Wood carving is on the same line as pottery as a sought-after craft. Many of us wish we were that skilled with our hands to create recognizable or useable items from wood or clay. But we don’t always know where to start. Thankfully, there are some great tutorials out there.
Below are 13 types of easy beginner wood carving projects. They range from the more technically-minded ornaments to build skills to more decorative items to gift to family and friends. Most allow you to start with basic shapes and build on more complex ideas in the future. Right now, it is all about getting started.
Starting Out with Your New Wood Carving Kit
The best wood carving kits should come with all kinds of great tools and features to help you shape wood with ease. This should allow for a lot of different shapes and techniques for turning a pretty basic block of wood into something special. The best easy woodworking project should provide the chance to see what they all do. You can find something that uses a series of techniques and tools in one design or go for a series of pieces. Practice working with the tools on some scrap wood first to see what sort of impressions they make, as well as how much pressure to use. Once you have a little more confidence, you can get started on a specific project.
Finding The Best Beginner Wood Carving Projects
There are different options that you can take here to find a great beginner’s wood carving project. There are plenty of online tutorials – both in blog and video form – that can offer a nice step-by-step introduction. You can search for a project based on a theme and Pinterest is always a good starting point here. To start you off, I have some more general ideas and why they are such great ideas for a first wood carving project. You can then find a guide that fits with the perfect design.
The idea of whittling wooden spoons may sound a little cliched but it is a great starting point with various techniques. You can make a rustic usable mixing spoon, tiny coffee spoon, or something more decorative like a traditional Welsh Love Spoon. The latter is a bit advanced, but something to work up to. Find a good video tutorial that shows you how to work the wood and pay attention to your dimensions and the finish on the handle.
2) Other utensils
You don’t have to stick with spoons, although bowl-shaped utensils like spoons and ladles are great for practicing that concave shape. You can also try some forks, spatulas, and other kitchen tools that will work in wood. Knives are less practical but would complete a set. As with the spoons, you can be as decorative or as rustic as you want. If you do want a basic set, try and make them the same length for ease of use.
On the subject of bowl-shaped items for the kitchen, why not make an actual bowl. Wooden bowls are really nice tactile items for display purposes or for holding fruit. As you get more confident with carving you can add an additional element to the rims or around the bowl. Or, you could have a little rustic bowl with that spoon for your morning cereal. Think about the width and depth depending on the purpose and find a good step-by-step guide to get the perfect texture in the bowl.
Here’s another way. Cut the wood to size, then use a saw to cut out the desired shape for your bowl. If you’re not sure how to do this, there are many online tutorials that can help you get started. Next, use a chisel and mallet to carve out the interior of the bowl. Be careful not to remove too much material at once, or you may end up with an uneven surface. Continue carving until the bowl is completely smooth and shaped to your desire form. Finally, sand down the entire surface of the bowl until it is nice and smooth.
Now we’re turning from the practical items to the more decorative. If you want to learn how to create carved figurines and ornaments, you can’t go too wrong with animals. The natural world is full of inspiration, and you could always work on stylized dogs and cats for friends and family. Elephants are always popular and a great shape to work on. You can also progress from simplistic forms to more detailed fur effects with time.
The same is true when working with birds. Little songbird models are very popular because of their smooth shapes and simple anatomy. You can perfect a basic form and paint them up in different patterns. There are also lots of guides on how to carve owls from wood because it is so easy to play with their form. Penguins are equally recognizable in a simplistic form. In a couple of years, you could be carving a wooden turkey for the Thanksgiving table.
There is also a surprising number of wood carving tutorials relating to people. A lot of these are caricatures of figures like fishermen and other professions. Others are softer and more sentimental like angels and children. It all depends on your target audience. Do you want to go for that sort of sentimental gift and talisman for a cabinet or a fun “mini-me” that reflects someone’s profession or personality?
Many of the figures aren’t strictly human or realistic, which leads to a lot of guides on spirits, lucky charms, and similar figures. Some of these may sit on a desk or windowsill but larger pieces could make great garden ornaments with some paint and varnish. Consider something on the lines of a garden gnome or fairy.
8) Holiday Ornaments
Another figure I haven’t mentioned yet is Santa. He is one of many designs that you will find with a Christmas theme. Carving Christmas decorations is a great idea instead of being single-use plastic. You can make all kinds of shapes, paint them, and hang them from the tree. Get creative with robins, snowmen, and some simple love hearts. Or make bigger items for the table. Holiday ornaments don’t have to stop with Christmas. Any family occasion is more special with hand-carved decorations.
9) Candle Holders
Another must-have item for the holidays is a candle holder for the table. In a previous guide, I talked about the benefits of natural wooden candle holders and highlighted some of the best products. But you could always carve your own. As long as the cup of the holder is large enough for the candle, you can do what you want with the rest of the design and plinth. Just be careful with how you finish the wood, so it doesn’t become a fire risk.
Here’s another easy wood candle holder project that can be completed in just a few hours. Begin by selecting a piece of wood that is at least six inches long and four inches wide. Cut the wood to size, then use a saw to cut out the desired shape for your candle holder. Next, use a chisel and mallet to carve out the interior of the candle holder. Be careful not to remove too much material at once. Continue carving until the candle holder is completely smooth. Finally, sand down the entire surface of the candle holder until it is nice and smooth.
Jewelry is a great gift at any time of year and a hand-made wooden pendant is perfect for a unique sentimental item. You can take inspiration from the birds or animals above or carve something more unusual. You could always carve a heart and use one of the best pyrography kits to burn an inscription or date onto the word. It can be a detailed or rustic as you want as long as there is a way to hang it from a chain. Speaking of chains, you could make one of those too.
Chains aren’t the easiest of beginner projects at first but, can be great fun when you get the hang of the process. You could make one just as practice or get more decorative and gift it as jewelry as well. This is another one that can benefit from a video tutorial rather than a blog, so you get a better idea of the 3D form. You will be surprised at how quickly you end up with a working unbroken chain that is quite fluid.
12) Ball in Cage
You might look at pictures of the ball in cage wood carving project and assume it is advanced. However, this is promoted as a must-try project for newcomers because it is easier than it looks. You get to test out your tools and precision and end up with an interesting little ornament. It is also something you can scale up and try with different woods to improve your technique. The ball in cage design is actually a common element of those Welsh spoons mentioned above.
13) Spiral Design
Finally, there is the spiral design. This is similar to the ball in cage in that it offers room for development. The final piece is beautiful and tactile, and the process is great for those looking to get more comfortable with their tools. The other great thing about learning to make a spiral is that you can incorporate the technique into other projects. You could make candle holders with spiral plinths or ornamental ladles with spiral handles.
14) The Coasters
This coaster is another easy project that can be completed in just a few hours. Begin by selecting a piece of wood that is at least six inches long and four inches wide. Cut the wood to size, then use a saw to cut out the desired shape for your coaster. Next, use a chisel and mallet to carve out the interior of the coaster and carve out any design you want on top of the coaster. Be careful not to remove too much material at once. Continue carving until the coaster is completely smooth. Finally, sand down the entire surface of the coaster until it is nice and smooth.
Start With Small Beginner Wood Carving Projects and Try New Things
There are lots of options to consider here, which is great for variety but also overwhelming for a first project. The best thing to do is browse online and see what makes you smile. What would you have fun trying to make? It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look like the piece at the end of the tutorial. At this point, it is all about following the instructions and making the marks. With time, you can perfect the skills and get more of an artistic flair to create beautiful ornaments and gifts.
Keep in mind that when completing wood carving projects, the tools are very sharp. As you will see in a lot of these tutorials most people are wearing some sort of protective wear on their hands, just in case.