Woodcarving (letters)


In the final phase of boat building some details are given a refined finish. In this case we look at (wood)carving.

First we look at the equipment that the craftsman uses for this and in the second part we explain the successive operations on the basis of an example.

Tools and equipment that the craftsman uses for woodcarving.

The woodcarver mainly uses wooden mallets and chisels. The photograph on the right shows an example of a typical woodcarver’s mallet and a few sets of chisels. When starting a project all of the tools are set out on the workbench.

Wooden mallets are almost always used for woodcarving. A heavier mallet is used for the rough carving than is used for the detailed work.

Burins, gouges, flat, curved and spooned, chisels come in all shapes and sizes, each with its own specific purpose. To undertake the work it is important that the chisels are kept sharp. They are therefore ground and whetted regularly. To protect the chisels they are stored in a chisel roll.

Other tools
A pencil, template, sliding T bevel, scribing blocks, tracing paper and gluing clamps are also used in woodcarving.


The example used is a carved nameplate.

  • The work piece is first secured to the workbench using gluing clamps. The templates are traced onto the plank using a pencil.

  • The letters are chiselled out at an angle using an appropriate chisel. If wide letters have to be chiselled out then the centre line of the letter has to be chiselled first. This prevents the wood from breaking away or splintering. The grooves can be made wider or narrower depending on the chisels used. The result is still rough. The groove that is chiselled out will be carved out later.

  • Once all of the letters have been carved out they can be highlighted by applying a contrasting colour. The letters are painted over in the desired colour. Surplus paint over the edges of the delineation is sanded off later.

  • End result
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Tools Required

  • Mallet
  • Chisels
  • Pencil
  • Sliding T bevel
  • Scribing blocks
  • Tracing paper
  • Gluing clamps

Materials Required

None applicable