11 Surprisingly Simple Wood Carving Projects for Absolute Beginners

Wood carving is an incredibly creative woodworking skill. Just a few hours of whittling away can see you turn a piece of mahogany into something that has a real artistic twist.

Whats more, this specific type of wood craft is just right for beginners. Especially since it requires very few tools, and needs next to no workshop space.

So we’ve found a bunch of easy wood carving projects you can start whenever you’re ready.

However, despite the simplicity of whittling, you will still need to prepare a few things before jumping in. Read on to discover more!

wood carving projects for beginners

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How Do You Start Wood Carving?

Well, first you need to work out what type of wood carving technique you’d like to start on first.

You see, there are four main types of wood carving styles;

  1. Whittling

Whittling is when you carefully shave small pieces of wood off a work piece. Typically this is done using a whittling tool.

This style is pretty much your all-purpose wood carving method, and it is usually what people think of first when considering wood carving as a pastime.

You can whittle any type of wood you like, although soft pliable wood types are best for this style of carving. However, if you can only access hard dry lumber, you can manually soften that timber yourself

You can learn more about softening wood chunks (for carving) by checking out our post here: How To Soften Wood For Carving (Explained)

  1. Chip Carving

This style swaps out the whittling tool for the good old chisel and hammer.

This carving technique involves repeatedly chipping away until you either carve out a figurine, or etch a design into the wood.

  1. Carving In The Round

This style is all about carving detailed true-to-life, fully three-dimensional sculptures out of wood.

If you opt for this carving style, then you are now moving up into a more skillful level of wood carving.

  1. Relief Carving
Relief Carving

Last, but not least, relief carving is when you fashion raised patterns along the flat surface of a wooden panel.

Not all types of wood take well to woodcarving. So, to help you out even more, you can check out our review about buying the right type of carving wood. Click here to read it, it’ll really help you out.

So, Which Wood Carving Style Should I Choose (As A Beginner?)

Its completely up to you! All of these styles will require equal amounts of time, practice and patience to master.

But, if you’re completely stumped when it comes to deciding which style to start on, here is a quick primer;

If you have very little space to work in:

Whittling is a great first option. You need just one tool and a small piece of wood to get start.

If you have a well kitted out workshop already setup:

Working on large Relief Carving wood boards is no-problem.

If you want to jump right on in and tackle some trickier carving projects:

In which case, Chip Carving and Carving in the Round could be your go-to styles.

What Is The Easiest Wood To Carve?

Okay, so you’ve chosen your carving style, but do you know what type of wood you should be using?

Unsurprisingly, the type of carving technique you choose will largely dictate the type of wood you’ll be crafting from.

Some wood types are more malleable than others, so you will want to make sure you have the right soft or hard wood for the job. Here are our recommendations;


Recommended Wood Type: European Oak

You are going to want a tough wood, one that can withstand a lot of punishment. European Oak is popularly used on long-lived historical carvings and modern day construction.


Recommended Wood Types: White Pine, Basswood

A soft wood is your best bet here, especially as you don’t want to have to force down too hard with your carving tool with each slice.

Now, Basswood is a incredibly pliable wood making it a great choice for whittling. However, once your Basswood piece is complete, it won’t be easy getting it to take on stains and finishes.

In fact, Basswood finishes can often turn out splotchy. You can learn more about this in our post here: Choosing A Basswood Finish (What You Need To Know)


Recommended Wood Types: Sugar Maple, Black Walnut, Cherry

When it comes to chip carving, avoid soft woods and opt for more sturdy lumber.


Recommended Wood Type: European Lime

For this technique you will want a wood carving choice that is commonly used for making everything from cutting boards to musical instruments.

Plus, European Lime has great looking texture, which is why it is a fan favorite of wood sculptors around the world.

What Can I Carve Out Of Wood?

Right, so now onto the wood carving projects.

To make things simpler for you we’ve divided the tutorials into groups. Each group is based upon the primary wood carving style used on the project. Enjoy!



Looking for a way to spruce up the garden? Then you could start to use your love of whittling to make a Garden Gnome (or simply use it as a fun home-office paper weight).

Wizard Spirit

These figurines look difficult to make, but in reality, they are a pretty simple carving project to begin with.

You could start making one of these yourself right now, just by following the tutorial guide in the video above.

An Owl

Animals are a wood carving beginner staple. Simple animal statuettes could also make for great DIY interior decorations for around the home.

Letter Opener

Snail-mail is slowly going out of style, and its true that few people have any real need for a letter opener.

But, those official looking letters should still be opened with a bit of ceremonial flair every now and then. And that is where this super-simple letter opener comes in…

A Wooden Spoon

Whether stirring soup, stew, or a pot full of gumbo, you can always find a use for a wooden spoon in the kitchen.


Celtic Weave

You can use this same tutorial to create wall art too. Create larger pieces so that you can add a bit of Celtic flair to otherwise plain looking walls.


One flower is just the start. Repetition of the carving all the way across the board would easily turn into an impressive display.

Wood Sign

Turn pallet wood into a burnished work of art.

The wood type used in the video tutorial above, is just a little too soft for chipping away at. So I recommend you swap the soft pallet wood for a firm hardwood alternative.


A Sphere

The Carving in the Round method is one of the most difficult wood carving styles, especially for a complete novice.

So learning how to carve spherical shapes – before upgrading to full 3D figurines – is the best way to get really proficient at this skill.


Rope Border

This tutorial is exactly what you need to get your hand-eye coordination down for more complex chip carving patterns.

Take this project one step further by carving a Rope Board design around a Wood Sign – that’ll really make your craft stand out.

Geometric Patterns

Once you’ve got your carving technique down, it’s time to take the next step and really test those newly honed skills with ever more intricate cuts – just like the ones taught in the video above.

Not sure about what wood you can use for woodcarving? Or maybe you don’t know where to buy your wood blocks from? Well, we’ve already done all of the research for you!

Click here to get all the details!