beginner's carving tool set

Beginner’s Whittling and Relief Carving Tool Kit

A basic relief carving or whittling tool set contains far more than just your carving tools and knives.  Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the common supplies you may use in your carving craft.  All photos in this article are large-sized and labeled.  Please click on any image to show the full-sized photo.

As you browse through this series of wood carving knives, tools, and supply photos you will see our Whittle Turtle, used for size comparison.  Our turtle measures about 4″ long from tail tip to nose, and 2″ between his toes.


bench knives used in relief wood carving and whittlingBench Knives

Bench knives come in a variety of sizes and profiles, with each made to do a particular style of cuts. Bench knives made a straight-walled cut called the stop cut in relief wood carving.

Left to right:

Detail bench knife has a fine, narrow blade that ends in a sharp angle point.  It is used for fine detail lines, and shallow cuts.

Long bench knife has a blade approximately 2″ to 2 1/4″ long.  The cutting edge is flat and leads to a wide-angle point.  This is an excellent whittling knife and often used to strip the bark from walking sticks.

The short bench knife has a blade of 2″ or less. It is used exactly as the long bench knife but places your hand closer to the wood as you work.

The next two knives are chip carving knives with ergonomic-grip handles.  The short blade places your hand in very close contact to the wood, giving you total control over any cut.  Ergonomic handles do not fit all hands.  Check the width and length of any ergonomic handle before your make your purchase.

The last two chip knives, far right, have the same short blade as the ergonomic handled tools but use a short, narrow wood handle.  Chip carving knives can be used as bench knives in relief carving, chip carving, and for whittling.

Flexcut Tool Co 3 Knife Carving Set

2pc Wood Carving Knife Set Luthier Whittling Decoy Caricature Chip RAMELSON

3pc. Wood Carving Whittling Detail Chip Knives Ramelson

Flexcut Chip Carving 3 pc. Set with Sharpening Compound

3 Wood Carving Bench Knife Set Whittling Chip FLEXCUT RAMELSON

FLEXCUT Carving Kit – 4 Piece


bench knives used for relief wood carving and whittlingUtility Knives and Craft Knives

Utility and craft knives are not made to withstand the stress and pressure of wood carving.  This tools are made with low quality steel and made to be disposable.  In comparing the these knives to the standard carving bench knives you can see that the tip will be prone to breaking, a safety hazard during caring.

They are excellent for cutting your pattern paper, sharpening your soft pencils that you use in tracing, slicing masking tape, and for other preparation steps.

Stanley Utility Knife, Stainless Steel Retractable Blade, 3 Blades

Bessey Quick-Change Folding Utility Knife – Wood Grain Handle

Xacto X5282 Basic Knife Set



The Art of Spoon CarvingSpoon Carving Knives and Tools

Spoon carving requires a few specialty tools, including coping saws, draw knives, and clamps.

The Art of Spoon Carving by L S Irish
10″ length Coping Saw
Coping Saw Blades
Clutch Style Bar Clamp
Heavy Duty Anti-Slip Mat
Flexcut 3″ Straight Drawknife
Cut Resistant Gloves
Wood Carving Chisel Tool Set (8 Pcs)
Ryobi 16 in. Corded Scroll Saw
Pin End Scroll Saw Blade Assortment
PFEIL “Swiss Made” Made Roughing Knife
Flexcut Carving Tools, Carving Knife Set, Set of 4

Extra Supplies for Avid Spoon Carvers

Morakniv Wood Carving 164 Hook Knife
Morakniv Wood Carving 162 Hook Knife
Hooked Push Knife


high quality steel bladed bench knives for relief wood carvingQuality Steel vs Cheap Knives

Not all knives are made with quality steel blades.  Quality steel bladed bench knife can be purchased, starting around $25 to $40 USD.  This is a lifetime of carving investment and well worth the price.

In the photo you can see an inexpensive bench knife – rosewood handle – that was obtained at a large craft box-store and cost less than $10.  While the knife looks beautiful the steel is low quality.  It rusts easily and will not hold a sharpened edge.  The plain wood handled bench knife, while visually not as attractive, is high quality steel and has seen about two decades of hard use.

I strongly suggest that you purchase any carving tools from carving supply houses, not from the large box-stores.  Take time to check the customer reviews to discover how other carvers values the tool.

Sharpening stones and leather strops used in wood carving and whittlingSharpening Stones and Leather Strop

The sharpening stones that you use for your garden tools are not suitable for your fine steel carving knives.  They are far too coarse and will leave deep scratches along the cutting edges.

Shown in the photo is a beige Japanese water stone (top left), and a set of profiled fine-grit, red Arkansas stones (top right).  In the center of the photo are one rough-grit and one fine-grit ceramic sharpening stones.

The green stone (center) is a made-made honing board and to your right center is a wood honing board.  Honing boards have pre-cut profiles that fit your v-gouges and round gouges.

Our Whittle Turtle is standing on three sheets of emery paper, extremely fine grit sandpaper made for metal polishing.  Emery paper comes in grit sizes from 1500- to 400-grit and is an inexpensive substitute for sharpening stones. The long white ceramic stick is used for sharpening the inside edge of your round gouges.

At the bottom of the photo is a leather strop and two honing compounds.  The strop removes the burr edge left of the knife after stone sharpening.  The compounds are used of the raw leather side of the strop and come in a variety of fine grits, with each grit a different color.

Ceramic Stone Set, Knife Sharpening, Medium and Polishing

Spyderco Ultra Fine Triangle Stone

Spyderco Ceramic File 4 Piece Set w/ Leather Pouch

Norton 24336 Japanese-Style Combination Waterstone 4000/8000 Grit, 8-Inch by 3-Inch by 1-Inch

Flexcut Knife Strop

Tandy Leather Strop with Jewelers Rouge Buffing Compound

Enkay 149-C 6 pc. Polishing Compound Kit, carded

Enkay 150 Carded Polishing Compound Kit, 4-Piece


Page 1 – Bench Knives, Detailers, and Whittling Knives
Page 2 – Beginner Carving Tool Sets
Page 3 –  Rasps, Rifflers, Dental Picks
Page 4 – General, Tracing, and Sanding Supplies

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