household items. Its literal meaning is “from a tree”. You’ll need basic tools such as gouges, chisels, and sharpeners for this wood carving style. Treen carving is one of the easiest wood carving techniques, and people love the style because the final product has a useful purpose rather than being just a decorative piece. You can use all types of wood for it, but it’s best to use hardwoods such as Oak, Cherry, or Beech.

4. Chip Carving

ChipCarving (Image Credit: Jonathunder, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 3.0 Unported)
Tools and equipment Cutting knife, stab knife, sharpening stone, chisels, gouges
Wood type Any wood kind, but the most popular is Linden wood

Chip carving is a wood carving technique very similar to relief carving. It’s done on a flat piece of wood where you remove small chips to create decorative, aesthetically pleasing designs. Most people use basic tools such as a cutting and stab knife for chip carving, although others also use chisels and gouges.

Chip carving is another excellent hobby for beginners and it doesn’t require a bunch of expensive tools. One essential technique in chip carving is that the blade should enter the wood at a precisely 65-degree angle so the cuts meet at the appropriate point.

5. Flat-plane Carving

Tools and equipment Cutting knife, gouges
Wood type Basswood

Flat-plane carving is a unique wood carving technique used to create figures. This carving style is quite minimalist and comes from Scandinavia, where people have been creating household items and toys with the technique for centuries. Although flat-plane carving looks simple, it’s not that easy in practice. The main goal of this technique is to use large cuts that are simple and clean, which is why it’s better for experienced woodcarvers. It’s best to use softwoods, like Basswood, for flat-plane carving.

6. Relief Carving

Relief Carving
Image Credit: MemoryCatcher, Pixabay
Tools and equipment Chisels, gouges, mallet
Wood type Any wood type, although beginners should use softwoods

Relief Carving is a wood carving technique where woodcarvers create reliefs with designs that look three-dimensional while still being on a flat plane. Relief carving is a great hobby that anyone can try out. It’s done on a flat piece of wood, and you can use hardwoods or softwoods to accomplish this technique, but novices should go for softwoods since they have better workability.

With relief carving you’re only carving inside the flat piece of wood, but there are three variations to the technique—low-relief, high-relief, and deep-relief.

7. Chainsaw Carving

female artist doing chainsaw wood carving
Image Credit: Sinawa, Pixabay
Tools and equipment Chainsaw, power supply, grinder
Wood type Pine, Cedar, Fir

Chainsaw carving is a carving style where you use a chainsaw to carve large wood sculptures with a chainsaw. Chainsaw carving is a fast carving technique, but to do it, you need to be an expert with a chainsaw to avoid injuries. Most people use two different saws, a larger one for initial cuts and a smaller saw for details and retouching.

You can use any type of wood for this carving method, although it’s recommended to use Pine, Cedar, or Fir. Besides being a hobby, chainsaw carving can be well-paid if you use high-end materials and create distinctive pieces.

8. Pyrography

Tools and equipment Woodburning pen, wet towel
Wood type Any wood type

Pyrography is a wood carving method that’s very different to other wood carving styles. The meaning of the word pyrography is “writing with fire.” To create exciting art with pyrography, you’ll need a woodburning pen and a wet towel. Pyrography can be done on any wood type, but it’s recommended to sand it before you begin so that the surface is completely smooth.

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Which wood is best for carving?

All wood types are used for carving, so you can choose from any available hardwood or softwood. You’ll need to take the wood durability, density, and workability into consideration before you decide, but beginners should go for softwoods because they’re lightweight and easy to work with. The most commonly used woods are Pine, Cedar, Pine, and Beech, but the wood type you choose depends a lot on the technique because certain woods are better for specific methods.

How do I choose wood for carving?

The type of wood you use depends on your skills, what you want to achieve, and the wood carving technique you use. You should also think about where the item you are creating will be used. If you’re creating something like a spoon that can get wet, for example, it’s best to choose water-resistant hardwoods. Always consider the final product and whether it’ll be functional or not.

If you’re new to woodcarving, it’s best to start with softwoods as they’re easier to than hardwoods.

What are the tools commonly used for carving?

Various tools are used for carving depending on the technique and your preferences.

These are some of the most commonly used tools for carving:
  • Chisels
  • Gouges
  • Carving knives
  • V-tools
  • Veiners
  • Wood carving mallets
  • Rasps and rifflers
  • Chainsaws
  • Woodburning pens

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Wood carving is a fun way to express yourself, be creative, and even earn some money at the same time. Even if you’ve never tried wood carving before, there are simple techniques for beginners to get you started until you improve your skills.

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Featured Image Credit: shonflare, Pixabay


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