The Perfect Weekend Hobby: A Beginner's Guide to Carving

The Perfect Weekend Hobby: A Beginner's Guide to Carving

If you're looking for a new hobby that's both relaxing and creatively fulfilling, carving might be just what you need. I've been carving with Japanese tools for over a decade, and I can tell you it's an incredibly rewarding experience. Let me break down how to start, the tools you'll need, and some fun projects you can work on.

How to Start

Getting started with carving is easier than you might think. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Set Up Your Space:

Find a clean, well-lit area where you can work comfortably. A sturdy table and a comfy chair are essential. Use clamps to secure your wood piece so it doesn't slip while you carve.

Wood Options for Original Spoon Carving Kit. Left to right: Cherry, Bass, Walnut | Melanie Abrantes Designs

2. Choose the Right Wood:

Start with softer woods like basswood or Japanese white pine. They're easier to carve, which is perfect when you’re just starting out. As you gain confidence, you can try working with harder woods.

3. Learn the Basics:

Get familiar with some basic carving techniques. Whittling involves shaving off small pieces of wood to create a shape. Chip carving is about making intricate patterns by removing small chips of wood. Relief carving is a bit more advanced, where you carve figures or designs into a flat piece of wood to make them look raised.

4. Safety First:

Always prioritize safety. Wear protective gloves to avoid cuts, keep your tools sharp (believe it or not, sharp tools are safer), and always carve away from yourself.

The Tools You Need

Japanese carving tools are some of the best out there, known for their sharpness and precision. Here are the basics you’ll need:

1. Chisels (Nomi):

A starter set should include a flat chisel, a V-chisel, and a spoon gouge. These will cover most of your carving needs.

2. Knives (Kiridashi):

A Japanese carving knife is perfect for detailed work. It’s sharp and precise, making it ideal for intricate cuts.

3. Tool Box: 

Not always necessary, but a tool box can help when organizing your tools and keeping things neat and tidy. We always have our tools ready to take on adventures such as camping trips or just around the studio. 

Carving Projects You Can Work On

Now for the fun part – projects! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Half carved spoon shown with several other finished spoons in a variety of sizes. By Melanie Abrantes Designs.

1. Spoon Carving:

Start with something simple like a spoon. These projects are great for practicing basic techniques.

2. Whittling:

This is a wonderful way to start carving. It involves shaving off small pieces of wood to create a shape, and it can be as simple or as intricate as you like. Here are a few whittling projects that are perfect for beginners and satisfying for more experienced carvers: Spatula, Comb, Butter Knife and more. 

3. Relief Carving:

Once you’re more confident, tackle a relief carving project. Carve a design or figure into a flat piece of wood to create a raised, three-dimensional effect. This technique is great if you're interested in doing something more challenging! I made a series of food carve projects that were made from wood that were relief carved and so much fun! 


Weekends can be packed with events and obligations, but don't forget to carve out a little "me time"! With the right tools and projects, you can quickly master the art of carving. Just remember to take your time and enjoy the process.

Shop our Kits, Blanks and Tools to get started! 

Happy carving!

Cheers, Melanie