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 Woodcarvings by Maura

Ancient Arts Alive in the 21st Century

Ask Maura: feel free to ask me any carving related question

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I be a Woodcarver?

Yes, you can be a woodcarver.  Woodcarving is a skill that can be taught and learned. 

There are many carving related resources on the internet and in Public Libraries. Woodcarving classes are taught all over the world.

Is carving for anyone?

No, some people take to it more easily than others.  Some folks really enjoy the actual activity of carving and others seem completely frustrated by it.  It is like anything else in life, you must first crawl then walk and eventually run.  There are no shortcuts.

What is the best advice you can give to any carver?

Safety, safety, safety!!!!   In that order!

I am not artistic. Does that matter?

Yes and no.  I find that people who draw, paint or sculpt, generally take to woodcarving better than others, but many of my students have never been artistically inclined.  Their level of determination is what matters.

What is your favorite type of carving?

  I really like restoring antiques.  I like the feeling that I am part of the great caving tradition which has come down through the centuries.  There is so much I can learn from trying to duplicate works of long dead masters, things that are no longer being taught.

Can I be a skilled woodcarver who produces great works of art?

It is my experience that you can be as good as you wish to be.  It involves putting in many years of practice and study.  If you approach the journey one step at a time and seek out knowledge and then spend the time to perfect your techniques you can quickly improve.  My advice is to always save your first carving so that you can periodically compare your current work to it.  You will actually see your improvement.

What do I need to get started?

You need 3 things to get started in woodcarving.  The first is the desire to learn. You also need a very sharp, good quality carving knife and a carvable piece of wood.

What do I need to learn first?

You need to learn to sharpen an edge first. Your carvings will only be as good as your tools are sharp.

Can I make money woodcarving?

Absolutely!  Depending on what type of carvings you decide to produce, your location, your reputation, your skill level, your salesman abilities and your determination and dedication, you can make some  pocket money, a good living or any level in-between.

How can I make money carving?

By selling your work, selling supplies, writing articles and books, instructing and taking on commission work.

How much of your time is spent carving?

It varies depending on what is going on.  my minimum is about 10 hrs a week and that is basically just teaching my parks dept. carving class.  If I have a personal project and some commissions and trying to meet a deadline or two, I can go as much as 80-100 hrs + a week. I once worked 4 18 hour days in a row. That was some real work and if I hadn't been so into what I was doing, I never would have made my deadline. My norm would be 20-25 a week.

Do you ever get tired of Carving?

Yes.  Sometimes I have laid down my tools for days or even weeks but there is just something about carving that always brings me back to it.

Can you tell me what this carving is worth?

No I am not an appraiser and won't pretend to be.

How many pieces do you produce per month?

Again it varies, right now I am producing 15-25 mini wolves a week plus a class project plus a personal carving.  so right now my answer is close to 100 but normally somewhere between 2 and 10 a month depending on size, type and subject matter.  2-4 when I am in a slump as I have been off and on this year.

Where do you do your carving? 

Anywhere and everywhere.  In a parks dept. classroom.  On top of a sturdy large chest, while watching TV in my living room, in my  workshop   or depending on the size sometimes in a full scale  workshop.  When the weathers nice I can even be found whittling on a park bench or at the beach on cape cod in the summers.

I've always been interested in carving/whittling. I feel like I can be very good at it, and the little I've done, I've really enjoyed it. What kind of tools, methods, would you recommend? I think I'd like to start with smaller carvings.

I am always happy to help a new carver on their way.  The first tool any carver should have is a good carving knife.  Not a bench knife, not a craft knife, not a utility knife, not a pocket knife but a carving knife.  There is a huge difference.  Look at the link below.


I suggest any of the knives that say "regular" blade.  These knives are a bit pricey at 35.00 but they are the best and you will not be disappointed. This one knife will last you the rest of your life if not abused. If your money is very limited then do a search for a "Murphy knife" just make sure it comes presharpened.  A Murphy knife should come in under 15.00

There are pretty much 3 standards to any carving tool, top-notch, economical and just plain junk.  Any time you can afford the top-notch tool it will pay off down the road.  Normally I try to save people money but carving is one of those things that if you don't have good tools, you will pay for it in frustration. A frustrated carver will never become as good as they can be and may chuck it all. Or you will wind up throwing out the junk knife and having to spend more for a good knife anyway. So just trust me and get a good knife.  Other brands to do searches on are "Ron wells knives" "flexcut knives" "dunkle knives" and "Denny tools". Good steel which makes good knives costs money. You can save money on other supplies but your edged tools are worth exactly what you pay for them for the most part.  You will be on your way with a good knife and some sharpening items.  You will want to keep that knife really sharp.  The Helvie knife will come supersharp and you will need to purchase a leather strop and some buffing compound.


May I suggest the dunkle strop and compound at the bottom right of the page.  This retailer is excellent.  The reason why I am including his links (the woodcraft shop-do not confuse this store with the chain store Woodcraft) is that he is the best in the carving business.  You can call Larry (aka big dog) and ask him anything and he will never steer you wrong. Mention my name also and he will bend over backwards for you.  He is an actual carver himself and knows what he's talking about.

Once you have your knife and strop you will be prepared to start whittling. One item you will want to have around are Band-Aids.  Cutting yourself a few times in the beginning is just part of the learning process and to be expected. The next thing to get for smaller carvings will be a small set of palm tools.  a fairly economical line is "flexcut"
FLEXCUT ORIGINAL PALM SET - 5 PC. (FR310)   which is the first item here


a more economical set is here


either one of the top sets are good.  I use these to teach my beginner class.

you can also do a search for all the items I mentioned above.  There are plenty of retailers out there, some higher priced, some lower priced.

Now that you have your tools, what do I suggest??? first that you look around locally for a carving club. They are all over the place, you just have to find them, perhaps at senior centers or Lutheran churches (seems lots of them are carvers) You can learn a tremendous amount just by sitting next to another carver. don't hesitate to ask questions. They will also know where to go for wood in your area and will have lots of patterns and tips to share. Also stop into a big bookstore and pick up either Carving magazine or woodcarving illustrated.  They will have some step by step projects for you. It is also a great idea to join up on some of the online internet carving groups.  There are many excellent professional and semi-pro carvers who will not hesitate to answer any question you might have.

Got a new Dremel for Xmas. Would like to learn BASIC woodcarving with this tool. My grandsons names carved in a walking stick, maybe a simple design, stuff like that. Could you suggest what type of bits I can get to begin learning and practicing this stuff?

Hi there Bill, I am always interested in helping a new carver on his way.  Dremel is a great little tool.  They actually make carving bits for the dremel. I have used my dremel extensively and find I need to replace the unit every 2-3 years, and believe me that's good, as I punish my dremel, having it go for hours on end.  In addition to the bits, I suggest 2 things to make your life easier.  First get a keyless chuck (under $10)

to make changing the bits easier and second, get yourself a flexible shaft.  This should be your most expensive accessory at around $20 but trust me, if you're planning on carving, you will definitely want one.  instead of holding the unit (which is heavy, clumsy and hot after awhile) you can hold the hand unit of the flex shaft which is like holding a thick pen and you will be able to comfortably carve at any angle.
              FLEX SHAFT

I have included the links below to my favorite carving bits. Buy at stores where they sell genuine dremel bits so you don't have to worry about quality. they are cheap enough.

First bits I recommend are the high speed cutters

I find the following 4 bits to be the most useful 117,134,144 and 191

Next I recommend the Structured Tooth Carbide Cutters which can remove wood quickly. They leave it rough but they are great if you need to waste a lot of wood. With these I recommend 9931, 9933, and 9934
             CARBIDE CUTTERS

I also like to use grinding stones

They smooth and shape rather than carve and work well to clean up your carving.  They also have sanding bits but the grinding stones work better in my opinion.

Of course what bits you decide on will depend on the actual project you are undertaking as each type of bit is available in different sizes and shapes.  On the dremel site is a store locator, use it to find the bits in your area.  You will want to eyeball them to see that they suit your purposes.  Warning! Warning! Warning! Be careful here, once you get into the world of dremel accessories, you most likely will become addicted to checking out and buying all the different bits available.  Even dental and industrial bits will work in the dremel. Once you become familiar with the bits and know what they will do,  You can go on eBay and find bits at very good prices, especially the grinding stones which needn't be actual dremel brand.  There are even genuine dremel bits on eBay.

Where can I get reasonably priced carving wood in Staten Island, NY

Basswood is the preferred carving wood for beginners and can be ordered online but it gets pricey because shipping will at least double your cost.  You can't get Basswood locally unless you go to a nice lumber company in Jersey but why bother.  In my parks dept classes we mostly use Aspen which is available in Lowe's (at least here in Staten Island).  In my opinion aspen is just as good as Basswood, in fact a lot of my students prefer it over Basswood.  It is relatively cheap.  You can even use the glued up panels, for $20 or so you can get a nice sized piece which you can cut into smaller pieces for your learning phase.  It is also easy to glue it up to make much larger panels.  Get some titebond 2 or 3 wood glue.  apply a liberal amount of glue to the sides of your boards, clamp it together and leave it over night.  Easy as pie.   Lowe's and home depot also have saws available to cut your stuff to size.  There are some real nice woods available at home depot and Lowe's but for the beginner I recommend aspen, second choice either poplar or a clear white pine. stay away from yellow pine.  Pick your boards by hand.  you want the whitest and knot free boards.  When you get a little experience, then try maple, cherry and mahogany, all available at local lumberyards and sometimes Lowe's and home depot. 


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Maura Macaluso

Staten Island, NY



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NYC New York City Artist 2011

Copyright Notice
All rights to this material are reserved. No part may be reproduced, photocopied or reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written consent for authorization.
Original patterns contained herein, may be purchased by individuals and used to complete their own personal carvings for sale or show, as long as such sales or shows are not through licensed commercial businesses.
To that end, the author encourages the use of purchased material for personal and educational use. Mass production and other commercial use of the material herein, is strictly prohibited by law.