There are many techniques and ways to carve wood. One of the basic methods, and great for beginners is Chip carving. Chip carving is found throughout history in many cultures. Chip carving was believed to have started in China. It eventually spread through various wars and invasions into Europe and into Switzerland. Early in history it was a carving technique used to add ornate decoration to buildings and churches. It eventually became a popular folk art. Chip carving is done on everything from toys to utensils.
The technique of chip carving uses precise cuts into wood to remove small chips in a single piece. The most common design motifs for chip carving are geometric designs, but they can be free form style as well. Chip carving can be done with as few as two knives. There is a formulaic method of making precise cuts to remove specific shapes. Chip carving designs are created by making a combination of two- and three-sided chips of various patterns. Because this carving style has a formulaic approach, the technique can be done relatively quickly.
To try your hand at chip carving, start with a soft wood like a basswood or butternut. Choose a simple pattern. Trace the pattern onto your wood. Take your knife and begin chipping the wood out. At first keep your chips shallow but consistent. As you become comfortable with the technique, you can master varied depths. Try not to remove too much wood early on. As you get a feeling for this method, you will see how quickly a design can be executed. Experiment with different templates and create your own designs.