Last updated: August 9, 2021

Welcome to our big carving knife test 2021. Here we present all the carving knives we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best carving knife for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a carving knife.




The most important facts

  • There are countless ways to work with the natural product wood. One method that is thousands of years old is carving. The most important tool for this is the carving knife.
  • There are countless variants of carving irons on the market with different functions and areas of application.
  • Flat chisels are popular, as they offer you a certain variety of ways to work with the wood.

The Best Carving Knife: Our Choices

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a Carving Knife

What is a carving knife?

The typical carving knife has a straight, knife-like cutting shape. Depending on your intended use, there are knives with short cutting edges, about 2 cm, to longer ones, about 6 cm long.

Most carving chisels have a very fine point, which allows you to work out details better. Here you will find different shapes, ranging from straight to half-moon shaped blades. Apart from curved knives, all commercially available carving knives have only one cutting edge.

A crescent-shaped knife gives you a drawing cut that leaves a very clean and smooth surface.

Carvers use different names for their tools. Other names for carving tools are:

  • Carving chisel
  • Carving knife
  • Carving iron
  • Iron

What distinguishes carving knives from other carving tools?

The difference between carving knives and chisels or gouges is the narrow straight blade. These irons have a bevel of about 30-35° on the front. Tool widths up to 40 mm are available.

Schnitzwerkzeuge neben Holz

You can work wood well with a carving knife. (Picture source: 123rf.com / 16218788)

They are used by carpenters and joiners. They are used, for example, to make slots or tenons to join wood or to rework sawn joints.

As these tools are often used for different, mostly hard woods and are driven with a hammer, the stable cutting edge needs the 30-35° cutting angle.

How do you go about carving with a carving knife?

If you want to learn this craft, you need not only good carving tools but also a high level of safety awareness, a desire for precision and, above all, patience. The motto "just quickly" can quickly lead to serious injuries in this activity. Therefore, especially when working with wood, calm and persistent work produces the most beautiful pieces.

Before you can start carving, it is important to set up your workplace, the carving table. This includes bright lighting. A lamp with an integrated magnifying glass is best.

Did you know that most manufacturers of carving tools only pre-sharpen the knives?

Newly bought carving knives are usually only pre-sharpened. So the first thing you should do after buying a carving knife is to resharpen it.

In order to be able to work safely and without injury, a device for clamping the carving wood is necessary. And finally, as already mentioned, you should not skimp on the purchase of carving tools. You can only achieve good results with perfectly sharpened, stable and hardened tools.

When choosing the wood, we recommend soft lime wood or cherry wood. This is particularly suitable for working with. An alternative is pine wood. Hard oak wood, on the other hand, is not recommended for beginners and is also very expensive.

When carving, it is important to make a pulling cut. If you simply press your tool into the wood, the fibres are first compressed and then cut. The result is a frayed surface. Levering and breaking are considered "brute force" and are completely out of place.

When you have cut a surface cleanly, it will have a slightly bacon shine. Unfortunately, flaws are often only seen in the final treatment of the carving. Frayed areas become very dull because wood fibres stand up. The light refracts on them.

When carving, the carving movement should always be away from the body. To protect yourself from cuts, we advise you to always wear appropriate protective gloves when carving by hand.

If you are just starting to work with wood, then small, delicate carvings are absolutely unsuitable. If you want to fulfil your dream of having your own Christmas cot with countless nativity figures, you should not start right away. Otherwise you will be in for a bitter disappointment.

The more delicate the figure, the more difficult it is to make. It would be much better for you to start with large motifs. An animal, a plant or utilitarian objects such as plates or bowls are good for your first work.

Which knives are suitable for carving beginners?

If you are a beginner carver, we advise you to use a quality knife right from the start. Your chisel should have a shorter blade, as the knife is more likely to be used with the point. Then a long and extremely sharp burr is usually a hindrance. A carving chisel with a short blade is simply easier to hold and guide.

If you are a carver who often has to do very delicate work, rose or detail knives are recommended.

For outdoor carving, for example, Mora knives from Sweden are recommended. These knives are made of sturdy steel that is very easy to sharpen. The handles usually fit well in the hand.

A beginner needs a set of carving tools with about 8 - 10 carving irons and tools for sharpening.

Are there carving knives for right- and left-handers?

No. The handles of carving knives fit both right-handed and left-handed people universally. Shape and size vary depending on the manufacturer, but can easily be adapted by the owner according to his or her preferences.

How much does a carving knife cost?

Unfortunately, you have to bear in mind when woodworking that you can't usually work properly with inexpensive tools. The risk of injury increases and your work results also depend very much on the quality of the tool.

For good carving knives you have to calculate with 15 to 30€ and more. We recommend that you do not save money here, as your first results from a supposedly cheap purchase will probably be unsatisfactory.

Type Cost
Cheap carving knives 7€ to 15€
High quality carving knives 15€ to 30€

The reason for the high prices of these tools is that they are still forged by hand and then further processed and assembled in many steps. However, you also have the guarantee that you own a carving knife that will provide many years of reliable service.

You should buy your first knife in a specialist shop to avoid disappointment with cheap products from DIY stores or elsewhere.

In the beginning, it may make sense to buy a set that has already been put together by the manufacturer. Such a sensible combination of different chisels, carving knives and some necessary accessories can be purchased as a carving tool set.

Sets are particularly suitable for initial equipment but also as a gift.

What types of Carving Knives are there and which is the right one for you?

These tools have straight, curved or cranked blades and differ in their width and cutting edge shape. The typical carving knife width varies between 0.5 and 80 mm. The shapes are divided into 4 types and are called "stitch":

  • Ball iron
  • Flat iron
  • Hollow iron
  • Drill

The stitch pattern is clearly visible as an imprint after the carving iron has made a vertical cut into the wood. Depending on the shape of the iron, a different impression or stitch is created in the carving wood. Although the engravings depend on the manufacturer, they are all numbered similarly.

In the following we will explain the different types and their advantages and disadvantages. This will help you to find the most suitable carving knife for you.

Originally, the names of the stitches were order numbers of the individual carving chisels from a catalogue. Today, these designations are used as standard, regardless of the manufacturer.

What are the characteristics of a bale iron and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

You can recognise the so-called bale iron (stitch 1-2) by its flat, completely straight cutting edge. You use it for smooth surfaces, for pre-grooving, as well as for notch and relief carving. If you try to carve flat into a block of wood with a bale iron, the wood fibres tear on both sides next to the cutting edges.

The name is probably based on the possibility of working convex (outwardly curved) surfaces, similar to a ball, with these irons. Angles of 20° to 35° are used, depending on the hardness of the wood.

Ball irons are available with a single or double bevel.

Advantages
  • Large material removal
  • optional sharpening on both sides
Disadvantages
  • Fine work difficult
  • No depressions, cavities

What are the characteristics of a flat iron and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The flat iron (stitch (2), 3, 4 and 5) is one of the most commonly used carving knives. You can use it for both flat and round carving.

It is the perfect knife for beginners because it can be used in so many different ways: as a tool for pre-grooving, for the face and hands, for fence and roughing work as well as for rosettes.

Advantages
  • Very beginner-friendly
  • Versatile
  • Fine work
Disadvantages
  • Recesses, hollows difficult

The flat iron differs from the ball iron in that it has a slight hollow. The higher the stitch number, the stronger this hollow.

What are the characteristics of a hollowing iron and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

This iron (stitch 6, 7 and 8) is the ideal tool for carving depressions and cavities. The reason for this is that it has an even deeper cavity than a flat iron. You can cut deeper into the wood in one stroke.

Advantages
  • Cavities, recesses
  • Deep cut
Disadvantages
  • Low versatility

In other words, these carving knives do not have a straight edge, but a radius with an external bevel. Possible shapes of the steel are a very slight radius, up to a U-shape.

Especially for notch and relief carving, as well as for figure work, these stitch patterns are often used.

What distinguishes a drill and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

With the so-called drill (stitch 9, 10, 11), which has an almost round blade and a pronounced U-shaped cavity, a lot of wood can be removed with only one cut. That is why this carving iron is often used for pre-carving.

Advantages
  • Cavities, recesses
  • Deep cut
  • High material removal
  • Fine work
Disadvantages
  • Low versatility

Buying Criteria: Use these Factors to compare and evaluate Carving Knives

In the following, we will show you the most important criteria that you can use as a guide when buying a carving chisel.

The criteria you can use to compare knives include:

Below you can read what each criterion is about and find out why it makes sense for you to buy a knife based on the criteria or not.

Non-slip handle

To recognise a good carving knife, you should make sure that the knife has a non-slip, comfortable handle. It should not be too big so that you are not hindered by the handle material when working.

Wood is usually used as the handle or hilt material. Cherry, ash, curly birch or plum are usually used.

Because your hand sweat can make the handle of the chisel slippery, you should only use oiled wood. If your handle is varnished, we advise you to sand it down and then oil it lightly with a brush.

Blade properties

The usual steel for carving knives and chisels is a high carbon steel. Despite its hardness, it is easy to sharpen and retains its sharpness for a long time. In addition, this material has a longer life than stainless steel, which becomes dull more quickly.

Did you know that thin blades are better for carving?

Thin blades make it easier to cut the wood. There is less risk of injury because there is less resistance. Carving knives with a thicker blade are better for hard wood.

To get really sharp metal, the steel must have a fine structure. Any scratch in the edge will also leave scratches on your carving wood. Therefore, the knife should be checked before each use.

Your blade must be stable and of course razor sharp. In addition, the steel of the blade should keep its sharpness for a long time.

Weak points

A major problem is the quality of the product during manufacture. This can vary. The materials are usually usable, but the workmanship occasionally leaves something to be desired.

For example, the steel is sometimes poorly forged, the grind is often only on one side or the blades are inserted crookedly in the handle. Here you have to take a close look at your working material when buying.

Facts worth knowing about carving knives

How do you sharpen a carving knife?

A razor-sharp blade is indispensable for carving. When it is sharp, it makes your work much easier. This is because you have to use much less force to cut the wood than you would with a blunt tool. The sharper the carving iron, the higher the quality of the end result.

Unfortunately, carving knives lose their sharpness relatively quickly, so regular sharpening and honing is essential for you. Keeping the tool sharp during the carving process is simply part of the job.

With carving knives, you usually have to sharpen the blades on both sides at an angle of 10-12°. This produces a burr angle of about 20-25°. The bevels should be straight and not crowned.

The result is a burr, which you can best remove on a fine oil stone, such as an Arkansas. You can achieve a very high level of sharpness by polishing on a leather. Many carvers use Tormek polishing paste or green chrome dioxide paste for polishing.

Sharpening is always a point of contention. You can sharpen carving knives either traditionally with an oil/ or water stone or with a machine sharpening. This can also be mastered with a little practice.

Carving knives for children? What should you look out for here?

Whether children can already carve depends on their motor skills. These vary greatly from child to child. You can best assess whether your children are ready to handle a carving knife.

It would be ideal if one of the parents has some carving experience and your child can learn from this. If you have no experience, it is also fun to learn together.

Your children should only work under your supervision or that of another adult. It would be advisable for them to wear a carving glove to protect them from injury.

Supervision in this case means that you do not leave your child unsupervised for a moment. Of course, you don't have to be overprotective or even afraid. The point is to keep an eye on the handling of the knife and correct it if necessary.

Children learn very quickly by having fun. You will see that the first successes are achieved very soon.

You must make sure that the children are rested and not distracted. We also recommend taking regular breaks and not extending the carving time too long.

If used correctly, instructed and observed, the handling of a child's knife will train the child:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Concentration
  • Endurance
  • Sense of form
  • Creativity
  • Sense of responsibility
  • Experience of creating something
  • Skill
  • Pride

The difference between a child's carving knife and a normal knife is the rounded tip. This is to protect against stabbing injuries. The proportions of most children's knives are designed for children's hands.

Children's knives have rounded tips, shorter blades, smaller handles, recessed grips for an even better grip or parry elements. But children's knives should also be of top quality in terms of workmanship and materials. Then your children will enjoy carving and crafting for a long time.

A rounded tip does not make a toy out of a child's knife!

Picture source: 123rf.com / 16839237

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