If you’re going to be a wood carver and not just a whittler, you’ll need to select a number of tools. There’s just no way around it. So, how to choose the right tools for wood carving?
Tools for Sharpening. Before the carving tools, it seems appropriate that tools for sharpening them should come first. After all, first we sharpen and then we carve.
At the very minimum, you should have a sharpening stone and a strop. The sharpening stone is used to get your edges to sharpness. Many sharpening stones come in different shapes and in different sizes. Some are very accommodating to the typically short blade lengths of wood carving blade edges. There are diamond coated slipstones that work very well to sharpen an edge. Some sharpening stones can even be found on a key chain or as small as a credit card. So very convenient.
A well-sharpened edge will have a burr and micro-bits of metal still clinging to it. A strop can easily remove all of these. This is very important in wood carving. Anything added to the edge will only slow your progress. You’ve got to get everything off. If you prefer, you could use a honing compound or a honing board to smooth out your edges.
If you’re really serious about becoming a wood carver, it is highly recommended that you learn how to sharpen and strop a knife. Once you’ve learned that, you’ll also be able to sharpen most other carving edges. The need for smooth sharp edges is a constant in wood carving. When you can achieve them, you’ll be worlds ahead of the rest. No kidding.
Tools for Shaping. Each type of carving tool that is meant to shape wood has a specific function. At the very minimum, you should have carving knives, wood chisels, wood gouges, wood rasps and rifflers, a mallet and maybe even a power drill.
Tools for Sanding and Smoothing. When all the wood carving and shaping is done, you’ll want to sand and smooth all surfaces. This is an important step that precedes any painting or varnishing. In doing so, you’ll remove any remains from any previous finishing process and you’ll also prepare the wood to bond with any non-penetrating chemicals. Sanding can be done using sand paper, sanding clothes or sanding sticks.
Wood carving is an amazing craft to develop. You could use just a handful of tools and work with small projects. Or you could use a bunch of tools, including power tools, to work on really large projects. Either way, it’s very relaxing, oftentimes exhilarating and extremely satisfying. Have fun!