The truth is, nearly everyone will get minor nicks and cuts when first learning to carve wood. Even professionals have a slip with the knife from time to time but you can greatly minimize the chance of accidents by learning to practice good knife handling and form.
You can also substantially reduce the severity of potential injury by keeping your blade sharp and knife handle well maintained, so we'll talk a bit about that here as well.
How to avoid injuries
Even I still cut myself occasionally, so I'm not sure it's possible to reduce the number of small accidents to zero, but a few simple knife positions and ways you grip the handle will dramatically reduce the chances.
I use 3 primary grips which I will show you, for right-handed carvers, and then for left-handed whittlers.
We'll also learn about how trees form, what grain is, and how to recognize the way the grain moves through the piece of wood you are working with.
Woodgrain can be difficult to see in a light, homogenous wood like Basswood, but it has a huge impact on what happens to your blade when you try and make a cut. Understanding grain--and the directionality of grain--is part of carving safely, and keeping your carving from becoming frustrating.
We'll cover concepts such as 'Grain as the Horizon', and from that, 'Carving Up-hill' vs 'Carving Down-hill'. We'll learn how to recognize when you've moved from an easy-to-carve direction to one which is much more difficult.
From there we'll begin with a lot of practice cuts in your supplied Practice Block, which will help you later in the build of your puppet. All of these basic cuts and concepts will be explored in increasing depth as the course goes on.