I've never carved wood into sculpture before, but I've used gouges extensively while making linocuts.
Here is the documentation of my work-in-progress.
Equipment by Step:
1) Log cross-section, any size
2) Imagination & sketching tools
1) Orbital Sander
2) Sandpaper, 60-220 grit
Transfer the Design:
1) Light-colored marking tool (anything that's visible on the wood)
Carving the Design:
1) Assorted wood carving tools (harbor freight has a $5 set)
Finishing & Hanging
1) Mineral Oil
2) Hanging components (specifics are coming)
Step 1: Dream Up a Design
So I'm going to be carving branches.
I hashed out some ideas on paper, working within rough outlines of the shape of the wood.
Step 2: Sand the Wood in Preparation
Take an orbital sander, and starting with 60-grit sandpaper, smooth the wood in steps up to 220-grit.
Insert "bench cookies" beneath your cross-section to keep it from sliding around and vibrating too much. (thanks, Randall!)
Wipe with a wet cloth between grit steps. This makes loose wood fibers stand up so they can be eliminated.
I did this at TechShop Austin-Round Rock. I love that place because, besides having the tools I need, it has a great working atmosphere. You get so motivated when there are other people around you turning out awesome projects.
Step 3: Transfer the Design to Wood
Beyond this, I'll have to carve it. I'm toying with the idea of using a CNC ShopBot to do some of the grunt work.
I'd have to work scads of hours on the computer to get that going, though.
Thanks for looking! Check back in a week or so and see what I've added.