Foundations of Woodcarving

Dan Packard



Woodcarving started with shards of flint and fallen branches and has grown from there and maybe reached its peak with Grinling Gibbons in the 18th century. Woodcarving requires a pretty minimal setup - a bench, good light, carving tools, mallet and sharpening stones. Woodcarving scales well to a small space and low budget.

This course will kick start your woodcarving - at the end of the course you’ll have a deep enough understanding to continue your exploration of woodcarving.

Class Description

In this course Dan starts you off on the traditional approach to learning wood carving:

  • Safety in carving shop
  • Selection of essential tools
  • Selection of woods for carving
  • Selecting the chisels for the form
  • Carving techniques with gouges, chisels and knives
  • Clamping and fastening techniques
  • Sharpening
  • Finishing your carved pieces
  • Creating designs and transferring them to the carving blank
  • Traditional relief carving (creating raised panels)
  • Letter carving

Dan will take you through a series of exercises and practice pieces ending up with you making a small raised panel.

Carving brings you very closely in contact with the grain of the wood - you’ll learn at a very visceral level how you need to adapt the cut direction to the grain. Maintaining the sharpness of your carving tools is critical to the ease of carving and the cleanness of the final piece (no sanding allowed!).

Carving is like dancing with a tool - you’ll learn how to use your whole body to control the carving tool and the grace of the curve. Carving is not about arm and wrist strength!

Carving is not wholly about artistry - you do not need to be an artist (it helps) to create carvings. Dan will teach straight forward techniques to transfer an existing drawing to the board. Dan shows you how to carve the shape, hog out material to create the relief and to add the final details.


For this class you will need to buy some carving tools. The total cost is around $150.

Note: Full sized carving tools are essential. The smaller flex-cut carving tools are not appropriate for this class.

We recommend the pfeil Swiss made tools as they come very well pre-sharpened and are ready to use. Other brands are fine if they are well-made and sharp. It is important that the tools you bring are sharp - if they are blunt you’ll lose too much time at the beginning of the class. By sharp we mean really sharp - you should be able to shave (carefully) with your carving tools.

You can obtain the pfeil Swiss-made Carving Tools from Woodcraft (the Serial Numbers  are from the Woodcraft catalog - on-line or print). If the  tool is not available buy the next larger tool (larger width).


You need to bring:

Optional (bring these if you have them):

  • #5 8mm Fishtail Gouge  #05M07
  • #11 3mm Veiner #05I07
  • #1 14mm Straight Edge Chisel - Double Bevel #05E19
  • Knife #05Z11 and/or #05Z94
  • Carver's mallet - we have a number of mallets available and suggest you try one before purchasing one for yourself.


This is a class for novice woodcarvers. The only prerequisites are enthusiasm, good humour and a capacity for fun.

As you’ll be dealing with sharp tools we ask you to wear “real shoes” during this class - not sandals where your foot is vulnerable to a dropped chisel.

Note: We will be working mainly standing up. If this is an issue for you, please let us know and we can try to work something out.

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.

This class takes place in Building 306 at Fort Worden - not the School Building. Map

Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.

Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10

Cost: $650

Materials Charge: $30

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.