On the hunt for the best wood carving knives? Whether you're a beginner just putting your fingers into the world of wood carving, or a seasoned carver searching for a better knife, finding the right tool is important.
Every stroke of your knife impacts the work you create!
Choosing a perfect knife is all about finding perfect synergy. It's less about the look of your knife and more about how well you and your knife move in sync.
Selecting the best carving knife is always a highly personal endeavor. There may be some trial and error until you find the right blades and handles that work for you. But trying new knives is half the fun of wood carving!
You’ll learn something from every knife that you try and will be able to hone in on what you really desire in your wood carving knives. The knives I use today are very different from the knives I first started with.
Please know that I only recommend knives that I personally use, love, and swear by.
This article will provide my recommendations first. Then I will provide some key points to consider (at the end of this page) so you will feel both prepared and excited about your knife-buying journey.
I highly recommend Focuser Carving knives for beginner wood carvers. Why? Because they cut well, are super sturdy, and really hold their edge. They are also readily available, which is another big plus these days.
Focuser Carving knives are also outstanding in terms of the comfort they provide and their ease of use. I can vouch for their high standard of excellence.
These knives are made from quality materials with ultra-sharp blades that stay sharp even after extended use. A lot of woodcarvers I follow on Instagram use them. I like them so much that I joined their affiliate program.
I tend to be rough on my knives, which is why I really love this sturdy FC001 Focuser Carving wood carving knife.This is the one I reach for when I’m afraid I might break a tip, which is why it's so great for beginner wood carvers. I also like it for carving details once I‘ve roughed out a piece. You can get the FC001 wood carving knife here (affiliate link).
All I can say is “wow, wow, wow” about this Focuser Carving chip carving knife.
I do not do traditional chip carving, but I do make a lot of pyramid (triangle) cuts when I'm carving to create shadows.
What a difference this knife makes to get nice, clean pyramid cuts! It is a super sturdy knife too.
This knife is definitely the one I reach for whenever a pyramid cut is required. You can get the FC016 knife here (affiliate link).
P.S. If you buy any of the Focuser Carving knives using the affiliate links on this page you will also be supporting this website. Thank you!
There is typically a very long wait list for ordering Helvie knives but I can tell you from experience that they are really worth the wait!
eBay is another option to try but you will end up paying 4 times as much or even more.
One of my go-to knives these days is the Helvie Blake Lunsford signature knife, which I won during an auction sponsored by the International Association of Wood Carvers, which Lunsford helped create.
It provides a sweet carve for just about everything, from removing wood to carving details.
The Helvie Hogger is a true workhorse when it comes to removing wood and roughing out pieces.
The handle is super comfortable, too.
Of course, my best wood carving knives list wouldn’t be complete without a Helvie detail knife!
This little guy is super sharp and cuts like butter.
This 1.5 inch slim knife from Deep Holler Knives is wonderful for carving details.
Plus, the long, slo, blade is awesome for slipping easily into tight places.
It's a lot of fun to carve with!
This OCC Tools detail knife may be little, but it delivers big results when you need to carve small details.
The blade is a half inch.
OCC Tools makes several straight knives that are also great for flat plane carving.
This type of knife also helps prevent wood from crumbling on smaller basswood blocks that I often use.
This knife has a 1 7/8-inch blade. I use it often on small caricature faces.
This butter knife from Deepwoods Ventures is awesome for deepening and/or cleaning up cuts prior to painting.
There are two sizes available (1-inch and 1 3/4-inch).
The smaller size (1 inch) is perfect for the type of carvings I design.
The Flexcut Pocket Jack is perfect to throw into a backpack for the weekend. It keeps a nice edge and has several gouges.
Another plus is that it locks into place for safety.
I saved a few bucks on shipping by getting my Flexcut Pocket Jack (affiliate link) on Amazon (be sure it is from Flexcut directly).
Mora makes wonderful spoon knives (both for left and right handed carvers) and it is great to have one in your toolbox. Comes in handy when you need to scoop some wood out.
You can get them on Amazon (affiliate link).
Just like buying a good pair of shoes is crucial for a marathon, a comfortable carving knife is a must-have, especially when you spend hours wood carving.
Look for a knife that feels balanced and maneuverable in your hand. I have small hands, and when I started wood carving, I thought a small knife handle would be better for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The knives I reach for today have much bigger handles. Larger handles may also be more comfortable for those with arthritis.
A wood handle offers a traditional aesthetic and feel. But don't be afraid to look into other types of handles, including different shapes.
Some handles are basic while others may include bright colors or wood-burned details. However, some of my favorite knives have very plain handles.
A fixed blade is glued or epoxied into the handle. Think of it as an all-in-one knife. A folding knife—like the Flexcut Pocket Jack knife I recommend—folds up.
Folding knives are great for backpacking trips when you want to carve but don’t want to carry a full-size knife.
When I’m carving for hours, however, I prefer using a fixed blade. It’s more comfortable, easier on my hands, and it holds an edge better.
Understand that your knife needs may change as your wood carving skills improve.
When I first started carving, I reserved my big blades (1.75 to 2 inches) for roughout work and switched to smaller blades for details. Today, I can use my bigger blades on just about anything.
Make sure the knife you choose is easy to sharpen and retains its edge. A sharp knife makes carving a joy, and adds to your safety. A knife that doesn't hold an edge is downright annoying.
The old adage “you get what you pay for” definitely applies to a lot of wood carving knives.
I’ve seen people buy “bargains” only to be sorely disappointed. The best wood carving knives might cost a bit extra but they are so worth it!
You will end up with a knife that will last for many years, maintain its sharpness, and provide phenomenal precision and control.
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