If you want a set of the best wood carving tools, you need to get to know what the different tools are before you start buying tools you may never use. If you can, spend some time with a master wood carver, and have him demonstrate the use of the tools he owns. You can take a wood carving crafts class at a local community center, or ask around for someone who knows what he is doing so you can get a good introduction. This list of must-haves can get you started:
Bench Knife Or Chip Carving Knife
This is probably the first carving knife you'll ever pick up, and it's most likely going to become one of your favorite standard tools. Most chip carving knives have blades that are about an inch and a half long, and they fit nicely in your hand. These knives are used for whittling and chipping.
Gouges are chisels that you will use to remove wood as you carve. You can find many kinds of gouges, but they are divided first of all into two types: the u-gouge and the v-gouge, each named for the shape of the chisel. The u-gouge has a "u" shape to the tool; the v-gouge has a "v" shape. Variations on these gouges include bent, back bent, spoon and straight. Gouges are available in a myriad of depths and shapes, from the barely perceptible u or v-shape to a deep u or v-shape.
A mallet is like a hammer, only it has a wider breadth and comes in wood, metal or rubber. You will use the mallet to drive your chisels or gouges. Rubber mallets are preferred by most wood carvers.
While many carvers prefer to sand their carved wood projects by hand, you may find you prefer the speed of a belt sander. However, it must be used with extra care since it can quickly wear through the soft wood preferred by most carvers.
It's a good idea to have a pair of safety goggles on hand to protect your eyes, plus vet tape or finger guards to protect your thumb and forefinger as you carve. Make sure you use all wood carving tools with care. If possible, take a wood carving class, or do your first projects under the supervision of an experienced carver.
You'll need to sharpen your wood carving knives often so you can carve efficiently and safely. Dull tools can cause serious injuries and destroy a beautiful woodworking project in a flash.
You can find many wood carving designs on the Web, in craft stores and in magazines. However, not all those designs are appropriate for the beginner level. The best patterns for new carvers include Christmas ornaments and walking sticks.