Step 1: How to Hand Carve Wood With Minimal Tools
I use 4 techniques utilizing 3 parts of the blade.
The blade parts are: 1 the point, 2 the curve, and 3 the flat (see picture 2)
the techniques are 1 line cut, 2 edge cut, 3 round cut, and 4 hole cut (see the rest of the pictures)
The line cut uses the point of the knife and you do it by more or less holding the knife like a pencil and drawing a line of varying depths depending on the pressure you use. I use this cut begin most projects and it can be used with other cuts for a number of effects.
The edge cut uses the curve of the knife and is done by basically digging into the wood, the angle at which you dig in will determine the depth of the cut. this one is good for removing a lot of wood and is also used with other cuts for specific effects.
The round cut uses the flat of the blade and is used mostly to round corners, you can use the curve of the blade to do this in tight spaces but the flat gives you better control. This cut is also good for removing a lot of wood.
The hole cut is the least used for most projects and is basically only used for making holes. it uses the point and you simply stab the point into the wood and twist it around until you have the hole depth and width you want.
Using a pocket knife for the first time is awkward, which is one reason working with scrap 2x4's is so nice, it's soft and often free. It may take some practice but being good with a pocket knife is an under valued skill and is worth putting in the effort.
Step 2: The Actual Carving Part
Then I drew out the design I wanted; you can use pen or pencil, or won't matter since it's going to be carved off anyway. I cut the groove for the sword with the deepest line cuts I could manage and some pretty steep angled edge cuts. Then, using the line cut, I went over the entire design and began cutting it out to the desired depth with the edge cut on the outside and the hole cut and the edge cut in between the loops. once it was to the depth I wanted, I smoothed it out using the round cut, except for the face which I left with shaper edges.
At this point it just needs sanding, if you want you can use a dremel but that's kind of cheating or you could use sandpaper. But if you want you can use your knife to do it too, which I guess that means there is a fifth technique. Holding the knife perpendicular to the wood, gently scrape back and forth and it will sand the wood. Admittedly, it's not as good as using sandpaper and really doesn't work in the cracks very well, but it's still a skill to develop.
Step 3: Finish It Up
Once it's dry it's time to show it off!
Step 4: Notes/Hints
Also, each type of wood is slightly unique, until you are familiar with its characteristics you should make very small cuts, as is the case any time you are doing something with fine detail- the smaller the cut the less likely you are to make a mistake and the easier it is to fix if you do. When you do make mistakes there is usually a way to fix it, I usually just change my design slightly and work it in.
And don't be discouraged, keep at it and soon enough you will have something cool to show your friends.