Chip Carving Hobby

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My first completed project, an 8 inch plate a gift for my mother.
Chip carving, or more properly Swiss chip carving is one of the least expensive hobbies that I've tried. It is fairly easy to learn the basics and does not require a lot of tools or expensive equipment. At the core particularly for the beginner is simply learning to cut triangular chips from the flat surface of a relatively soft wood. Basswood is one of the more common woods used due to the even grain and ease of cutting.

Roughed out Eagle.

Resource Web Sites:

  • Site with free sign up for online video lessons and a email newsletter
  • General woodcarving store has tools and supplies, good source for basswood. They respond well to emails.
  • Treeline Woodworking supplies
  • Chipping Away - Great tools and service from Canada

  • The most important tool you'll need is the chip knife designed specifically for making cuts at the correct angles and depths in the wood. Learning to hold the knife properly and the position of the wrist and arm are some of the first lessons to be learned. Below is a picture of two chip knives made by different companies. Depending on the brand a chip knife costs between about $20 to $40.

    I've been trying out some some different brands of chip knives recently. In particular, the Moor large and small chip knives with molded handles. They look a bit strange, however, I like the feel of these knives. They are comfortable and easy to grasp even with a bit of arthritis, although I have not used them extensively yet since I'm not happy with the honing yet. I've used Flexcut chip knives a bit. I like the big handles primarily for my large hands and ease on my arthritis. The Wayne Barton knives are my main knives which have held up well since I started learning this craft. One knife I've been using more recently is the Swiss made LAMP chip knives (come in a regular and small blade version). Most brands offer their own version of the stab knife, but I have one or two that are fine for the little work I do with them. Personally,I'd rather spend the money on another chip knife or tool. Over the last month or so, I've been working on some designs that have leaves and other more irregular chips in them. I discovered that the LAMP knife with a bit thinner flexible blade seems to work great in tight spaces.

    This picture is a little blurry but shows the basic row of triangles on the top and the bottom row is made by starting the same way and then adding a second triangle cut into the space between the first set.