Wood carving is traditionally done with hand tools like knives, chisels, and gouges.
However, electric wood carving tools are invaluable when you’re working on bigger projects, are short on time, or want the most professional-looking results.
While power wood carving may seem a little intimidating initially, once you get used to working with power tools, you’ll wonder how you ever carved without them.
Power carving tools make wood carving that much easier and more efficient.
There are two main types of electric carving tools: rotary tools and power carvers.
Within these two categories, the five most commonly used electric tools for wood carving are rotary tools like Dremels, flexible shaft machines, micromotors, angle grinders, and reciprocating power carvers.
In this article, we’ll go over each of these power carving tools, explain how each machine works, why it’s useful, and what it’s best suited for.
Read on to learn all about the best electric wood carving tools and our recommendations.
Electric Wood Carving Tools
Rotary tools are handheld devices available in various shapes and sizes, with many attachments and accessories.
They work by rotating the attachment or accessory (hence the name) as you move the tool along your workpiece.
They can be used at each level of the carving process – shaping, cutting, carving, etching, sanding – so it’s no wonder they’re the most widely used electric tool for wood carving.
This powerful tool can work on any wood, whether hardwood or softwood. And can be used for carving any style or design.
With a good rotary tool, you can roughly shape a piece of wood, cut, engrave, sand, polish, or add texture.
Rotary tools are also compact and lightweight, so they’re easy to hold and control, making them suitable for beginners and pros alike, although they’re most popular among novices.
Best of all, they are easy to adapt thanks to various accessories, making them the most versatile electric tools for wood carving.
Our Recommendation: Dremel 4300-9/64 Corded Rotary Tool
The Dremel 4300-9/64 is a high-quality, high-performance rotary tool and one of the best power carving tools on the market. It’s mighty powerful, incredibly versatile, yet lightweight and easy to hold for extended periods.
We love its powerful 1.8 amp motor and variable speed – 5,000 to 35,000 RPM – that allow you to cut through any wood with ease.
It also comes with nine attachments and a whopping 64 bits, so you can carve, cut, sand, polish, drill, and so much more.
Its body is slim and ergonomic, with a 360-degree grip zone, so using it for long carving sessions is comfortable and easy no matter how you hold it.
We also like its little pivot LED light that rotates to illuminate your workpiece. It’s super-handy when detailing small objects, but unfortunately, you’ll have to buy batteries for it as they’re not included with the tool.
You also get a durable storage box for your tool and all attachments and bits.
Flexible Shaft Machines
The flexible shaft machine is a powerful carving tool that attaches to a rotary device. This allows you to reach those tricky tight areas, awkward angles, and hard-to-reach spaces that are otherwise impossible to get to with a standard rotary tool like Dremel.
The flex shaft machine consists of four parts: the electric motor, speed control, the handpiece, and the flexible shaft.
When working on your piece, you use the flex shaft, so no matter how heavy the rotary power tool may be, you won’t feel it and suffer from arm fatigue.
This means that the shaft machine is incredibly easy to work with; super-lightweight and comfortable, you can hold the handpiece like a pen. The handpiece can also hold a variety of burs and bits for shaping and texturing wood.
You can either hang your shaft machine up on a stand or on the wall, whatever works best for you.
The only thing you need to be careful about is the flex shaft itself – you need enough slack to be able to get to your piece from any angle comfortably, but not so much that the shaft interferes with the other tools on your bench.
As mentioned, the flex shaft tool is ideal for working on hard-to-reach areas, but because it’s so powerful, it’s also fantastic at roughing out wood.
In essence, it’s a highly versatile electric wood carving tool that is a must-have for professionals and anyone who wishes to speed up their carving process.
Our Recommendation: Foredom K.5240 Woodcarving Kit
For serious carvers looking for a powerful flex shaft tool, the Foredom K.5240 is a great option.
This power carving tool has metal housing for a powerful 1/ 6 hp motor, which runs both forward and reverse at speeds up to 18,000 RPM.
While this is a moderately high speed (for example, it’s lower than the Dremel above), thanks to the torque provided by the powerful motor, the power carving tool works fast, and you’re highly unlikely to need the extra speed to get the job done.
The Foredom K.5240 has an external foot-operated controller, while its handpiece has a tapered design that allows for close work.
The latter also accommodates larger bits for when you need to quickly remove a lot of wood (up to ¼ inch).
Since this is a powerful electric wood carving tool, it produces a lot of dust, so you’ll definitely want to get a dust collector, too.
Micromotors are versatile wood carving electric tools that provide high-speed performance.
Micromotors are ideal for precision tasks and making ultra-small, fine details but are unsuitable for roughing out wood or making big cuts. You want a flex shaft machine with more torque for that.
Most micromotors are compact and easy to transport. They’re also super-fast but quieter than most power tools for carving, which is not that surprising considering they’re designed for detail work.
You’ll love a micromotor if your carving projects demand great precision and accuracy. This tool provides even more control and precision than a Dremel or a flex shaft machine. It’s the tool for adding fine detail and texture.
A micromotor hosts a motor inside its handpiece. While this is what helps make the tool compact and portable, it can also make it heat up fairly quickly and, therefore, uncomfortable to work with for extended periods.
Our Recommendation: Mastercarver Micro-Pro Champion Set
If you’re considering purchasing a micromotor but don’t want to spend a small fortune on one, check out the Mastercarver Micro-Pro Champion.
With a max speed of 46,000 RPM and an easy-to-use dial speed control knob, this micromotor is fast and powerful but costs way less than its competitors – it’s the perfect entry-level micromotor for wood carving.
The Mastercarver micromotor has a six-inch flexible cord and an ergonomic handpiece, allowing for great control and precision.
It’s ideal for creating high-quality details and finishing, and we’ve found that relief carvers, in particular, love it.
The biggest complaint among users is how hot the handpiece gets when used for extended periods.
This is common even with much pricier models, so it’s not a deal-breaker in our book.
An angle grinder is another highly versatile handheld power tool that can be used for almost any wood carving task, including wood shaping, sanding, finishing and even polishing.
It’s a compact and lightweight machine that is available in corded and cordless options.
Corded angle grinders with powerful motors can also be used for cutting off larger pieces of wood quickly and efficiently.
However, it’s good to remember that more power does not always mean a better angle grinder.
The bigger and more powerful the motor, the bigger and heavier the angle grinder, which can make it difficult to hold for long periods.
A good angle grinder should be powerful enough to tackle all your carving tasks but also lightweight and easy to hold.
Grinders weighing around five pounds, with at least six amps of motor power, are ideal for most wood carving tasks.
Our Recommendation: Bosch 1375A 4-1/2-inch Angle Grinder
Weighing less than four pounds, the Bosch 1375A 4-1/2-inch angle grinder is one of the lightest grinders on the market, making it easy to maneuver and hold for extended periods.
Despite its ultra-compact and lightweight design, it has plenty of power for most wood carving tasks.
This tool has a 6 amp motor that spins at 11,000 RPM, so it’s ideal for light to medium tasks like carving boards, hallowing bowls, and sanding wood.
Many carvers also use it for shaping wood in furniture construction.
This said, the Bosch 1375A is definitely not the most powerful grinder out there – but that also means there’s practically zero kickback. On the downside, it does heat up fairly quickly with continuous use.
We like its lock-on slide that allows continuous operation and the two-position auxiliary handle that enables you to move it to either side for greater comfort. We’re also big fans of its budget-friendly price!
Reciprocating Power Carvers
Reciprocating power carvers make carving wood about five times easier (don’t quote us on the exact number).
Small but mighty, these handheld power tools provide smooth carving on all types of wood while giving you great control.
You can use a reciprocating carver when you want to create a hand-carved look, but you want to save time and effort getting the said look.
You can also use it for roughing out wood on larger projects.
The best thing about a reciprocating power carver is that it stays motionless until you apply pressure against the wood.
This gives you great control over your carving piece, which can help you make extremely precise yet deep cuts.
Reciprocating power carvers come in various sizes and speed ranges, but regardless of the model, you must use two hands when working with a reciprocating carver.
Your workpiece must sit in a vise or be clamped down for safety.
Our Recommendation: Automach HCT 30A Power Carver
The Automach HCT 30A is one of the pricier power carvers, but it’s absolutely worth the price. First, it’s a well-made, durable tool with an aluminum cast body and laminated blades, so it’s guaranteed to serve you well for years, if not decades.
It comes with a powerful motor that delivers 10,000 RPMs, so it can easily and quickly cut through any wood.
The tool will change direction on a dime without any wood tear out.
The Automach is also ergonomic and comfortable to use, so you should experience no hand or arm fatigue, even when working for extended periods.
Another thing we really like about this reciprocating tool is that it produces virtually no dust.
To keep you safe, the Automach carver remains stationary until you press it against your workpiece.