Heading to a Carving Seminar? Read this First!

Did you finally pull the trigger and sign up for your first carving class? Congratulations! Here are some tips to make it more enjoyable for you, and everyone around you.


  • Never use another woodcarver’s tools without his or her permission.
  • Do not attempt to guide, critique or instruct another student unless asked to do so by the instructor.
  • Do not ask another student for instruction.  Ask the instructor.
  • Give as much advance notice as you can when unable to attend a scheduled class. Don’t wait until the night before the class starts to notify the instructor of your absence.
  • Never use another teacher’s methods or books to challenge methods being taught. This is confusing to other students and is rude. Challenge methods or techniques privately with the instructor.
  • Always return borrowed items properly; tools, reference material, supplies, etc.
  • Ask the instructor where to set up when you arrive. Don’t claim one spot for your own for every class. The teacher may have a preference for student seating in any given class period.
  • Always call ahead before visiting at a time outside of your scheduled instruction session. Don’t just drop in on another class.
  • The absence of profanity offends no one.
  • Don’t juggle class periods or the schedule to get a class with fewer students. You learn more when there are other students in the class. It makes it difficult for the instructor to plan the sessions not knowing which students are going to be attending. If you wish to have private classes, then arrange those with the instructor in advance.
  • If you must smoke, do it outdoors and never go to class after drinking any amount of alcoholic beverage. Knives, power tools, and driving don’t mix with alcohol and there are others to consider besides yourself.
  • Don’t make excuses for mistakes with your carving. You are in a class to learn and mistakes are part of it. There is no need to be defensive about your efforts. Learn the lesson and move on to learn more. The only real mistake is giving up.


  • Avoid thick coats of paint.
  • Basswood, Tupelo, and Butternut are woodcarvers’ favorite woods.
  • Chip carving techniques will improve all of your carving styles.
  • Clean up your chips.
  • Don’t multi-task while carving.
  • Don’t try to learn everything at once.
  • Enter a woodcarving competition.
  • If you drop a knife or tool, don’t try to catch it.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Keep you first carving.
  • Maintain and clean woodburning tips with stones and strops.
  • Mock up your project in clay.
  • Participate in your wood carving club.
  • Pounce wheels will quickly transfer a pattern to wood.
  • Put your carving glove on before picking up your knife.
  • Reference material is the key, research your subject thoroughly.
  • Safety glasses are a lot cheaper that a Seeing Eye dog.
  • Save time and wood, use a roughout.
  • Seal you carving and protect the finish.
  • Share what you know.
  • Strop often.
  • Take a class or two.
  • There are no straight lines in nature.
  • Try thinning and mixing your paint.
  • Try using a skew.
  • Use a holding or painting stick to hold small woodcarvings while carving or painting.
  • Use rasps and files instead of sandpaper for sanding and shaping.
  • Use the biggest tool you have to make the cut.
  • Wash your carving quickly and sparingly with water before painting.
  • Enjoy your hobby and have fun.

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