Month: March 2015

wood carving wood spirit patterns

Choosing Your Wood Carving Bench Knife

I had a question from on the Wood Spirit Carving Project that is being posted right now, that I thought I would share with you.  The question was “How do you pick the right sized bench knife?”

Please remember you can click on any image for a full-sized photo.

Quality of the Steel

wood carving the wood spirit patternThere are three important considerations in which bench knife you purchase.  First is the quality of steel in the blade, which determines whether you can bring the knife to a very sharp, fine point with a sharp edge.  While your hand will adjust to a knife handle that is not an absolute perfect in fit, there is nothing you can do to improve a poor quality steel blade or force it into holding an edge.

This top photo shows an ergonomic handled chip carving knife.  I use this one for my general craft needs as cutting paper, cutting chipboard, or cutting leather.  The handle is slightly too wide for a comfortable grip in my hand, and the extension of the knife point beyond the hand grip is a touch too long.  Yet, this knife would be a perfect grip for a carver with a larger hand size than mine (woman’s small).  The steel of this blade is very high quality.

Length of the Blade

wood carving the wood spirit patternSecond is the length of the cutting blade.  A long bladed bench knife is perfect for de-barking walking sticks, for long whittling cuts, and for general shaping.

This second photo shows a long bladed bench knife.  This is the classic bench knife that is often shown for beginning carvers, yet its primary use is for long whittling strokes as de-barking walking sticks or rounding over the corners of a practice block.  The handle of this knife fits my hand perfectly, but the long blade pushes my fingers away from the wood.  I use this one for rough-out work, but never detail or shaving work.

Fit of the Handle

wood carving the wood spirit patternFinally, the third consideration is how the blade handle fits in the palm of your cutting hand.  I use ‘the rule of thumb’ to size my bench knives.  For a moment extend the thumb of your non-dominate hand in the ‘thumbs up’ position.  Wrap your dominate hand around that extended thumb with the extended thumb tip resting at the mid-joint of the first finger.  Use a light, semi-open grip.  For me, the size and length of that extended thumb is the perfect size for my bench knife and tool handles. (See bottom photo)

The third photo shows my favorite bench knife, a rose wood handled large chip carving blade.  The handle is exactly the size of my extended thumb, and the blade point is never more than one inch away from the wood.

wood carving the wood spirit patternI have a second chip carving knife that I use regularly that is classified as a small chip knife.  The knife has a very short, narrow handle and a 3/4″ or less blade.  A short blade, as a large chip knife, brings your hand right onto the carving wood, which gives you more control over the movement of the cutting tip.  Very small, short blades, as a small chip knife, are perfect for getting into those tight corners or creating undercuts.



 Rule of Thumb Sizing

wood carving the wood spirit patternIf I am sizing a palm handled tool, I slide my non-dominate hand further up into my dominate hand so that the first joint of the extended thumb rests against the mid-joint of my first finger.  This places the pad or base of my extended thumb into the center of my carving hand palm.  The size of my thumb pad is about the size that I want for my palm tools.

Which bench knife or carving tools work best for you is determined by what style of wood carving you are working, the size of your hand, and your hobby budget.  Of note is that many wood carvers own and use more than one bench knife or set of gouges, so that we will have on hand the right tool for the right job.  As your hobby grows so will your tool hoard … 🙂

If you are just starting your hobby of wood carving you may wish to check out our article on the Wood Carving Tool Kit.




wood spirit carving with Lora Irish

Free Wood Spirit Carving Project

Cutting the slope of a wood spirits mustacheToday we will work through establishing the depth of the nose bridge, the slope of the nose, the division between the nose and the mustache, and freeing the nose from the cheeks.

So, click on the link below and let’s get carving!

Wood Spirit Carving, Establishing the Slope of the Nose

If you are just joining this free, online wood carving project, by Lora Irish, please check out the links below for your supply list and an over view of the planes of the human face.


cutting the nose bridge of a wood spirit wood carvingCarving the Wood Spirit Face, Supply List
Wood Spirit Carving, Planes of the Human Face







 Other happenings around the Studio

Carving gloves and thumb guards used in wood carvingIf you are a new carver you may wish to check out Lora’s tool kit article for ideas on what tools, knives , and supplies make us a wood carving kit.

Beginner’s Whittling, Chip, and Wood Carving Supply Kit






wood carving the wood spirit face

Carving the Wood Spirit Face

Cane, walking stick, and wizard wand wood carvingThe wood spirit face is a favorite wood carving theme.  His wild, flowing hair, his long twisted beard, and his exaggerated nose make him an excellent beginner’s carving project.

It may be hard to conceive that the human face is a beginner’s level project, but as we work through the simple steps to create the planes of the face, you will discover how simple and adaptable this style of wood carving is.

I am working my wood spirit face as a cane or walking stick topper, as shown in the sample stick to your right.  The wood spirit face is carved using a basswood practice stick – 1 3/4″ x 1 3/4″ x 6″ – then attached to the staff of the stick using a hardwood dowel or all-thread pipe.

To begin this project you will need the following supplies:

wood carving supplies and tools6″ x 1 3/4″ x 1 3/4″ basswood practice block
bench knife or large chip carving knife
large 3/8″ round gouge
small 3/16″ round gouge
90 degree v-gouge
bull nose chisel or straight chisel
220- and 320- grit sandpaper
safety gloves, if you’ve got them
heavy terry cloth towel if you don’t have gloves
#2 to #4 soft pencil
12″ ruler
fine point permanent marking pen
sharpening stones, honing board, strop
one-temperature or variable temperature wood burning tool

wood spirit carving. planes of the faceThat’s what I have on the table right now, I will add the paint colors later after I decide where this little dude is headed.  Use what carving tools you have. There is so little difference between one round gouge and another there is no point in getting into a snit over exact size.

I am going to teach is how to establish the planes of the face without using a pattern and how to use those planes to create unique facial features.

I am also sharing this wood carving project on the forum where you can join, post questions, and add your photos as we carve this wood spirit face together.

While you get your supplies together, I am off to get your first set of photos ready.  So, please bookmark my blog!

Wood Spirit Carving, The Planes of the Human Face – Step one is posted!!!

beginner's carving tool set

Lora’s Wood Carving Tool Kit

Sharpening stones and leather strops used in wood carving and whittlingNot sure what tools, knives, or carving sets will get you started in the craft of wood carving, chip carving, and whittling?  Are you wondering what general woodworking and craft supplies you might need for your first carving project? Have fun browsing through Lora Irish’s carving kit which includes wood carving beginner sets, sharpening stones and honing boards, rasps, rifflers, sanding and tracing paper, compasses, rulers and t-squares, and so much more!

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, just click on any image to show the full-sized photo.

Plus there are lots of links to, so that you can do a little window shopping as you prepare and plan your own wood carving supply kit.

Beginner’s Whittling and Relief Carving Tool Kit – An in-depth look at wood carving supplies

Join us on FacebookJoin us on Facebook!

Get the latest updates, discover the newest posts, find our most recent freebies!  “Like” us today!

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: