Basic tools and cuts
The bench knife is the primary tool for the relief wood carver.
This straight blade tool is the primarily cutting tool for the hand relief carver. Its cutting point can be used to create stop cuts, fine vein lines, and wrinkles in your Wood Spirits. The belly of the cutting blade can be used to shape and smooth any area.
Bench knifes are available in several styles. A short, 1” to 1 1/4” blade set at an angle to the handle is called a chip carving knife, a favorite of mine. The short blade sets your cutting hand close to the wood, giving you more control over the cutting stroke. Many basic bench knives have a 1 1/4” to 1 3/4” long, narrow blade and are prefect for both relief carving and whittling projects. Large, 2” or longer blades, called Slyod knives, can be used for relief carving, whittling, and wood preparation. Narrow bladed, fine point knives are called detail knife and made to cut thin free-form chip carving cuts and stop cuts in the wood.
The point of your bench knife should not be used to pop or pry a chip out of the wood blank. This can cause the tip to break. If a chip or cut stroke is not free from the wood re-cut with the bench knife along the line where the chip is still attached. Good quality pocket knifes are great for whittling but can not replace the bench knife in relief carving. The curvature of the pocket knife and the thickness of the blade can not cut thin, flat planes the way a bench knife can.