Have you ever watched a scene in a movie when someone was carving a wooden object and thought, “I wish I could do that!”? For me, that movie was Troy, and to be honest; it looked complicated.

The reality is wood carving is one of the easiest and most fulfilling skills you can learn. It has an intrinsic value (a good stress reliever) and is one of the best-selling woodworking projects if you want to start retailing wooden objects on Etsy.

Whether you want to learn wood carving for your private amusement or to make some money out of it eventually, we’ve got some easy beginner wood carving projects and ideas you’ll love.

Beginner Wood Carving Projects

  • Wooden Spoon Carving
  • Chip Carving
  • Spirit Carving
  • Wooden Gnome
  • Wooden Rabbit
  • Carving a Pawn
  • Whittling a Flower
  • Chopsticks
  • Owl
  • Carve a Cat
  • Heart
  • Whistle
  • Bowls

13 Easy Wood Carving Ideas for Beginners

Starting out in wood carving can seem like a daunting task. There are so many different projects and tools to learn that it can be hard to know where to start.

Luckily, we will go over the basics of wood carving for beginners and provide some tips. But for now, let’s start with these simple wood carving ideas.

1. Wooden Spoon Carving

If you’re tired of long queues at IKEA or you want something unique, a cool alternative is to craft your spoon. Besides being one of the easiest wood carving projects, spoons are also practical.

Whittling a spoon is easy because there’re no hard and fast rules when it comes to dimensions and shape. For example, the bowl of the spoon can be oval, round, or even square-shaped. The handle can be thick, thin, straight, or curved.

You can keep it for yourself, your significant other, or a friend that will get a kick out of it. As you get better at small wood carving ideas, you can vary the design and embellishments, so you’ll never get tired of whittling wooden spoons.

Depending on the tools and wood you use, carving a wooden spoon can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a day or two. A good way to preserve your finished project is to apply a food safe wood finish.

The Best Wood for Carving a Spoon

  • Birch
  • Willow
  • Cherry
  • Apple
  • Maple

Tools for Carving a Spoon

  • An axe
  • A hook knife
  • Sloyd knife
  • Pencil or marker
  • Wood finish
  • 120, 200, and 400-grit sandpaper

Beginner Step by step wood carving patterns for Spoons

YouTube player

2. Chip Carving

Chip carving isn’t something you hear a lot about these days, but it is famous in the right circles.

As the name suggests, it is a method of carving that involves making small cuts or chips at a time. Of all the ideas on our list, this involves probably the fewest number of tools.

This is a whittling process that only needs two cutting knives, yet it is amazing what you can accomplish with them.

Unlike the photograph above, chip carving is rarely displayed on its own but instead helps add detail to existing wood carving projects.

For example, you can use chip carving to jazz up the handles of your wooden spoons. You can also use it to modify a wooden clock, chopping board, tray, wooden bowls, bracelets, or pendants.

One of the major benefits of handling simple whittling projects before more complex designs is that it teaches you how to handle a carving knife.

As you can imagine, these knives are pretty sharp, so you don’t want a mishap when trying something more ambitious.

To be excellent at chip carving, you need to master three wood carving skills:

  • Straight-line cut
  • Curvy line cut; and
  • 3 corner chip

Once you learn how to make these chips, it will make your other carvings easier.

To get started, you will find loads of chip carving templates on the internet. Then, of course, you can also come up with your designs.

The Best Wood for Chip Carving

Softwood is the easiest to practice chip carving on. But as mentioned earlier, this type of carving may depend on the projects you are trying to alter.

If this is strictly a chip whittling project, these are the woods we recommend:

  • Basswood
  • Aspen
  • Butternut
  • Black walnut

Tools for Chip Carving

  • Safety tape
  • Knife C10s
  • Knife C10
  • Pencil
  • Ruler

3. Spirit Carving (Wood Spirits)

If you want to carve wood right on a tree, this is an easy beginner projects to try. Wood spirit carvings are great for greenwood, live trees, and lumber, making them a versatile wood carving skill to develop.

Wood spirits are what we assume cavemen first used to create when they weren’t out hunting boar or playing with fire. Many traditions and religions through the years have also found them to be enigmatic, which is why they are still very popular today.

What makes wood whittling a spirit fun is the range of options. As a beginner, you should keep your focus on one-sided designs. But as your skills develop, you’ll be able to carve spirits as realistic as the Ents from Lord of the Rings.

Depending on how complicated the design is, you can complete your first spirit carving job in under an hour. But then, you probably won’t be satisfied with it, so you’ll keep going.

Once you have a hang of it, though, you can knock them out pretty easily. A good place to start is the wood spirit carving tutorial below.

Easy step by step wood carving for spirits

YouTube player

The Best Carving Wood for Spirit

If you don’t have any green wood, you can wood carve try any of these:

  • Basswood
  • Birch
  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Apple

Carving Tools for Spirit

4. Wooden Gnome

If you’re looking for a challenging wood whittling project, this should be right up your ally. Sure, spoon carving and relief carving can get your blood pumping, but gnomes are the real deal.

There was a time when garden gnomes featured in nearly every garden, but their popularity has certainly waned in recent years. However, gnomes are still in high demand in some countries, and sellers make a pretty penny.

If you don’t have a garden, a wooden gnome can make a lovely addition to your window sill, garage, or office desk. Another great advantage of learning how to wood carve gnomes is it’s a good way to measure your skills.

Sure, you can do that with spoon carving, but there’s only so far you can go with that. However, with a garden gnome, you can notice the improvements in design, depth, and detail.

For example, if at the end of your first week you come up with this design, that would be pretty impressive. However, that is nothing compared to the first image, which is just miles ahead.

Carving a gnome can be challenging if you do it freehand, but fortunately, there’re loads of templates online, including 50 from the explainer video below.

Step by Step wood carving patterns for beginners creating Gnomes

YouTube player

The Best Carving Wood for Garden Gnomes

The most commonly used wood is basswood. You need a 4” by 2” woodblock to get started.

Carving Tools for Garden Gnome

  • Pencil or pen
  • Safety tape
  • Chip carving knife C12
  • C15 whittling knife
  • Wood carving chisel
  • Paintbrushes
  • Acrylic paint

5. Wooden Rabbit

Next, another slightly intricate design with plenty of curb appeal. Wooden rabbits or any animal are fun beginner wood carving projects. Like gnomes, they can help you track how far your carving skills have come.

What is fantastic about whittling a bunny is that even as a beginner, you can finish a small project in under an hour. This will boost your confidence and help you take on more complicated tasks.

It is also a simple animal wood carving project to help you get accustomed to different tools and cutting methods. Once you’re done, you can use it as a desk statue, keyholder, or as a gift.

You can also paint it or cover your first bunny with woodworking epoxy so that it lasts a lifetime and can be a reminder of how far your skills have come. For your first wood carving project, start with a flat design, where you only have to cut one side of the wood.

You can achieve this with only the best wood carving knives and no gouging tools. If you don’t want to use epoxy, you can use a penetrating finish like linseed oil or tung oil.

If you have completed some of these other whittling projects on our list and want something a bit more complex, follow the tutorial in the video and see how your skills match up.

Easy simple wood carving patterns for Rabbits

YouTube player

The Best Carving Wood for Bunny

Softwoods work well for small bunnies, as they are easier to whittle. As your skills improve, you can move on to stronger woods. I recommend using basswood as a beginner. Other options are:

  • Butternut
  • Aspen
  • Pine
  • Cedar

Tools for Carving a Wooden Bunny

  • Safety tape
  • Chisel
  • Whittling knife C16
  • Wood finish

6. Carving a Pawn

If you love board games, then you’ll get a kick out of carving your own chess set. But, even if you don’t play chess, it’s also a great gift that is always in demand. Besides, how many people do you see with custom chess sets?

The first step for most beginners is the pawn. One of the advantages of making this as a beginner is learning how to make rounded edges. Most of the listed projects require curves of some sort, but the head of a pawn should be a perfect oval.

Now, you might not get it right with your first pass, but you can keep going until you accomplish it. However, as you keep on fine-tuning, you can achieve a professional-looking level of depth and smoothness.

This gets challenging when you have to make 16 identical chess pawns – 8 black and eight white. However, this differentiates it from wood carving projects like spoons or rabbits, as they don’t look the same every time.

You can carve these wood spirit chess pieces to add a creative twist.

The Best Carving Wood for Pawn

The best wood for beginners is basswood. It is a plain-looking wood, but it is easy to whittle. As you develop your skills and want a more professional look, you may also use:

  • Maple
  • Ebony
  • Padauk
  • Rosewood 

Tools for Carving a Pawn

  • Safety tape
  • Carving knife
  • Pencil

Recommend Reading: Best Beginner Lathe

7. Whittling a Flower

I can bet you’ve never given a more romantic valentine’s gift than a wooden flower. Okay, maybe you have, but you should try it.

Besides giving you a bit of romantic flair, wooden flowers are a great exercise for the family. If you have kids, you can have them color the flowers. And with so many different plants to recreate, you can keep improving your skills over time.

Unlike chess pieces, flowers don’t need to be identical. You also have a bit of leeway as to how you choose to execute this. You can either carve a flower out of an existing surface (similar to wood spirit carvings) or make it a 3-D image (like garden gnomes).

Wood carving flowers are also popular amongst professionals because it is a frequently requested motif on furniture and ornaments. In other words, learning woodworking skills can be extremely profitable.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, the key is to start with a basic design like the sample below before you work your way up (literally, to the sample above).

YouTube player

The Best Carving Wood for Flowers

Carving flowers out of wood doesn’t require a lot of tools, and you also don’t need fancy wood as a beginner. You can practice on any leftover wood in your shop. Of course, you may also choose green wood.

If you want to buy wood for this project, then choose from:

  • Mahogany
  • Basswood
  • Birch
  • Cottonwood bark

Tools for Whittling a Flower

  • Glove
  • Chisel
  • Pencil
  • Whittling knives
  • V-tool

8. Chopsticks

If you order a lot of Chinese takeouts, chances are you have a drawer full of wooden chopsticks. However, they are usually disposable and, frankly, too vanilla. Instead, you could make your chopsticks and give them an artistic flair.

I know chopsticks may not sound like much of a wood carving project, but it is a great experience and slightly more challenging than you think, but only slightly. The main difficulty with chopsticks is to get them perfectly round.

Just like chess pawns, you also need to make both sticks identical. It’s not an easy feat, but it’s a great start for beginners. The easier alternative is to make the chopsticks flat on all sides.

Unlike some of the other beginner wood carving projects here, you need to use different grit sandpaper to smooth it. It is okay if a spirit wood carving isn’t perfectly smooth or even a bunny, but chopsticks must be, meaning this wood carving project will take a bit of patience.

Bear in mind that sanding can remove as much wood as a carving knife in seconds, so you need to be careful with how much pressure you apply. Once you’re done, you need to coat the chopsticks with a non-toxic finish.

Technically, all wood finishes are food safe once they have fully cured, which takes at least 21 days for water-based and 30 days for oil-based.

So, you can use a wipe-on polyurethane.

The Best Wood for Carving Chopsticks

  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Walnut
  • Birch

Tools for Carving a Chopsticks

The easiest way to make chopsticks is by using a Chopsticks Master. It comes with all the tools you’ll need, and you can be done in just fifteen minutes.

For the full DIY experience, you’ll need:

9. Owl

So, we’re back to more complex pieces. While birds, in general, are pretty interesting designs, owls, in particular, are ideal for beginners because of their striking features.

Most people won’t tell the difference between a carved robin and a finch, but owls are unmistakable. Remember that the aim of these basic projects is to boost your confidence, so wood carving items that are easy to identify is a plus.

Owls are also cute gifts. You can leave them plain or add a bit of color and present them to adults and children.

Perhaps the best thing about wood carving a beginner-level owl, like the one in the YouTube tutorial below, is that you only need a knife and a pencil. Again, painting or applying a wood finish is optional.

The entire process can be done in roughly half an hour, and you’ll be pleased with the result. You may choose to add wings and feathers to your design.

Of course, they’re even more basic wood carving owl designs that only take a few minutes, but this is something you can make and be proud of.

YouTube player

The Best Wood for Carving an Owl

We return to one of our favorite woods for carving: basswood. It is easy to find, cut, and carve to your heart’s content. Again, you can use other hardwoods, but this is your best bet for easy wood carving.

Tools for Carving an Owl

  • Safety tapes
  • Pencil
  • Drake knife
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes

10. Carve a Cat

There’s a lot of fun to be had wood carving animals. The same techniques you use for one can easily be transferred to many others.

I know dog lovers would have preferred to see their canine friend on the list, but frankly, they aren’t as easy to make as cats – sorry.

Much like owls, cats have distinct featured that make them easy to recognize in a wood carving, even when done by a novice. They are, of course, easier to make than owls because they need fewer details, and you don’t have to bother with fur.

A simple wood carving cat design can take roughly 45 minutes, so just enough time to sit through a TV show you’re being forced to watch.

Because you only need two tools, you can carry out this wood carving project anywhere, including your bedroom or living room.

You can apply finish on the result if it’s a gift or something you want to display in your home.

The Best Wood for Carving Cats

Say hello to our little friend basswood. Other good alternatives are::

  • White pine
  • Cedar
  • Beech

Tools for Carving a Cat

  • Safety tapes
  • Pencil
  • Drake knife
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes

11. Heart

While you’re working on some of the larger beginner carving projects, chances are you’ll have a lot of spare wood lying around. One of the beginner simple whittling projects you can make with the scraps is a wooden heart.

Not only is it a fantastic way to make use of leftovers, but a carved heart is a great idea for Valentine’s day or a birthday present.

A simple wood carving template for a heart takes 30 – 45 minutes to complete. After that, all you need is a carving knife. The job would be easier if you had a rectangular block, but you can always improvise with irregular pieces.

If you want to turn your heart-whittling project into a pendant, you need to apply a strong finish.

I recommend epoxy because it’s durable and can be dyed easily to make it look store-bought. You can also use something less dramatic like Danish oil.

The Best Wood for Carving Wooden Hearts

This is another job for basswood. While it doesn’t have a rich color, you can paint it or apply epoxy to make it look more presentable. Other wood options are:

  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Beech
  • Balsa wood

Tools for Carving a Heart

  • Safety tape
  • Whittling knife
  • Pencil
  • Wood finish
  • 220-grit sandpaper

12. Whistle

If you like camping, hiking, or just being outdoors, this is a fun project to embark on (pun intended). There’re many ways to make a wooden whistle, but the easiest one is the willow whistle.

Carving a functional whistle is tricky because you’re not guaranteed that it will blow and make a sound. Willow branches are acoustic wonders, so it’s even one of the best DIY wood projects for kids.

All you’ll need is a knife, and you can get a functional whistle in minutes. The only downside is you have to wait until late spring or early summer so that the bark can come off easily.

Plus, you’ll also need fresh willow near you. Of course, there’re other ways to make a whistle with regular wood, but you’ll need more tools and more precision.

The Best Wood for Carving a Whistle

Fresh willow is the ideal choice for the easiest whittled whistle. However, if you don’t have access to it, you can also use:

  • Purpleheart
  • Basswood
  • Sycamore

Tools for Carving a Whistle

All you need for a no frills whistle is a carving knife. If you’re using basswood, you’ll need:

  • Drillbit
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Wooden dowel
  • Pen, pencil or marker
  • Superglue

13. Bowls

We started our list of beginner wood carving projects with spoon carving, so it’s only fitting to end with a complimentary project.

Wooden bowls and plates may not be popular utensils due to their heat conductivity issues, but they make for nice decorations.

Of course, you can also use it for salad or any cold foods, provided you applied a protective coating like polyurethane.

Wooden bowls can also hold potpourri, so the possibilities are endless for something so simple. As a beginner, you can choose to make a large bowl or a regular-sized bowl.

The advantage of the large bowl is you can use power tools to help speed up the process. However, it may not be as practical as a small bowl. In either case, you’ll be pleased with what you create.

The Best Wood for Carving Wooden Bowls

Greenwood is the best option to use, although you can also try:

  • Basswood
  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Beech

Tools for Carving a Bowl

  • Protective gloves
  • Axe
  • Whittling knife
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Wood finish – polyurethane or Danish oil

Other wood carving projects: Wood Carving Face

Beginner Wood Carving Ideas FAQs

Here are a few cool wood carving ideas questions that we get quite often from starters;

What is the Easiest Wood to Carve?

The best wood for carving beginners is basswood. Basswood, also known as linden or European lime, is classified as hardwood but is erroneously referred to as softwood because it is easy to carve.

Basswood is a popular lumber choice, making it accessible for many easy carving projects.

What Wood Carving Projects are Best for Beginners?

There’re so many great easy wood carving projects for beginners, so your choice will depend on why you want to carve. If you want to make gifts for others, you can start with a heart or wooden animals.

Otherwise, a spoon or other kitchen utensils is a good place to start. Of course, you can also do free designs and go with your gut.

Recommended Reading: How to Start Wood Carving?

What Tools do I Need to Start Whittling?

For easy wood carvings, you need a standard whittling kit that will consist of at least three knives: a whittling knife, a roughing knife, and a chip knife. You would also need protective gloves, chisels, pencils, glue, and a ruler.

You can easily find a beginner whittling kit with most of these tools for more complex wood carving designs.

Easy things to carve out of wood

  • Whittling a flower
  • Animals such as rabbits
  • Wooden bowls
  • Wooden Spoons.
  • Wooden Gnomes

Final Thoughts on Beginner Wood Carving Projects and Ideas

There’re so many easy beginner wood carving projects that it can be difficult to find a palace to begin. Whatever you choose, you would need a bit of patience to get to a sufficient level.

Once you master these easy whittling projects, you can embark on something more ambitious, like a handmade wooden wedding gift for a special couple.

Want to get your kids busy during the holidays? Here are some of the easy wood projects for kids to try.

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