The Best Wood Carving Knives For Beginners & Advanced Carvers (Updated 2023)

Updated:

Whether you’re just starting out in wood carving and are looking for a basic, all-purpose whittling knife, or you’re a pro who needs a specialized top-quality wood carving blade, we’ve got you covered.

Below are some of our favorite carving and whittling knives on the market. Each pick is comfortable to hold, easy to use, and able to produce the cuts your project needs.

man carving wood with knife

Things to Consider Before You Buy a Wood Carving Knife

As a rule, you want to use a small carving knife for fine, detailed work, like carving small features, applying texture, and making precise cuts. 

A large blade is best for roughing out big chunks of wood and for making larger features.

Finally, a medium-sized knife usually offers the best of both worlds – it’s a versatile all-purpose wood carving tool that you can use for just about any task.

What about the shape of the blade?

Generally, a straight blade is great for making long, thin cuts and quickly removing a lot of wood.

A curved blade is made for making concave cuts and tight curves. And a hook blade is perfect for scooping out wood and carving spoons and bowls.

Regardless of size and shape, a good carving knife should sit comfortably in your hand and provide a good grip and maximum control.

The 7 Best Wood Carving Knives

1.     Best Wood Carving Knife Set: BeaverCraft S15 Wood Carving Kit

The BeaverCraft S15 is a perfect starter kit with everything you need to start carving immediately. The set includes a chip carving knife, a wood whittling knife, a roughing knife, plus a leather strop and polishing compound.

All three knives have blades of high-carbon steel and are sharp out of the box. The handles are pretty basic, but that’s not a con in our book: they’re sturdy and easy to hold.

These wood carving tools are quite large, the handles fit in hand comfortably and securely, providing a good grip from practically any angle.

They are nothing fancy, but they do the trick. But because they’re on the larger side, we don’t recommend them for kids; they’re most appropriate for adult hands.

In addition to quality knives, the set comes with a thick strip of leather and a polishing compound so you can sharpen your knives regularly.

However, we wish the leather strop was a bit wider and longer. There’s also a canvas case included to keep your tools safe and secure.

Overall, this is a great-value beginner set that even many intermediates would appreciate. While there are higher-quality knives out there, this is, hands down, the absolute best wood carving kit in this price range.

Key Features

  • 3 knives: whittling, roughing, and chip knife
  • High-carbon steel blades
  • Basic hardwood handles
  • Leather strop and polishing compound included
  • Comes with a carrying case

PROS

  • Sturdy, comfortable handles
  • Pretty sharp blades out of the box
  • Excellent value for money set

CONS

  • The blade’s edge doesn’t stay sharp for very long
  • The detail/chip knife is a little too thick at the tip

2.     Most Versatile Wood Carving Knife: Morakniv Wood Carving Hook Knife 120

If you’re looking for a good-quality versatile carving knife that doesn’t break the bank, the Morakniv 120 is a great option.

Featuring a 3.25-inch full-tang blade made of carbon steel, this knife provides excellent stability with every cut. It’s also razor-sharp out of the box and easy to resharpen.

Medium-sized, with a tapered blade, it’s great for most carving and whittling tasks, including roughing out larger pieces of wood and finer work.

\While not exactly ideal for super-detailed work (you probably want a smaller blade for that), many customers praise Morakniv’s ability to make fine cuts and embellishments.

With a barrel-shaped wooden handle, the knife fits comfortably in hand. The natural wood grain provides just enough texture for a good grip.

While researching this product, we found that some users are not big fans of the handle as they find it unfished.

But here’s the thing: if the handle didn’t have that natural wood grain but instead a clear coating, it would feel too slick for woodcarving. This way, it provides just enough grip.

The main thing many users find lacking is the sheath. Sure, it’s perfectly functional, but since it’s made of rather flimsy plastic, it’s pretty cheap-looking and not the most durable.

Still, it works, and while not beautiful, it will keep your blade and fingers safe and allow you to take your knife with you where ever you go.

Key Features

  • Full-tang knife blade made of carbon steel
  • Thin, tapered, 2.4″ blade
  • Ergonomic barrel-shaped wood handle
  • Protective plastic sheath included

PROS

  • A razor-sharp blade that holds the edge well
  • Comfortable in hand, easy to control
  • Versatile, great for just about any carving need

CONS

  • The sheath is cheap-looking and could use improvement

3.     Best Knife for Spoon Carving: BeaverCraft SK1 Wood Carving Hook Knife

The BeaverCraft SK1 is one of the most popular spoon carving knives on the market, and for a good reason. While budget-friendly, this is a good-quality hook knife with a sharp blade and comfortable handle.

The curved blade is made of carbon steel and has just the right thickness for carving spoons and kuksas and hollowing out smaller bowls and cups. It’s best for making small scoops, but it’s not ideal for hollowing out larger bowls, as the shape of the hook doesn’t allow for long sweeping cuts.

Importantly, it’s also very sharp and doesn’t require frequent resharpening; a good thing since sharpening any curved blade can be challenging. It cuts practically any wood easily and smoothly: oak, ebony, cherry, teak, hickory, you name it, this knife cuts it.

The handle is large and tapered, made of hardwood oak. While finished with linseed oil, it feels a little rough, but that’s a plus in our book as it provides a good grip. Pretty basic but offers good control, and you should experience no hand fatigue while using it.

Overall, the SK1 is a great affordable hook knife that is ideal for carving spoons and smaller bowls.

Key Features

  • Carbon steel curved blade
  • Oak handle finished with linseed oil
  • Cuts soft and hard woods

PROS

  • Very sharp and holds its edge well
  • Comfortable and easy to control
  • Budget-friendly price

CONS

  • Doesn’t allow for long sweeping cuts
  • Can be tricky to resharpen

4.     Best Knives for Fine Detail Work: Flexcut Micro-Palm Carving Tools

Looking for the best carving knife for fine, detailed work? There’s no better option than Flexcut Micro Palm Set.

Specifically made for miniature and extreme detail work used in netsuke or caricature carving, these tools have sharp, precise blades that allow you to trace thin, fine lines and make small, intricate details. 

Ideal for carving small facial features creating feathers, applying texture, etc.

The set comprises four palm-sized tools: one micro V gouge and three U gouges. Each tool has its edge forged down thinner than any other Flexcut’s palm-sized tool. 

The blades are high carbon steel and come razor-sharp right out of the box. They also maintain a high level of sharpness due to the quality of the steel used. In fact, many users find that they only need regular honing to retain their sharpness.

The handles are ergonomic and large (for a micro-tool) and fit comfortably in the palm of the hand. They’re made of ashwood and are fairly rough, providing excellent grip. Everything is neatly packaged in a sturdy wooden box.

Key Features

  • 4 palm-sized detail knives
  • High carbon steel blades
  • Ergonomic ash hardwood handles
  • Comes in a wooden box

PROS

  • Ideal for miniature and detail work
  • Super-sharp precise blades, easy to keep sharp
  • Very comfortable handles with excellent grip

CONS

  • More expensive than comparable sets

5.     Best Budget Knife Set for Beginners: Gaxcoo Wood Carving Kit

The Gaxcoo Wood Carving Kit is a no-frills, budget-friendly starting set for beginners. It consists of three knives: a hook knife, a detail knife, and a sloyd knife. You get three basswood carving bocks and a sharpening stone as a nice bonus.

Also read: Best Sloyd Knives on the market

The knives are made of carbon steel, and according to many users, they’re sharp right out of the package.

While a few reviews say the knives are not particularly sharp, we’ve seen multiple users say the blades are so sharp they accidentally sliced their fingers. So be careful!

The handles are made of hardwood oak and processed with linseed oil. They’re sanded smooth but have no clear coat on, so they won’t get slick if you get sweaty hands.

They are on the larger side though, so they may not be suitable for folks with small hands or children. Overall, the handles are pretty basic but comfortable enough.

The sloyd and detail knife are sturdy and easy to sharpen, but the hook knife can be tough to sharpen. The latter is also thin, so we can’t recommend it for hard woods. Great for basswood, though.

All in all, a solid beginner set that has everything you need to start carving immediately.

Key Features

  • 3 knives: hook, sloyd, detail knife
  • 3 basswood blocks, sharpening stone included
  • Carbon steel blades
  • Large, sanded oak handles

PROS

  • Very sharp blades out of the box
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Good value beginner set

CONS

  • The hook knife is too thin for hard woods
  • The handles may be too large for smaller hands

6.     Best Whittling Pocket Knife: Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack (JKN88)

The Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack is a top-quality folding multi-tool that allows you to whittle on the go. This portable tool has a longer knife for roughing out the wood and a shorter one for more detailed work.

Extremely sharp and easy to resharpen, these two high carbon steel knives come honed and ready for use right out of the box. They keep an edge, too.

The handle is ergonomic and comfortable to hold, and it provides excellent control. The tool measures just over four inches when closed, making it the perfect companion for all types of outdoor adventures.

The main complaint among users is that the knife is difficult to open. This is especially true in the beginning, but then again, most brand-new knives are difficult to open for the first few weeks.

Another potential downside is that there is no locking mechanism. The good news is that the blades are very stiff, so there is little chance of them closing on you. Still, extra caution is recommended when using non-locking blades.

Overall, this is a high-quality EDC whittling knife that will last you a lifetime. Yes, it is more expensive than most models, but it’s well worth the cost.

Key Features

  • Multi-tool: 1.5″ detail knife, 2″ roughing knife
  • High carbon steel blades
  • No locking mechanism
  • Around 4″ when closed

PROS

  • Versatile, great for roughing out wood and detail work
  • Extremely sharp blades that keep the edge, too
  • Compact and lightweight, ideal for whittling on the go

CONS

  • More expensive than other models
  • Difficult to open in the beginning

7.     Also Consider: BeaverCraft Wood Carving Bench Knife C2

If you need a good detail wood carving knife but are on a budget, definitely check out BeaverCraft C2 Bench Carving Knife. Affordable but good quality, this compact knife’s fine blade is excellent for carving small solid wood pieces.

Like all BeaverCraft tools, the C2 has a sharp carbon steel blade. Mind you, it’s not as sharp or thin as Flexcut, but it’s one of the highest-quality chip carving knives in this price range.

Still, we definitely recommend buying a strop and sharpening it regularly. Thankfully, the knife is really easy to sharpen thanks to its straight edge.

The C2 is a versatile little knife, great for detailing work as well as roughing out pieces. A must-have for small figures and sculptures. This said, the blade is too thick for deep, intricate details.

The handle is pretty basic but it does the job. Large and comfortable to hold for long periods, it allows for a lot of control with various techniques. However, some reviews say that it could be smoother. If you find it too rough for your hands or are prone to blisters, you can always sand it down a little.

Key Features

  • Carbon steel blade
  • Straight, thin-pointed tip
  • Sturdy oak handle

PROS

  • Comfortable to hold for extended periods
  • Versatile, great for small figures, toys, and sculptures

Competitive price

CONS

  • Not suitable for deep, intricate details

How We Chose Our Picks

Blade Material, Shape, and Size

Wood carving knives are available in various materials, shapes, and sizes. We focused on models made of carbon steel because it’s strong, hard, and sharp. The higher the carbon content, the stronger and harder the blade.

We also made sure to include knives of different shapes (straight, hook, curved) and sizes (small, medium, and large) so you can pick the best one(s) for your current projects.

Handle Material and Design

The quality and design of the handle is almost as important as the blade. We narrowed our selection to knives with ergonomic, comfortable handles that are easy to hold for longer periods.

Our choice for the handle material was wood because it’s relatively lightweight and typically provides a good grip (although this also depends on other factors).

Comfort and Ease of Use

A good wood carving knife should be comfortable to hold for extended periods and easy to use. We chose relatively lightweight knives (but not super-lightweight as they don’t provide enough control) with simple, uncomplicated handle designs.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the best way to test for balance and comfort is to actually hold a knife in your hand.