I have a set of Flexcut chisels. They are very nice for small work, but not too useful for figure carving, which I normally hold in my hand while carving. I always use a protective glove on my holding hand and a thumb guard on my knife hand. I normally use basswood because It's very nice to work with. It cuts easily and holds even the smallest details quite sharply.
The first thing to learn for anyone wanting to get into wood carving is how to properly sharpen and hone their carving tools, as a razor sharp edge is essential for success. As for the kind of scroll work relief type carvings seen on the stern of larger ships, these can just be cut from a pattern on the scroll saw and detail added with carving chisels afterward. The Flexcut chisels would work really well for that kind of work. This method might not appeal to someone who wants to carve the scroll work directly into ships planking, but personally I could live with just gluing it on.