Carving Initials Into Wood

Wade Shaddy

One of the oldest forms of carving is the cutting of initials into wood. It can be for self-expression or a declaration of affection such as a heart with an arrow through it. Whatever the reason, it is a good idea if you can read the initials to begin with.

Scribe intitials before carving for better proportion.

Carve clean, aptly proportioned initials by scribing them first with a razor knife. Once you have the outline established, you can use bigger tools to give them more relief. For perfect initials, use paper templates.

  1. Download fonts from the Internet. Cut them out with scissors.

  2. Place the paper fonts on a scrapboard. Spray them with a light coat of aerosol lacquer. Pick them up and place them on the wood you wish to carve. Press them down with your fingers to bond them to the wood.

  3. Trace around them with the tip of an exacto knife to a depth of one-sixteenth inch. Peel them off.

  4. Insert the tip of a quarter-inch chisel into the lines. Pry up on the wood between the lines to chip it out. Work around the perimeter of the letters from all sides of the letters. Spin the wood around as you are working until the initials are well defined. If you can not spin the wood around, walk around it.

  5. Insert the tip of an appropriately sized chisel into the letters. For example, use the quarter-inch chisel if it will fit into the letters sideways. Scrape the bottom of the letters flat with the chisel. Hold it like a pencil to surgically smooth inside the letters until satisfied.

  6. Tip

    You can fold a piece of sandpaper and use the edge of it to sand inside the letters for the smoothest carvings.


    Try not to carve initials that are less than one-quarter inch. It is just too small and you will wind up splintering the wood.