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Beginner Essential Guide (BEG) for woodcarving : Chapter 2 : holding your tools and workpiece

securing a workpiece

This is one area where there are many solutions to the same problem. Depending on the size and shape of your workpiece several options are available to hold it steady while you work:

  • using clamps to secure it to a table or workbench
  • use a bench vise (or any other type of vise)
  • glue the workpiece to a larger board and clamp that onto a table or workbench
  • screw or clamp some small blocks around your workpiece either into the workbench or a larger board.

For relief carving and most carvings that have a flat underside I prefer the last option. Screw a block around the piece on each side so it can’t move when you’re carving. You can still lift it straight up and turn it around if you need to.

Carving techniques

There are a few basic practices you might want to get into from the get go. The first one is carving left and right handed. If you’re a beginner, you haven’t learned to carve with either hand so they both start from scratch. This is the ideal time to start practicing carving with your left and right hand. This will come in handy when you’re working on details or in an area you can only get to with one hand or the other. This also helps when the material has funky grain going in all sorts of directions. Instead of moving the piece or turning around the piece, you can simply switch hands.

The second is tool control with and without a mallet. In the beginning you might think that working with your hands will give you more control then using a mallet. However in many cases it is easier to apply a consistent amount of force on the tool with a mallet. There are use cases for both, in time it will become second nature and you’ll switch between using a mallet or using both hands regularly.

holding your tools

holding a gouge or V tool

While you will typically hold a chisel by the handle, this doesn’t give you the best control for fine details. It is far better to hold a gouge or V tool by the metal end, closed to the blade. this allows you to use your wrist in a firmer grip, while still having a full range of motion.

This is how you would work with a mallet and gouge.

Compare that to holding a bench chisel, you grab that by the handle. It requires less fine grained control but on average more power.

Using a mallet will give you full control over the force you put on to the cutting edge. It will take a bit of practice to get used to working with a mallet in your non-dominant hand, but trust me it’s worth it in the end.

For very fine details and work in softer woods you can just use your second hand to provide the force needed to cut. On harder wood species or species with a lot of knots, this is not ideal. This is because the softer parts will cut fine and then your cutting edge hits a harder part. It very easy to put too much for on the chisel at that time to make it slip or cut too deep.

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Beginner Essential Guide (BEG) for woodcarving : introduction


Welcome to my Beginner Essential Guide for wood carving for beginners. This guide will focus on manual carving with (full size) gouges and a mallet. I might include a chapter on power carving with burrs, whittling or chip carving (with knives) but the focus will be on manual carving with gouges. The biggest advantage over power carving in my opinion is the relaxing effect, less noise and a lot less dust and debris when you’re done.

Before we get to the fun stuff, we will go over some theory first, but I’ll try and keep it short and sweet. My goal is to get more people started into the wonderful world of wood carving. There are some basics you will need to know and some tools you will need to start. That will take up the first few chapters, but after that it will mostly be exercises and demonstrations to aid in explaining a specific topic.

I will include lots of pictures and some short video to demonstrate the key points of the theory and show you how I would do it.

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A year in review – 2017

I think I finally found a nice way to take pictures of my work. I bought a mini photo studio and I’m playing around with the setup and camera settings.
here’s a roundup of some projects from 2017. Some of them were already posted earlier though.

These are some of my latest pens. An oak “Panache” style pen, a walnut “chairman” rollerball and a segmented “slimline”.
The slimline was made from lignum vitae and marupa (I think) with aluminium spacers. You might notice some white spots, this is due to the CA finish.
this was a pratice pen, both for the segmentation and the CA glue finish.

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the Turtle, the Rocket and the Click pen

I’ve fallen a bit behind on the blog front, so here are my three latest projects that I felt  were worthy to share with the world.

The fist is another pen with some leftover of the roller-ball/fountain pen project. It’s a full length pen with a click mechanism (my first) and I used olive wood with a deer antler accent at the top.

I’ll admit I added the deer antler to correct a mistake, but I think it really matches this pen. The piece of olive wood is just stunning and all in all it was a well received gift. 

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Woodcarving: princess Elsa from Disney’s Frozen

At the beginning of this school year I had to choose another woodcarving project. I decided to make something for my five year old niece. Since she is completely hooked, as all young children seem to be, on Disney’s Frozen I decided to make something related to that.

After googling for Frozen, the majority of the images seemed to be from the Elsa character. Since all little girls love princesses the choice was easily made.

I finished this relief carving just in time for it to be delivered by ‘Sinterklaas’ who brought it at December 6th. For those of you that don’t have a clue who this is, think of him as a dutch Santa clause.

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Turned and carved spiral box

I quickly learned that once you start posting your work on Facebook and the word gets out, that you make stuff… people want you to make something for them. This gives me the opportunity to try out new techniques and in this case it allowed me to try some carving on a wood turned box.

It’s made from cherry, as you’ll soon discover in future posts, most of my stuff is. This isn’t really by choice, it’s just the supply of wood I have from a tree that was cut down by my dad a few years ago.

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