Just a basic tutorial on how I use my chisel to carve wood, and in this case, the guard for one of my katanas. For any carving I do, it also helps to have a utility knife/carving knife and a pencil/pen. However, this whole tutorial can be accomplished with just a chisel.
I've already carved out one side of the guard here, just to see what we are going for. It is simply a basic recess to give the piece that 3-D quality and shadow. I'm using mahogany, but everything here applys for all types of wood, just keep in mind that the more pronounced the grain of the wood, the easier it is to catch that grain and ruin your work.
The first main step is simply to draw out what you plan to carve out. This first step may be most important, and can save lots of mistakes later. Then the best stategy way I've found is to take a knife and cut that line as well. This creates a buffer of sorts so that when you go to the chisel, you don't catch the grain and go right through the edge you're trying to make. This is very important to do, I can tell you just how frustrating it is to put in the four hours of work and then ruin it with an enthusiastic thrust with the chisel.
Next, start to chisel. Do shallow cuts, and go deeper as you go along. Again, caution is the way to go with this. And make sure your chisel is sharp, that way you don't have to push as hard. I just use my hand, not a mallet, I like the control I have that way. But it is more of a struggle that way as well. Just dig into the wood, and then just work the chisel, kind of prying the wood up as you go. Do this until you get as deep as you'd like, or until you are all the way through if that is what you want.
Now another thing to pay attention to is the curves on this one, and also the sharp corners. Because you want to go either perpindicular or parallel to your lines, you have to alter your game plan a little, and maybe take some risks. It is very important to have cut your lines well in these areas, for the reasons mentioned earlier. Makes your job so much easier when dealing with both these problems. Keeping this in mind, you can work your way around pretty well.
Once you have it all rough cut out, you probably want to finish it up a little, make your surfaces a little smoother. To do this, you can lightly chisel the surface, just to flatten things out, or scrape the surface with the chisel, to do the same thing. Then, you can sand it as well, if the surface allows for that. but you should probably sand the edges of the raised area to clean it up a little. Now, in terms of damage control, it is likely that you will either cut what you don't want out of the wood, or out of your finger (note the bandage on my finger). So band aids are good, and glue is good too. If you cut out a chunk, save it. That way its the same wood, and you don't have to worry about using wood filler to replace it. Just glue that piece back in.
That pretty much does it. If there is any way to make this better, easier to read, or if it needs more/better pictures, please please please let me know so I can make it better!