Woodcarving for beginners with Alex Jones

Ref: S2D32985

Location: West Dean
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Places available

About this course

After learning about timber and the use of hand tools, practise carving exercises to develop your hand skills, before you embark on a relief-carving project, based on natural forms.

Course Description

The course aims to provide a starting point to develop an enthusiasm for the techniques and skills needed for woodcarving.

The tutor aims to encourage and direct you to use your talents effectively and, as in his own work, to develop closeness with the subject and working process, using simple tools and the natural qualities of wood, understanding its limitations, pushing to the limits and testing skills.

During the first evening, we will look at: the choice of timber that is appropriate to specific needs; which wood should be used for a particular job, considering its durability; texture; seasoning and drying; buying ready prepared; collecting, preparing and seasoning your own; the essential tools and sharpening equipment and the use and care of them.

In order to develop your skills and confidence, the tutor will present a small-scale, simple carving exercise, which involves recreating a small natural form. Suitable subjects are a leaf, snail shell or flower in wood. He will guide you to find or create your own design for a relief carving in the most economical way, both in terms of labour, planning and materials. The tutor will give technical information and practical instruction, alongside guidance to allow you to develop your own approach to the subject.

This carving process will entail:

•Initial removal of excess wood (roughing out) and gaining confidence in the use of the gouge

•Developing the form, using a gouge and a flat chisel

•Detailing the work with the use of various small gouges and the use of punches to create texture and surface detail

•Surface treatment, sealing, oiling, polishing and considering the appropriate finish for various surfaces

You can expect to complete a piece of work in the time available and to leave with an understanding of how to approach your next project.

Please note that carving is a physical process and requires standing for much of the time.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • A piece of lime wood (oval, approximately 22cm x 17.5cm x 3cm), supplied for your carving, is included in the course fee.

What students need to bring

  • Please bring source material, drawings or photographs of a natural object you would like to carve.
  • A small sketchbook/plain paper, a pencil/rubber and an ipad, if you have one, is useful
  • Carving tools are available for use, but please bring any carving tools you have and may wish to use (please mark any tools you bring with your name).
  • Sturdy covered footwear is essential in the workshop.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Pencils, paper and tracing paper

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio. This includes stout covered footwear, i.e. no open-toes or sandals, and safety boots, if specified.


Alexander Jones sculpture

Alex Jones

Alex Jones learnt his craft at City & Guilds Art College and in a traditional studio before concentrating commissions. His work can be seen at Durrell Wildlife Park, Jersey and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall. He has many pieces in private collections worldwide and has appeared on the BBC's Spring Watch and as a featured artist on the TV programme "Flog it!"


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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