Posted by: Michael Keller Woodcarving | April 3, 2011

Woodcarving Gloves

A woodcarving glove is a piece of safety equipment that I whole-heartily endorse and very nearly require when a whittler is working in my studio.  Lets set the stage with a horror story… a true story.

A friend of mine was in the throws of getting serious about a woman that he had been dating.  One great thing about his new relationship was that his girl friend was quite interested in learning to whittle and carve.  So, there were several lessons and lots of good times had while whittling.  My friend, of course, had his new student wear a glove at all times.  Except, one day while my friend was not home, his girl friend and student picked up on an unfinished project that she had started.  The girl friend was never all that excited about wearing a glove so with my friend not home, she omitted the glove.  She was “hogging” some wood with a fairly wide No. 3 palm gouge when the inevitable happened.  The gouge slipped off the project and went “hell bent for election” right for the area located between the thumb and index finger.  This was not good… not only did she go deep… that is also an area that is pretty hard to stop bleeding.  What followed was a trip to the emergency room; some reconstruction of tendons, stitches, and several months of not whittling.  In fact, due to the terror of it all, she never really ever gained the confidence that she could have had.  Her interest in whittling went the way of black and white television.

If she had been wearing a quality carver’s glove, there may have been a small cut but there would not have been any need for an emergency room.

I often hear the complaint that one just can’t get a good enough grip on a carving with a glove on… that it slips somewhat.  Depending upon the glove, I don’t disagree… so grip tighter… or put your work on a work holder so you can keep your hands out of the way.  Another option is a good glove with a gripper material attached to the fingers and the palm.

Premium Kevlar glove with neoprene rubber dots from KV Woodcarving Supply in Canada

There are lots of gloves on the market and I am not going to do a review on any of them.  But, let me say this… “When it comes to your safety, don’t be cheap.  Get a good glove.”

To me, the greatest value to a carving glove is when you are “whittle carving”… that is holding your carving in your hand and carving on it with gouges and chisels.  Like my friend’s girl friend, if the gouge slips, its going to get the glove before it gets your hand.  A glove should be worn on the hand holding your work.  Some folks wear a glove on both hands.  I don’t do that but I’ll let you decide if wearing two gloves is good for you or not.

Just because you have a carver’s glove on, you still should not place your hand in such a way that if you slipped with a gouge, you could contact your hand.

I have seen carvers use virtually all sorts of gloves for carving… from leather to neoprene construction gloves.  I suppose any glove may offer some protection but, I recommend real woodcarving safety gloves made from Kevlar with stainless steel wire or with Spectra.  Let’s look at the differences between Kevlar and Spectra:

Kevlar is a high strength, high performance fiber.  One description of how it is believed to function is that the molecules form into sheets that then stack themselves around the center of a fiber like spokes.  The idea behind using Kevlar as a bullet proof material was to stack several layers of the material together in a weave pattern.  The weaving would then “catch” the bullet by allowing the fibers to break apart layer by layer and absorb the velocity, slowing the bullet to a stop.  However, this was mostly effective when bullets were slower and had less total velocity, making them easier to stop than our troops and law enforcement personnel experience now.  Kevlar woodcarving gloves are only one layer.  Obviously a Kevlar glove will not stop a bullet and won’t even stop a gouge if plunged with great force.  Many woodcarving suppliers refer to their Kevlar gloves as being the same material as bullet proof vests.  It may be the same material but it is far from the same construction.

Premium Kevlar Glove from Woodcraft Supply

Spectra is a completely different technology. The material is about 40% lighter than Kevlar, making it more comfortable.  It is not a woven structure.  Spectra is “billed” as being ten times stronger than steel.  Spectra is described as a “thin, flexible ballistic composite made from layers of unidirectional fibers held in place by flexible resins”.  These layers are then sealed between two thin sheets of polyethylene film.  Therefore, all materials used are light weight and extremely flexible, making movement and wearability more realistic for users.  Few woodcarving suppliers offer woodcarving gloves made from Spectra and I have not yet tried one… but I am anxious to do so.

Premium Spectra Glove from Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers

Reality Check

Carving gloves are generally woven and the fabric is fairly large so the weave is also large (Spectra is a notable exception)… and it’s loose.  What that means is that if you run head-on into the glove fabric with a gouge, you are likely to get a small cut on both outer edges of the tool.  This is because the corners will likely travel through the weave and make contact with your skin.  But you should be saved from a wide, deep cut from the broad edge of your gouge assuming you are not making a high powered plunge cut.

Also, a glove is virtually worthless if you were to make a stab cut with a knife into the fabric.  The point will not even slow down as it cuts into your hand.  However, a glove is pretty good insurance against a slicing cut.  However, even with a slicing cut, the point will likely do a little damage.

So, a carving glove is not a guarantee against injury but it will greatly reduce the risk.

Bottom Line

Be safe, wear a carver’s glove when you are whittling or carving with the carving piece being held in your hands.  You may still cut yourself but it is a generally accepted belief that the damage will be reduced.  Don’t be cheap… get a good glove.

Using a Vice or Hold-down

My preference for 90% of the carving that I do is to have my work held in a vice or work positioner.  With my work securely held, it frees both of my hands to hold the tools that I use.  And, some tools require both hands.  In my 50 years of carving, I can not recall ever cutting myself with a gouge or chisel when my work is held in a carver’s vice.

Remember the old saying… “Don’t put anything in front of the edge of your tool that you do not intend to cut.”

Please see my posting on Vices and Hold-downs.

Cautionary Statement

Carving and whittling are inherently dangerous because of the use of sharp tools.  A carving glove does not insure that you will not be injured while carving.  Never intentionally carve in the direction of any part of your body.  Never carve after consuming alcohol or taking drugs that could impair your judgement.  Always read manufacturers instructions that come with any carving tools.

Stay sharp and be “carveful.” Thanks for your visit; I really appreciate it.

Please visit my web site at


  1. Michael, your posting on safety carving gloves is very timely and informative. Thanks for reminding all carvers to practice safety, wear a protective glove and use a holding devise. Your words are always so helpful. It is good to be reminded to be careful as well as CARVEFUL, Don

  2. Thanks for the tips. As someone that is just starting to carve…like last week!.. I’ve enjoyed how thorough and informative you are on this site. Thank you so much!

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