Is Wood Carving an Expensive Hobby?

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If you’ve stood in the aisle of the hardware or craft store confused by all the woodcarving tools – and the prices of some of the premium tools on the market, you might think you have to spend a small fortune to get started in this hobby.

However, it may come as a surprise is that getting started in wood carving is not a costly hobby and you actually don’t need to spend that much on tools or wood just to get started.

Wood carving is a craft that has been around since ancient times. Today, it has become a popular hobby. You don’t need much equipment – even a sharp knife will enable you to engage in this activity. Wood carving takes a lot of time and effort, but you can get several satisfying hours of recreation from it.

Getting Started with Wood Carving

Cherry wood carved
Cherry wood carved (Image: Mathers Museum of World Cultures)


To begin with, let’s make it clear – you can take up wood carving as a hobby or sell your carvings professionally. If you sell your wood carvings and they are good, you can earn a considerable amount of money. You can sell them as sections to be added on furniture or stairway banisters or as single pieces of art.

There is a thin line between doing wood carving as a hobby and making it into a professional. You may start off treating it as a hobby. Later on, realizing that you are good at it and people are ready to pay you for your efforts, you can start to sell your carvings.

Here are a few tips to get you started with wood carving as a hobby:

Attend a Wood Carving Workshop

Suppose there is a wood carving workshop being held in your locality, register for it. You will get to see people carving wood first-hand. It will give you ideas, and you can plan how you intend to start your wood carving projects.

Select Your Wood

Woof for carving can vary from being extremely expensive to free. Depending on the size and shape of your wood carving, you will have to select the wood. You need a bit of imagination to picture what your final carving will look like. Softwoods like pine, balsa, butternut, and basswood make good wood for carving for beginners. If you are just starting, you can also just use reclaimed wood or scrap wood that is leftover from other projects. Don’t go out and buy expensive wood just to get started.

Choose a Pattern

You can take a picture and transfer the image onto the surface of the wood. You may have to draw several lines to get the proper details onto the wood.

Start Cutting Along the Line

person using wood carving chisel
Using wood carving chisel. Image Credit: Frédérique Voisin-Demery

Once you have drawn your images and done the marking, you can start carving out the outline of your piece. Cutting lines on the surface of the wood prevents the wood from chipping, and it gives a rough shape to the finished item.

Make Deeper Cuts

Using a chisel or a gouge, start making deeper cuts to remove the unwanted material. It is this stage that calls for the utmost skill. You will use your skills to add depth and texture to your carving.

 Add the Final Touches

Now that your wood carving is almost completed, you can add the final touches by gouging curves and grooves and creating smooth transitions and sharp outlines. Initially, it may seem a bit messy, but as you progress, the carving will come to life, and you’ll be able to make it look like something.

Apply a Finish

You may like to apply a bit of varnish or wood stain to enhance the appearance of your wood carving. Using a finish also helps to protect the surface of your wood carving.

You can get a great deal of satisfaction from wood carving because you use art to create something out of nothing. A simple log or block of wood comes to life under your skillful hands.

Cost of Wood for Carving

If you don’t take care, woodworking can prove to be an expensive hobby. As a beginner, you would start out small, using small wooden logs and blocks.

Also, you can use cheap wood or, even better, scrap logs and branches that don’t cost anything. But if you want the consistency of the material, it would be better to buy standard wood.

Here are a few varieties of wood and the corresponding cost:


This wood has an attractive grain and has a subtle, light cream color, although a bit harder than some of the softer woods like pine or Douglas fir. With sufficiently sharp tools, you create beautifully carved objects. You can buy a block of basswood for $15.00.

Black Walnut

The rich, dark brown color of black walnut makes some exquisite carvings. But be warned that it is a relatively hard type of wood and has the tendency to chip if you don’t look out. You can find black walnut for $15.00 a block of size ¾” x 2” x 12”.


Unlike basswood, butternut has a coarse grain and is light brown. The grain pattern is such that you can carve it quickly, and it looks attractive after carving. A block of butternut will cost you about $18.50 for a block of 2″ x 4″ x 12″.


Cherry wood is an all-time favorite for wood carving. The pinkish-brown color of cherry darkens to a deep, reddish-brown over time. Being a dense wood, cherry is often challenging to carve, but the results can be breathtaking. You can get a block of cherry wood of ¾” x 2” x16” for roughly $20.00.


Its attractive reddish color distinguishes mahogany. Sculptors favor it because it is strong but more accessible to carve than many other hardwoods. The medium grain and straightforward looks of mahogany make it a suitable choice for wood carving. Mahogany comes at the cost of roughly $5.00 per sq foot.

Sugar Maple

The light cream color and fine grain of sugar maple make for good wood carving material. Although you may find it a complicated wood to work with, the results can be pretty satisfying. Sugar maple costs about $5.00 per sq foot.

White Pine

White pine is another light-colored wood that can produce spectacular results when carved. This medium-grained softwood is easy to carve. A block of white pine can cost roughly $16.00, depending on the quality of wood and the block size.


Stronger than basswood, aspen is another excellent choice for wood carving. The white and off-white shades look great once carved. This wood is easy to procure and cheap. Aspen costs about $4.25 per sq foot.


Wood carving is a combination of art and technique. Everyone may not be a skilled sculptor. You need to have a creative bent of mind and a skillful hand. Given the right tools, anyone can carve in wood to some extent. But to create a masterpiece, you need to have a high level of talent, which is not bestowed upon everyone.

If you are getting into wood carving as a hobby, you don’t have to worry about the final result. As you get more experienced in this art, you are bound to get better at it. The important thing is the satisfaction you get from wood carving as you spend more time on this hobby regularly.

Coming back to our original question – “Is wood carving an expensive hobby?”

There is no definite “yes” or “no” answer to this question. It depends on the size of your projects and the cost of the wood you use. Yes, it can be expensive. But if you are resourceful, you can make wood carvings out of wood that you get free.

Happy woodworking!