Carving extras: gloves, thumb guards, and carving mats
Several styles of carving gloves, made of both leather and Kevlar, are available. You can also purchase a thumb guards made to cover the tip to the first joint of your thumb or finger during a carving session. These are especially designed for three-dimensional carving where you are holding the wood in one hand while using a carving tool in the other.
Most relief carvings are done on large wood blanks that are supported either on a carving table, worktable, or in your lap, and most relief carving strokes are made with a tool held in both hands. Seldom will you find yourself holding the carving blank in your hand, creating the potential for cuts. Because of this, carving gloves and thumb guards are not necessary for relief carving. To protect yourself during a lap-carving session, place a heavy terrycloth towel, folded into quarters, over your legs.
The inevitable cut finger
Small cuts and slices are inevitable during woodcarving. It takes only one slip to land the cutting edge of a tool in a fingertip or the palm of your hand. Because of this, I do keep several absorbent gauze pads and butterfly bandages in my carving kit, just in case.
If you do cut your hand, use a sterile absorbent gauze pad to apply pressure to the cut area until the bleeding stops. Clean the cut with water and rub use an antibiotic cream over the cut before applying a bandage. If the cut is large or deep, please visit your doctor or the emergency room to have the cut stitched.
During twenty years of relief woodcarving, I have only once needed stitches, and that was for a small 3/4″ slice across the top of my finger. My cut came not from a carving stroke, but from reaching for a tool on my table. I had allowed my tools to pile up on my terry cloth towel and only glanced to see where the tool I wanted was. I cut my finger on the tip of the tool next to the one I wanted to grab. Today I am careful to “look before I reach.”