Whether you are a beginner or intermediate wood carver, there are several basic tips for wood carving you can follow to improve your skills while also being safe. Above all else, patience is perhaps the most useful and coveted virtue when it comes to wood carving. It's important to remember that wood carving can be a therapeutic and enjoyable process that has little to do with speed or winning the race. Rather than focusing solely on the finished product, try to enjoy every moment of wood carving. This will allow you to focus on safety while also producing a better carving in the long run. So, when holding the knife, focus on making small cuts rather than shooting for large and broad ones. In time, you will begin to appreciate the simple joy of wood carving itself rather than solely racing toward an imaginary finish line.
Next, it is important that you develop proper cutting habits when handling your knife. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make when learning how to carve wood is using their elbows instead of their wrists to cut into the wood. By using your wrist to cut into the wood, you'll remove smaller pieces but the cuts will be much more precise and the risk of cutting too much off will be lessened substantially. Remember to keep your blades sharp as well since a dull blade will make progressively weaker cuts as well as increase safety risks. You can also move the wood with one hand while simultaneously cutting it with the other hand to get better cutting angles and results. Again, paying attention during the wood carving process is paramount to your own safety and to the eventual success of whatever project you're working on.
If you're having trouble getting started on a new project or visualizing your ultimate goal within a block of wood, start off by using a pencil to draw a rough outline of the shape you would like to cut. You'd be surprised how easily a few markings can get the ball rolling on a project that you would otherwise be procrastinating. Also, as your wood carving skills evolve, feel free to experiment with different types of wood. While Basswood is a good wood for beginners, you should try stepping up to Butternut and Tupelo woods after getting some experience under your belt.
Another often overlooked tip when it comes to wood carving is that you should always remember to cut with the grain. Although fairly obvious, it’s sometimes easy to overlook this tip, so remember to check regularly to make sure your cuts are moving with the grain rather than against it.
Remember to take a break now and then to take a step back and survey your progress. It's easy to get stuck in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture, so an overall look at your work never hurts in fact can improve your overall wood carving process by leaps and bounds.