Wood Carving Reduced My Anxiety

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I took up wood carving when the pandemic first started last year. While most people were enjoying making bread in their new bread maker, I was learning how to hold a knife and not cut myself (spoiler alert: I cut myself). I don’t really know what caused me to start making wood carvings. It just piqued my interest.

The start of quarantine was quite an amazing time since we spent more time inside with loved ones. We made bread like crazy. The Tiger King was…well king. And, it gave us more time to try out new things. I remember that after buying a wood carving set, some chisels, and gloves (make sure to get gloves). If you are interested, these are the ones I bought (here and here). I then started watching Doug Linker’s Youtube channel, and basically followed step by step with what he was doing. Even if you aren’t into wood carving, I suggest watching some of his videos.

It only took maybe a week of practice to understand the basics. I bought a whole bunch of basswood (like this) and just carved as much as I could. I eventually got good enough and made a few little figurines for my parents and my girlfriend.

Here are some of the figurines that I made. Each took about 4 hours to make but four hours flies by when you are carving. Each one is about 3 to 4 inches tall, so they are relatively small, but super cute lol.

As the days turned into weeks, I started kind of getting bored with just carving small figurines. So, like any reasonable wood carver, I got bigger tools and started making even bigger carvings.

This was a chunk of wood that I found, about one foot tall, that I carved an owl into. I wanted a bigger project to work on, since I really didn’t have anything else going on, especially in my PhD program. This carving was done with a dremel and then I painted the inside to really make the owl POP!

Well, after getting a taste of something bigger, I wanted to go even bigger. My goal was to learn how to carve with a chainsaw. Now, I am not trained in using a chainsaw so I had to watch a ton of videos on how to do it. The people made it look so simple on Youtube, but looks are deceiving. I bought myself an electric chainsaw (I am a college kid and poor, please remember that), and set out to carve a tiki. The tiki was a Christmas present so I wanted it to be amazing.

It turned out pretty awesome, though, taking pictures of it didn’t really show all of the contours and shadowing that made it really stand out. I will update this post the next time I go to my girlfriend’s dad’s house, where it currently resides.

Through this whole experience, I was also doing therapy. I brought up wood carving almost every session and my therapist kept encouraging me to make more carvings. She told me that having a hobby such as this was an excellent way to calm an anxious mind. I totally agree with that statement because:

  1. Carving allows you to focus on one specific task at a time. If you get distracted, you may cut yourself pretty easily.
  2. It keeps you off social media
  3. If you carve outside, there is a sense of peace that comes over you and you become “one with nature”

I found that the more I carved, the less anxious I was in that moment. Carving is like meditation, you focus on one thing and stay in the present moment. Instead of focusing on the breathe, like in meditation, you are focusing on the cutting and not getting cut aspect of carving. Soon, you get in almost a trance like state, and all outside distractions tend to disappear. I feel like you can almost use wood carving as an alternative to meditation, that is, wood carving that doesn’t require a chainsaw lol.

College, especially grad school, can be a very overwhelming time and cause a ton of stress. I found that doing a simple task can help significantly. I wrote about how hobbies are great to take up in grad school. If you are looking for a way to pass time, be creative, and get some much needed anxiety relief in, then I suggest checking wood carving out. It is super easy, fun, and inexpensive, which is always a plus. It has done wonders to my mental health and I know it can help with yours.

16 thoughts on “Wood Carving Reduced My Anxiety

  1. I carve chess pieces in the form of Viking, Celtic and Roman soldiers. Use walnut or cherry. They are 3 to 5 inches tall. Takes me a year to carve 32 picesif I work every day. Did my first piece when I was 16 (I’m 72 now) and am beginning my fifth set .Takes 8 – 15 hours per piece. Yes, the therapeutic value is just as you describe. People say “Oh wow. You can sell these.” My answer is “How much do you think I should get for 500 -600 hours of work? Each chess set is unique.” They have no answer.

  2. Love this. That owl is so cute but also the idea is wonderful. I find that most of my hobbies still allow me to drift off mentally or worse, multi task. I feel like this would solve both of those problems.

  3. Those wooden carvings are beautiful <3. Anything that requires focus and attention to detail helps with anxiety. I realized this when I took calculus in high school. The equations and numbers significantly helped with my anxiety.

  4. Nicely done Ben. I’ve purchased carving tools a couple of times but never took off with it. Maybe you’ve just inspired me to eat after it. I’ve been interested a long time, but I have very low artistic abilities. You tube it is a great idea

    • Most of my carvings are just copied from tutorials on YouTube. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it quite easy to recreate alot of the stuff you learned how to do from tutorials

  5. This is awesome! In one of my classes this semester the professor had each student introduce himself and share something personal. Someone said she had just discovered cross stitching and was interested enough to keep going at it. Immediately the prof encouraged us: “I think you’ll each find that, if you’re going to succeed in grad school, you’re going to have to find your own version of cross stitching.” Lol! It looks like you’ve found yours. 🙂 They’re really beautiful carvings, and it’s so great to have something like this to go outside of classes and research!

    • I totally agree with your professor. Having things outside class and research is just as important as class and research. You have to turn off from your studies at one point or you’ll just burn out

  6. Pingback: Starting a Hobby :Wood Carving - MINDFULNESS IN GRAD SCHOOL

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