Using a wood chisel to carve woods is one of the oldest traditional skills that is still commonly practiced. Using a wood chisel is an art, but it can easily be mastered by those willing to learn the common types of wood chisel techniques, and those with the patience to practice. The type of wood chisel you use will depend on your project and the ultimate purpose, but if you are learning how to use wood chisels, then a few common techniques will help you no matter what type of project you are working on.
1. Roughing Out
Roughing out is the most common form of skill. It is used to get the beginning shape of the project, so all types of project use this basic technique as their beginning. It is not a delicate technique, as it involves stripping off all of the unwanted wood. For this kind of work, you need a large chisel and a hammer or mallet. A rubber mallet is the preferred tool, as it has a heavy impact that does not spread, giving it an accurate strike, which can be useful when removing wood. The best way to learn this technique is just to practice as much as you can. Once you have performed the basic roughing out technique, you are ready to change your large wood chisel for a lighter one.
2. Carving Inlays
One of the most intricate carving techniques is to work on inlays. This involves removing wood from the center of a form in order to place it inside a different material. In the past, this would be glass or metal, but these days you can add plastics, electronics, and fiberglass to the number of inlays. This delicate work involves removing wood, but you need a very small chisel to do it. Take the chisel, and gently tap slices of wood off the inside of the form, using just your hand if you are carving soft woods.
3. Figure Carving
Figure, or relief carving involves removing the edge of wood in order to bring out the design. The wood that is removed is discarded, so that the figure pops out from the center of the wood. Small chisels are also used in this design, but it is one of the trickier techniques to master, as a slip can often result in the whole image being ruined.
Like inlay carving, this technique is used to cut away wood from the form you are carving. This type of carving involves a chisel that can be held in two hands, and the flat side of the wood chisel brought lightly across the surface of the wood, which means that only a sliver or shaving of wood is removed from the form. You have to use a technique called sideways cutting if you wish to remove wood against the grain, otherwise you can seriously damage the piece you are working on.