Introduction to Surface Carving

with Michael Cullen


Bring your work to life with personalized, hand-carved details. 

  • 6+ hours of in-depth video lessons
  • Exclusive community forum
  • Live Q&A sessions with Michael
  • Materials list and tool list from the instructor

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Course Overview

In this immersive online course, students will learn step-by-step how to enliven their woodworking projects by incorporating hand-carved patterns and textures in their pieces. Instructor Michael Cullen has taught handwork around the world and has a deep background in fine furniture. Michael's signature dynamic carved surfaces add interest and awe to many of his pieces. Michael will teach you everything you need to know to get started on your carving journey. He’ll begin with the essentials: tools and sharpening. He will share his techniques for creating detailed surface patterns and textures that add just the right touch to your work. In addition to the techniques, he’ll talk about how to find inspiration for your carved designs in nature, architecture, and more.

You Will Learn

Essential Tools and Preparation

  •  What to look for in carving tools
  • How to make a smart purchase choice
  • What tools you need, and which ones you don't
  • How to get tools razor-sharp and ready
  • The five essential tools you need to get started.

Carving Techniques

  • Proper stance
  • How to hold the workpiece safely
  • The difference between patterns and textures
  • How to create unique textures
  • Basic patterns to get started: ripple, leaf, cracked ice, circles, fan, basketweave, checkerboard, craters and dimples
  • How to combine pattern and textures to achieve dramatic results


Born in Idaho and raised in California, Michael Cullen has often been on the move. Sparked by a love of art and mechanical design, he got interested in furniture design early. He studied under David Powell at the famous Leeds Design Workshops in Easthampton, Mass., and worked in Boston before setting up his workshop producing custom furniture and sculpture in Petaluma, Calif., in 1989. This well-known artist and craftsman recently moved back to New England, settling in Kent, Conn. But no matter where he hangs his hat, Michael's work is in demand all over North America and Europe. He is a Brand Ambassador for Fine Woodworking and currently divides his time creating furniture and teaching eager students about design and techniques.