What Is Power Carving? – Boost your carving potential

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Wood Carving is a traditional craft and has been around for thousands of years. Wood carving has traditionally been done by hand, with hammers, chisels, and gouges. But in modern times, the technology of woodworking tools has made huge progress. Now we have power tools that can help us with wood carving.

Power carving is a type of wood carving where the woodcarver uses powered tools like a Dremel, die grinder, angle grinder to shape wood into art or objects. Power carving opens up a lot of possibilities for woodcarvers, they can carve for longer, work faster, and take on bigger projects than before.

Because wood carving is such a traditional craft, many people look down on power carving. Saying it is not real wood carving. But in this article, I will make the case for power carving, I will show you what it is and the advantages of power carving, and why it is can be a great tool for most woodcarvers.

This video is from Stinnett Sticks. Very talented with power carving tools. He explains his favorite power carving tools.

What Is Power Carving?

Simply explained, power carving is when we use a powered tool of any kind to remove and shape wood. You can use an Angle grinder with an aggressive and course shaping disc to remove a lot of wood or you can use a Dremel with a smooth diamond bit to carve in fine details in wood.

Power carving tools are simply powered by an electrical or gasoline motor which gives the carver a lot more freedom when it comes to the process of carving.

Since the tool does most of the hard work the carver had to do with his own strength and stamina before, it gives the carver the ability to work for longer, focus more on the carving, carve faster and do more projects in general.

Power Carving tools do not obsolete the use of traditional hand carving tools. There are still scenarios where the hand carving tools are the best tools for the job. Power carving tools are just a helpful addition to the power carvers toolbox.

Most Common Power Carving Tools

Angle Grinder With Shaping disc

One of the most effective tools power carvers use to remove wood quickly and to roughly shape their woodcarvings is an angle grinder with a shaping disc attached to it.

This combination is used for larger carvings where removing a lot of wood is important. The shaping discs are filled with sharp carbide teeth that grind away the wood effectively.

The different shaping discs have different properties. One can be good for sanding, one is for removing wood effectively, and another one can be for more detailed work.

Dremel or Rotary Tool

Dremel and rotary tools are great tools for power carving. These are smaller and less powerful than others on this list and are used for smaller wood carvings or more detailed work.

A rotary tool can be compared to a drill, but it is straight and can run at higher RPMs.
A rotary tool is not just for power carving, it has many different bits that you can change depending on what you want it to do.

You can get a flex shaft attachment for the Dremel. This makes the tool very agile and light so that it can be handled and maneuvered easily with one hand. This makes the Dremel Superior for power carving small and detailed projects.

The Dremel is really a versatile tool, it can be used for so much more than woodcarving. Like cutting metal, making pendants, cutting wood, routing, and much more.

Learn more about the Dremel: Check this article I made

Die Grinder

A Die Grinder is a more powerful and heavy-duty version of a Dremel. It is also a very versatile tool and is not only used for woodcarving. It is also used for removing rust, metalwork, sanding, auto work, and polishing.

When woodcarving with a Die Grinder we use carbide burrs that are durable and removes wood effectively. The carbide burrs come in many different shapes and coarseness. You have burrs that remove wood quickly, burrs that make a smooth finish, and burrs that are better for detail work.

Chainsaw Carving

Chainsaw carving is the process of cutting and shaping a piece of wood into an object of art with a chainsaw. Carving often depicts wood spirits, animals, fantasy figures, or other beautiful subjects.

Chainsaw carving is its own type and category of power carving and wood carving. But since chainsaw carvers often start by doing the rough work with a chainsaw and finish of with die grinders, a Dremel, or other shaping tools I wanted to include it.

Chainsaw carving is a big step up in power compared to the tools on this list. But with great power comes great risks. Chainsaw carvers are highly trained and experienced with the chainsaw. So I don’t recommend going straight into chainsaw carving without any knowledge of power carving or anyone to teach you.

Start with the simpler power tools and work your way up.

The Best Woods For Power Carving

One great thing about power carving is that the wood is way more forgiving compared to regular carving. When we are power carving, the tool is doing the work for us and we have to care less about power use, tear out, chipping, getting tired and sore wrists.

In the beginning, I would recommend just using any kind of wood that you have (make sure it is not toxic). Learn what species you are carving and try to figure out why it is good or bad.

However, there still are some types of wood that I know are commonly used by power carvers. So here is a list of some common woods to use when power carving.

1. Tupelo

Many power carvers swear by Tupelo as the best wood for Power Carving. The reason Tupelo is so great for power carving is that it does not “Fuzz”. Fuzz is the uneven almost hairy texture some woods get after being power carved.

When using woods that fuzz it can be hard to get the proper detail in your carving.

Tupelo has a fairly uniform grain pattern, which means that you can use your power tools freely without getting controlled by the grain.

Tupelo is also light in color and density. Tupelo is really like a blank canvas for power carving, you can create what you want without being disturbed by grain or fuzzy surfaces.

Natively, Tupelo grows in swamps in southern and eastern United States. Demand is high and it can be hard to come by good blanks for your projects. So if you cannot get a hold of Tupelo, check out the other woods on this list.

2. Basswood

Basswood is a wood loved by traditional woodcarvers and whittlers. It is also good for power carving. But not as good as Tupelo. When being power carved, Basswood leaves this “fuzz” that I talked about on the surface, but if you do not mind the fuzz, it is all good.

Basswood is very soft, has a creamy white color, and has little visible grain structure. Like Tupelo, Basswood serves as a blank canvas to do our woodcarving on.

One great thing about Basswood is that it is easy to obtain. You can get it in all shapes and sizes on Amazon and Etsy.

3. Driftwood

Driftwood is not a species of tree or wood, it’s just wood that has been lying around in the ocean for a long time and washed up to shore.

Driftwood is great for wood carving because it has become porous as a result of the treatment of the water and the sun. The wood carves very easily and is great for practicing and making shapes. With aggressive burrs, your tool will run through the wood like a hot knife in butter.

A popular power carving gentleman named Jordy Johnson uses Driftwood for a lot of his power carving projects. He runs the youtube channel “Carving Fusion” I’ll leave a video here where he shows how he harvests Driftwood for his power carvings for free.

4. Poplar

Poplar is another hardwood with uniform grain and light color to the wood. Poplar is an inexpensive wood which most people will have no problem acquiring.

Poplar has a low density and is very porous compared to other woods, this can also leave this fuzzy surface after being worked by power tools. So it will take a little bit of effort to get a smooth finish.

But since poplar is cheap and easy to work for beginner power carvers, I think it is a great wood to start out with.

5. Birch

Birch is one of the most used woods for power carving in Europe, especially in northern parts of Europe. And that is simply because there is a lot of it, and it grows everywhere.

Birch can be a little bit on the hard side to carve with hand tools, but with power carving tools it is perfect. Birch does not leave a fuzzy surface when power carved and it takes stain and finishes well.

Like most of the woods on this list, the grain of Birch is relatively uniform and the wood has a creamy white color.

Traditionally, Birch burl is the main wood used for making kuksa (guksi), which is a Finish style cup you can use for your hot beverages.

Bits, Burrs And Discs

I cannot get through an article about power carving without talking about the bits, burrs, and discs we use for it.

The bits, burrs, and discs are the parts of the power carving tool that is in physical contact with the wood when power carving.

It is these parts that decide what type of cut you are going to make, do you want to remove a lot of wood, do you want to make the wood smooth, and what shape the cut will be.

Bits, Burrs, and Discs can be changed depending on your needs.

Diamond Bits

Diamond bits are for detailed cuts in the wood. If you for example want to make facial features of a snake you power carved on a stick, a diamond bit is the bit to use.

Diamonds bits are made of diamond particles attached to different bit sizes and shapes. They last for a long time and are used for fine power carving.

Kutzall and Saburrtooth Burrs

Kutzall and Saburrtooth burrs are some of the best burrs you can get for your power carving tools, and many power carvers swear by them.

One of the main reasons so many carvers use Kutzall and Saburrtooth burrs is their ability to remove wood quickly, and the longevity of the burrs. They come in different coarseness and shapes depending on your needs.

Burrs are used in rotary tools like Dremels and Die Grinders.

Bits and burrs from these companies can seem a little bit expensive upfront, but it is a well worth investment. Once you have them, you can use them for many years to come.

Kutzall and Saburrtooth Discs

Discs from Kutzall and Saburrtooth can be attached to an angle grinder and are used to remove large quantities of wood quickly or to smoothen out larger surfaces. They have different discs depending on your needs, and the type of project you are doing.

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