Woodcarving is one of the oldest skills that were essential to the survival of early humans. It is not that essential for survival nowadays but it is a relaxing and fun hobby.
Woodcarving will afford you a real pleasure and fun! What is most important, you will be focused on your work only, and forget all the problems!
Personally, this hobby gives me the freedom of making my own design and I really enjoy doing it. You will definitely find yourself spending a lot of time carving wood at the beginning.
Let`s be honest, there is not a unique technique for carving. There are techniques that you must use, but even I sometimes overlook some little things, and when I look at some of my works I think “What happened here ?!” and then I realize that some of the techniques were not so perfect. So, stay with me until the end of the text and I will try to help you to develop some of the basic techniques.
Be ready for making your first woodcarving job for more than just a weekend, but don’t worry, this will change as you are becoming more experienced.
I will show you a few tips and techniques for woodcarving. All you need is wood, design and Dremel tool!
Let`s get to the work!
A little bit of history
Well, maybe our readers might like to hear this story. People ask me: “Where did you learn to do this?” and the easy answer is: self-taught. And that’s really 99% true. I started back in England as a hobby and of course back then, and this is the early 1980s, there was no books or the Internet, there were no teachers on how to do this. It was a question of trial and error: trying to cut some bits of wood, trying to print them to see what happens, step by step.
My interest deepened and after a few years I decided to cut run, quit my job and come to Japan. Not really with an idea to become an expert straight away, but certainly with the idea of learning more about it. At the beginning that’s didn’t happened. I got involved teaching English to try and feed my family and as far as meeting craftsmen go it just wasn’t any chance to do that. So I went back home.
The years went by, and by 1989 came around, I’d still been practicing by myself and practicing myself and I still never had a chance to see a craftsman. So one day, I saw in my newspaper an ad for the 18th Japan Airlines Mainichi culture seminar. So naturally, I went to check it out. It was one of the most boring events I’ve ever seen in my life! It was a long lecture about the history and stuff, so a bunch of people got up and left. After a while, one of the carvers got to work and people gathered around. And we watched and watched and watched and then, you know how it goes, people wandered away and somebody tried to ask questions. Anyway, the event came to a finish and those guys started packing.
But I wanted to speak more with them, to try to persuade them to come to my house for dinner. They accepted and I was overjoyed! To cut the long story short, I learned more in one day with those guys than I learned in years by myself. I simply wasn’t aware of some techniques. My work took a dramatic leap.
This was just a cut short story about my journey into the world of carving. Today, in the era of the Internet, everything is much much easier. If this is just a hobby for you, then you have all the time in the world, to be patient and learn as much as you can. You have everything you could ever need in articles like this or in YouTube videos. Just be patient. It’s a requirement for this hobby.
What do you need for carving?
The most important thing that you will need for carving is a tool, piece of wood and patience. There are many different tools which you can use for woodcarving but here we will talk about carving with Dremel tool.
There are different attachments that you will use for carving, usually, they all come in a kit with the tool, but you can also buy them separately.
Let me guess, you don’t know how to change the bit on Dremel tool? Don’t worry, we have thought of everything and you can read all about that here!
We can tell for sure that every carver will have his favorite bits, and you will definitely have them as you continue with your hobby. The bit that you decide to use depends on: how fast you want to remove the wood, how much would you want to remove, how smooth you want it to be…?
Generally, Dremel bits have few shapes. What will determine the contour of the cut is the shape of the bit. For rough part of the wood advise larger bit and when you start adding details go to smaller bits.
Mostly, we use a ball, cylinder, flame and pear-shaped bits.
Now, the starting carving kit should consist:
- small carbide point bits like a fine cylinder, coarse flame, coarse ball, fine ball
- regular-grit diamond or ruby bits like pear, safe-end tapered, medium flame, small flame, small tapered
- texture bits like small taper green stone, small tapered stone with a rounded tip, blue ceramic rod
- cushioned sanding drums (small and large) and sandpaper
- a defuzzing pad and soft bristle brush
In the end, we can say that the best working bits are the one which will help you to complete the job in the best way.
After using the bits for a few times, you will see how successfully they work for you.
How to choose wood for carving?
As a beginner, we advise you to avoid hardwood. It will be much easier to practice on softwood. But when you become more professional you can try your skills on the hardwood as well.
Get the cleanest wood possible.
And the most important is to choose the wood without growth rings or knots. As a beginner, you won’t be able to deal with growth rings and knots.
Draw your design first
It is important to decide what you want to do; it means that first, you have to choose the design. Before you start shaping, draw your design with a pencil or a marker. You will do the rough design first; don’t bother about details at this point. It’s not a big deal if you don’t follow the lines perfectly; remember this is a rough cut.
Make sure that you are removing chunks while you are carving, they can be a problem because you can make mistakes.
With a cutting blade, you can remove sharp edges and round the corners.
And now we will deal with the details. You can start testing your carving tool. With Dremel bits, you have a clear situation, because they are all marked for specific materials and they all have recommended usage.
You should try all Dremel bits for carving because that is the only way to find out which one you will use for what and of course, you will find your favorite one.
You can use sanding attachment that is great for sanding larger areas of your carving.
With a course grit sandpaper, you will be able to remove any rough areas and smooth out any rough cuts.
You need time
Let’s make it clear; you will need some time before you finish your first woodcarving process. That`s why you should focus on the job and not on the time. Try to enjoy in every step of carving process. Trust me you won’t regret it. Be patient because it is very important for this hobby. I am sure that you will be happy when you finish your first woodcarving project, no matter how much time you will spend working on it.
Safety is very important! We advise you to take the safety measures every time when you are using your tool for any tasks. Here are some advise about the safety measures which need to be taken when carving wood.
Always wear gloves. Have in mind that you can break the bit, or a small piece of wood can jump on your hands. We advise you to wear your gloves every time when you are using your tool.
If you don’t want to end up with wood chips in your eyes protect your eyes, and always wear safety glasses when you’re using a Dremel accessory for carving or any other job that you are doing with your tool.
When you are carving wood, you will have a lot of dust. Make sure to wear a dust mask so you don’t inhale the dust.
The Dremel tool is not so loud, it won’t damage your ears, but if you cannot listen to the sound of the tool you can wear protective headphones.
Some basic advice:
- Prepare the area for carving. Have in mind that this job is loud and messy and you will need a lot of light. Prepare the table for placing your wooden piece and make sure that you have enough light
- Always prepare your design for carving. It will be much easier to avoid mistakes when you are prepared in advance. You can simply draw the design on the piece of wood and you are ready to start!
- Use Flex Shaft attachment when carving. This attachment is perfect and we can say that it is really a must-have, because with it you will avoid holding the tool in your hands all the time which gives you versatility. Also, this attachment is great when you are doing detailed work, and you will do a lot of details when carving.
- Always do a double check when you finish your carving job. You may find pencil lines that may have not been carved away. Simply erase them. You should also clean your work from dust. You can do it with any brush that you have.
- Always sand rough edges. It is always nicer to see nice and smooth edges.
- Always protect your woodcarving design. In this way, you are protecting your masterpiece to over the years to come. You can also paint it to add interest. You can add a protective layer to your project as urethane, varnish, shellac, wax, or oil finish either you are painting it first or simply protecting it.
Practice really does make perfect. Now when you know how to use a Dremel to carve wood, you can start practicing. Keep on working on lots of little projects all the time, and work at it every day. Wood is great to work with because it is not so expensive and it is available. Have fun, enjoy in your new experiences and try new things!
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