Getting Started

January 17, 2007



  1. Wear glove and thumb guard.

  2. Wear safety glasses.

  3. Carve with a very sharp knife.

  4. Stop when tired – accidents happen when you are tired.

  5. Relax and have fun!



There are three types of wood carving:

  1. carving in the round

    The most common form, carving in the round means carving an object on all sides.  For example, carving an animal (say a bear) or carving a caricature of a person or a realistic Native American Indian.  See www.cca-carvers.org for some examples.


  2. relief carving

    An common example of “relief carving” is a sign with raised letters.  Those specializing in relief carving often carve landscapes that use perspective to bring out the depth of a picture even though the depth of the wood may be only one to two inches.  See http://www.carvingpatterns.com/brace.htm for some examples.


  3. chip carving

            Chip carving often involves carving intricate patterns in a basswood board or the top of a jewelry box.  See www.chipcarving.com for examples.



You can purchase our recommended tools and equipment from Woodcraft (West Port Plaza area) or order from The Wood Craft Shop (1-800-397-2278 or www.thewoodcraftshop.com).  Contact Woodcraft (www.woodcraft.com) and The Wood Craft Shop and order their catalogue.

We also recommend that you purchase the very best knives, gouges, and equipment, and purchase only what you need rather than sets of knives where you may not use all you purchased.  For example, do not purchase Flexcut kits.  Flexcut is a heavily advertised set of knives and gouges.  The issue with Flexcut is that the sharp cutting edge does not last long.  High quality knives made with excellent steel will hold their cutting edge longer and can last a life-time.

The best brands are:

To get started, we recommend you invest approximately $75 to $100 in the following:

  1. A very good carving knife.  Two examples are:

a.  Ken Helvie “Regular K-nife – Finger Grip Handle (#218103 in The Wood Craft Shop catalogue for $34.95) 

b.  Denny Knife “2 and ¼ Straight Blade Knife” (#226123 in The Wood Craft Shop catalogue for $20.95) 

2.         A wood carving glove.  This glove is worn on the hand that does NOT hold your knife.  The gloves below can be worn on either hand.

a.         A Kevlar glove.  (#527102 in The Wood Craft Shop catalogue for $21.95 – note they sell various sizes - #527102 is a medium)

b.         Stainless steel wire woven with synthetic yarn (#535203 “medium size” in The Wood Craft Shop catalogue for $17.95)

c.         Woodcarver’s Safety glove (Kevlar) (#06162 “medium size” in the Woodcraft catalogue for $19.99)

3.         Thumb guard.  (#529102 “medium size” in The Wood Craft Shop Catalogue – package of five for $3.99 or $.99 each)

4.         A strop to sharpen your knife.

a.         “The Traveling Stropping System” – a four-sided strop where two sides have abrasive paper on them for sharpening, one side has rough leather to build up honing compound, and final side has smooth leather for a final finish.  (#226251 in The Wood Craft Shop catalogue for $18.95)

b.         The Woodcraft Leather Bench Strop – (#18H33 handled, two-side strop from Woodcraft catalogue for $38.99)

5.         Honing compound – you rub this honing compound on your strop to provide a very mild abrasive polishing surface. 

a.         Micro Fine Honing Compound (#06L01 from the Woodcraft catalogue for $20.99)

b.         Notto White Gold Compound (#201613 from The Wood Craft Shop catagloue for $6.95)

6.         Basswood for carving.  Most wood carvers work in basswood, a light, creamy wood that is easy to carve.   Your can start with 2” X 2” X 12” blocks of wood to practice carving.  Sources of basswood are:

a.         Woodcraft – prices are generally higher than the two following sources.

b.         Whittlers Wood, c/o Rudy Nigl, 18526 Marshall Road, Richland Center, Wisconsin 53581.  Phone 608-647-2075.  Call for a one-page flyer of prices and sizes.  A professional forester for 35 years.  Supplies basswood and butternut.  Sample prices are 2” X 4” X 12” in  basswood is $1.75 and $2.50 in butternut, or a 4” X 4” X 12” in basswood is $4.00 or $6.00 in butternut.

c.         Heinecke Wood Products, Dale A. Heinecke, 75 – 27 ½ Avenue, Cumberland, Wisconsin 54829. Phone 715-822-8642.  Comparable prices to Whittlers Wood.  Dale and his wife come each year to the Silver Dollar City Woodcarving Seminar (see below) and the Belleville Wood Carving show (first weekend in November) to sell the wood. 

Your Next Tools and Equipment

If you remain interested in wood carving, consider adding the following tools and equipment:

a.         Palm Gouges and V-Tools.  “Palm” means that you hold the gouge or V-Tool in the palm of your hand.  This contrasts to gouges that are up to 12 inches long and often used with a mallet (hammer).  Using the principal of “buy the best but limit the quantity you buy”, we recommend:

--    Diobsud gouges and V-Tools.  The Wood Craft Shop sells these tools in a range from $41.59 to $54.99.

--    Denny’s gouges.  The Wood Craft Shop sells these tools in a range from $21.95 to $22.95

--    Stubai gouges.  The Wood Craft Shop sells these tools in a range from $28.95 to $32.95

Advanced Tools and Equipment

            Consider the following:

a.         Sharpening Systems

--          8” Slow Speed Grinder – need slowest speed to prevent burning metal from heat of wheel turning, ¾ HP, 1725 RPM.  (#144290 in Woodcraft catalogue for $94.99). Install a buffing wheel (#07M04 in Woodcraft catalogue for $18.50). 

--          The John and Nancy Burke Tool Sharpening System – includes motor, shaft/wheel assembly.  This system is used by many national wood carving instructors, particularly those who know John and Nancy Burke (who are national instructors).  (#554101 in The Wood Craft Shop catalogue for $295.00)

--          Tormek Super Grind 2006 – one of the more expensive sharpening systems but also one of the best.  (#144865 in Woodcraft catalogue for $399.99)

b.         Power Carving Equipment

--          Foredom Rotary Power Tools – used to rough shape carving, sanding, and cleaning of carved objects.  (#301120 in The Wood Craft Shop catalogue for $249.00 – includes S series, 1/8 HP reversible motor, heavy duty foot control, handpiece, collets, accessory kit, shaft grease)

--          Dust Collector – necessary to have when working with power carving equipment like the Foredom Rotary Power Tools (DC 720 Dust Collector #328201 in The Wood Craft Shop catalogue for $199.95)

Sources of Information

1.         The Woodcraft Shop.  This company specializes in wood carving supplies.  Most national level instructors use The Woodcraft Shop as their major supplier of tools, equipment, and books.  Located at 2724 State Street, Bettendorft, Iowa 52722.  Web site:  www.thewoodcraftshop.com.

2.         Woodcraft Stores located in major cities. St. Louis location in the West Port Plaza Area at 2077 Congressional Drive, Maryland Heights, Mo. Phone: 314-993-0413.   Order catalogue at 1-800-225-1153.  Web Site:  www.woodcraft.com.

3.         Rockler Woodworking and Hardware Stores located in major cities.  St. Louis location is at on St. Charles Rockroad near the airport. OrderSupply Catalog at 1-800-279-4441.  Web site:  www.rocklerpro.com.

4.         Wood Carving Illustrated, published four times a year, phone (717) 560-4703 or toll free at 1-888-506-6630, one year subscription $19.95.  Web site:  www.carvingworld.com.

An excellent magazine with articles for beginners to advanced.  Shows and schools are listed in the back.  The Holiday 2006 issue is No. 37.

5.         Caving Magazine, published four times a year, phone 1-800-877-5527, one year subscription $19.95.  We site:  www.carvingmagazine.com.

Another excellent wood carving magazine for beginners to advanced.  The fall 2006 issue is No. 15.

6.         Chip Chats, bi-monthly publication, $14 per year.  Web site:  www.chipchats.org

7.         Internet sites:

a.         www.CarvingWorld.com -- site for Wood Carving Illustrated.

b.         www.chipchats.org -- site for Chip Chats magazine.  Excellent list of carving clubs, list of web sites for non-professional and professional carvers.

c.         www.cca-carvers.org --  site for the Caricature Carvers of America (CCA).  Excellent on-line book by the members of the CCA where each carved a figure from a 4” X 4” X 12” block, wrote about the project, includes pictures and patterns.

8.         Publishers of wood carving books:


a.         Schiffer Publishing, 77 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, Pennsylvania 19310, phone (610) 593-1777.  Call to get on their mailing list to receive catalogue.  Web site:  www.schifferbooks.com.

b.         Fox Chapel Publishing Company, Inc., 1970 Broad Street N., East Petersburg, Pennsylvania 17520, phone (717-560-4703).   Call to get on their mailing list to receive catalogue.  Web site:  www.foxchapelpublishing.com.

9.         Sources for rough-outs

“Rough-outs” are figures, animals, objects that have been “roughed out” on a machine.  Wood carvers purchase these rough-outs to create carvings designed by someone else.  Rough-outs come with a picture of the original carving as an example of what to carve.  This is an excellent way to get started with carving an area of interest you may have such as animals or caricatures.

a.         Moore Designs.  See www.roughouts.com for over 500 rough-outs.  This company is a major supplier of rough-outs and carries rough-outs from many of the nationally known wood carvers.  Visit this web site to see what we mean by a rough-out.

b.         Gerald and Barbara Sears rough-outs.  See http://www.gnbsearswoodcarving.com/.  Gerald is a member of the Caricature Carvers of America and teaches at Silver Dollar City each year. 

c.         Stu Martin’s Rough-outs.  See www.  Stu Martin is a national wood carving instructor.  Many of his roughouts are Native American Indians and mountain men.

Instructors At The National Level

Below is a list of instructors who teach across the United States at places such as Silver Dollar City (see below).  You can type in these web sites or do a www.google.com search and type in their names to quickly access the web site information below.

a.         Dave Stetson and Michelle Carville.   See www.cca-carvers.org/stetson.html.  Dave has published a great book on carving caricatures.   See www.foxchapelpublishing.com and do a search on Dave Stetson.  Dave is one of the best instructors to “teach” – by this we mean he gives you instruction that allows you to expand your skills back home rather than attend his class and walk-away with one completed carving.  Michelle is a carver in her own right and is known for her Santa Claus carvings.  Her expertise in painting carvings is considered one of the best in the USA.

b.         Gerald and Barbara Sears.  See http://www.gnbsearswoodcarving.com/.  Very good instructor (Gerald) and painting instructor (Barbara).  His classes are good for those who want to walk-away with one completed carving or more.

c.         Phil and Vicki Bishop.  See http://www.bishopwoodcarving.com/.  Caricature carving. 

d.         Jeff Phares.  Perhaps the best wood carver of realistic Native American Indians and mountain men.  See www.foxchapelpublishing.com and do a search on Jeff Phares.  He has published four books that are outstanding instruction manuals.  His type of carving involved long gouges and a mallet on large figures (for example, a bust that is ¾ life size).

e.         Harley Schmitgen. See www.cca-carver.org and select “members” and click on Harley Schmitgen.  Harley specializes in carvings on thin sheets of basswood.

f.          Harold Enlow.  Considered the “Father of Caricature Carving.”  See www.cca-carvers.org and select “members” and click on Harold Enlow.

g.         Marv Kaisersatt.  His work is not for sale and his instruction classes are infrequent.  However, he work is outstanding and unique.  Well known in the wood carving world.  Frequently appears in articles in wood carving magazines.  See www.cca-carver.org and select “members” and click on Marv Kaisersatt.        

h.         Stu Martin.  See www.  Native American Indians and mountain men.

i.          Tom Wolfe – author of over 35 books on wood carving.  Well known nationally.  See www.cca-carver.org and select “members” and click on Tom Wolfe.

j.          Rex Branson and Vicki Branson – Both are nationally known instructors and appear annually at the Silver Dollar City wood carving seminars.  See below.  See www.roughouts.com for examples of their work.  Both are very artistic and teach a higher level of wood carving.  They attract experienced wood carvers to their classes.

Woodcarving Schools

a.         Silver Dollar City and Ozark Mountain Woodcarvers of Missouri, Branson, Missouri

In 2007, the School will be conducted the week of March 5-9.  Instructors include several members of the Caricatures Carvers of America including Harold Enlow, Gerald Sears, Dave Stetson, Phil Bishop, and Keith Morrill.  Other great instructors will be Vickie Branson, Rex Branson, Debbe Edwards, David Sabol, Vic Hood, Stu Martin, and John Burke. Courses also taught the same week include Chip Carving, Basic Woodcarving, Flower Carving, carving Indians, carving realistic humans and animals.  Contact the Silver Dollar City, Valley Road Woodcarvers, 399 Indian Point Road, Branson, Missouri 65616.  Phone (417) 338-8293.

Visit the web site of Ozark Mountain Wood Carvers at for information about the courses being offered in 2007.

b.         Creede Woodcarvers Rendezvous, Creede, Colorado

            July 14-20, 2007.  Attracts national wood carving instructors.  See http://www.creedewoodcarvers.com/

c.         Woodcarving Rendezvous Seminars, Branson, Missouri.

June 3-8, 2007 at Compton Ridge, Branson, Missouri or the fall rendezvous on October 21, 25, 2007 at Compton Ridge, Branson, Missouri.   Attracts national wood carving instructors. See http://www.woodcarvingrendezvous.com/

d.         Doane College, Doane, Nebraska.

See   Held each year in mid-July.  Check web site for latest information.  Attracts national wood carving instructors.

Woodcarving Clubs in the St. Louis Area

West County Woodcarvers Club

Meets from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. the first and third Monday of each month at the Salem United Methodist Church (14825 Manchester Road, Ballwin, Missouri 63011) next to the firehouse and across the street from Applebees.  About 40 members as of December 2002.  Around 20 attend the meetings.  Many are beginners and just learning from those in the club who have been carving for several years.

St. Charles Area Woodcarvers

Meets 7:00 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of each moth at the St. Peters Community & Arts Center on Mid-Rivers Mall Drive and St. Peters Howell Road, St. Peters, Missouri.  See http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Runway/8268/sep00/sep00.html.  This club sponsors an annual wood carving exhibit. 

St. Louis Area Wood Carvers

Meets the second Sunday of every month for a workshop from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. with a club meeting at 7:00 p.m.  Meets the fourth Sunday January through November with a workshop from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Meetings are at the Evangelical United Church of Christ at 204 East Lockwood at Plant, Webster Groves, Missouri 63119. 

This club sponsors a wood carving exhibit each year held at the Kirkwood Community Center on the first weekend of December. 

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