A Beginner’s Guide to Whittling

by Brett & Kate McKay on December 12, 2011 · 47 comments

in Manly Skills, Projects

The Yankee boy, before he’s sent to school,
Well knows the mysteries of that magic tool,
The pocket-knife. To that his wistful eye
Turns, while he hears his mother’s lullaby;

His hoarded cents he gladly gives to get it,
Then leaves no stone unturned till he can whet it;
And in the education of the lad
No little part that implement hath had.
His pocket-knife to the young whittler brings
A growing knowledge of material things.

Projectiles, music, and the sculptor’s art,
His chestnut whistle and his shingle dart,
His elder pop-gun with its hickory rod,
Its sharp explosion and rebounding wad,
His corn-stalk fiddle, and the deeper tone
That murmurs from his pumpkin-stalk trombone,
Conspire to teach the boy. To these succeed
His bow, his arrow of a feathered reed,
His wind-mill, raised the passing breeze to win,
His water-wheel, that turns upon a pin;
Or, if his father lives upon the shore,
You’ll see his ship, “beam ends upon the floor,”
Full rigged, with raking masts, and timbers stanch,
And waiting, near the wash-tub, for a launch.

Thus, by his genius and his jack-knife driven,
Ere long he’ll solve you any problem given;
Make any jim-crack, musical or mute,
A plow, a couch, an organ, or a flute;
Make you a locomotive or a clock,
Cut a canal, or build a floating-dock,
Or lead forth Beauty from a marble block—
Make any thing, in short, for sea or shore,
From a child’s rattle to a seventy-four;—
Make it, said I?—ay! when he undertakes it,
He’ll make the thing and the machine that makes it.

And when the thing is made—whether it be
To move on earth, in air, or on the sea;
Whether on water, o’er the waves to glide,
Or, upon land to roll, revolve, or slide;
Whether to whirl or jar, to strike or ring,
Whether it be a piston or a spring,
Wheel, pulley, tube sonorous, wood or brass,
The thing designed shall surely come to pass;
For, when his hand’s upon it, you may know
That there’s go in it, and he’ll make it go.

“Whittling” by John Pierpont

Whittling is a great pastime for the man who wants to craft something, but may not have the room or tools to say, build a dining room table. Or for the man looking for something meditative to help him center his thoughts. Or simply for the guy who wants to while away time on a camping trip. It’s one of the cheapest and most accessible hobbies you can take up–all you need is a knife and some wood.

I can’t say I ever whittled a pumpkin-straw trombone or a little windmill, but as a boy I did pare many a stray twig into a tiny spear (small, yet surely capable of downing a saber-tooth tiger if needed be).

Now as a grown man I’m always looking for ways to settle my mind and new hobbies to try my hand at. When I think of relaxation, my mind often turns to the old man sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, a knife in one hand, a piece of wood in the other. And so recently I decided to explore my boyhood pastime in greater depth. Today I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you about how to get started with whittling.

What You Need: The Knife and the Wood

The Wood

Softwoods are the best for whittling because they cut nice and easy.  After you’ve learned the basics of whittling, feel free to move on to harder woods. No matter which kind of wood you use, look for wood with a straight grain as it is easier to whittle than wood that has the grain going in multiple directions.  Avoid wood with lots of knots–those are a booger to whittle.

Check your local lumber yard or woodworking store for whittling wood. Craft stores, like Hobby Lobby, often carry a variety of softwoods that are good for whittling. I picked up all my whittling wood at Hobby Lobby for a few bucks. Just avert your eyes from the fake flowers and wicker baskets as you shop.

Below I’ve included a short list of the most popular whittling woods.

Basswood. Basswood has been used for millennia for woodcarving. During the Middle Ages, it was the preferred wood of German sculptors who crafted elaborate altar pieces. It’s a good wood to whittle with because it’s soft and doesn’t have much grain. You can pick up basswood blocks in various sizes at your local craft store for a reasonable price.

Pine. Pine is another traditional whittling wood. It’s soft, cuts easily, and is readily available. But it has its drawbacks. Some whittlers think pine doesn’t hold detail very well. And if you’re using a fresh pine twig or branch, you’ll have to regularly clean the sticky sap off your knife while you’re whittling.

Balsa. Balsa wood is a soft, inexpensive, lightweight wood that’s perfect for beginning whittlers. You can buy it by the boatloads at craft stores like Hobby Lobby for pretty cheap. I picked up 9 blocks of balsa wood for a little under $4.

Random twigs and branches.  You don’t need a pre-cut block of wood to whittle. Twigs and branches from most kinds of trees make for great whittling.  There’s nothing more enjoyable than sitting around a campfire and whittling away at a twig while you talk to your buddies. Wooden knives are a popular item to whittle from a tree branch.

The Knife

Pocket Knife. For generations, whittlers have used nothing but their trusty pocket knife to create ruggedly handsome works of art.  And some whittling purists will argue that the pocket knife is the only acceptable tool for true whittling. Pocket knives are certainly an excellent choice because they’re so portable. Anytime you find a good piece of wood, you can just whip out your pocket knife and start sculpting your wooden masterpiece. Another benefit of pocket knives is that they provide multiple blade types in a single knife. When you need to do some more intricate carving, you can simply open up your smaller more flexible blade. Need to make bigger cuts? Use the larger knife blade.

Specialty whittling knives. Several types of specialty whittling knives exist on the market today. Unlike pocket knives, they’re fixed blade, meaning they don’t fold. Fixed blades offer a bit more sturdiness than what you get with a folding knife. Another nice feature of specialty whittling knives is that they often have curved handles that fit comfortably in your hand to help reduce fatigue during long whittling sessions.

Flexcut offers a wide selection of different kinds of whittling knives, and I bought this starter set from them. I’ve been happy with the knives. They hold an edge nicely and are easy to sharpen. The ergonomically shaped handle does indeed help reduce hand fatigue compared to carving with a pocket knife.

It’s nice to have a set of specialty whittling knives for when you’re whittling at home, while using your pocket knife for whittling sessions on the go.

The First Rule of Whittling: Keep Your Knife Sharp

If you want your whittling experience to be pleasurable and relaxing, keep your knife sharp. The first time I tried my hand at whittling, I noticed that the wood was getting harder and harder to cut. I figured it must have been the wood, so I just soldiered on, applying more and more pressure with the knife. After my hands started aching something fierce, it finally dawned on me that my knife probably needed some sharpening.

After a few strokes on the sharpening stone and strop, I started carving again. It was like I was carving a warm block of butter. The blade glided right through the wood.

Now, whenever I feel the wood getting harder to cut, I stop and sharpen my knife.

Don’t know how to sharpen a knife? No worries. We’ve got you covered:

Whittling Safety, or How Not To Get Blood All Over Your Project

The first time I attempted some serious whittling (not just carving a twig into a spear point), I kind of went at it with reckless abandon. I thought, “Hey, I’ve used knives my whole life. I’m pretty sure I can carve this piece of wood without coming close to cutting myself.”

Pride goeth before the fall.

About five minutes in, the knife blade slipped from the wood and went right into my thumb, opening up a nice-sized cut. I pressed on, but I ended up getting blood all over my project. Another ten minutes in, the blade skipped off a knot and glanced my index finger. More blood. At this point, my wood was slippery with hemoglobin, so I had to stop.

To avoid the same bloody fate as me, I offer the following whittling safety tips:

Take it slow. No need to rush! Whittling is supposed to be relaxing and meditative. When you get in a hurry with your cuts, that’s when accidents happen. Make every cut slow and controlled.

Keep your knife sharp. Obeying the first rule of whittling will not only ensure better cuts, it will also ensure that you keep all your fingers. Instead of cutting, dull blades have a tendency to glance off the wood and head right towards your hand. While the blade might not be sharp enough to cut wood, it’s usually still sharp enough to cut human flesh.

Wear gloves when you first start. Until you get comfortable with the different knife strokes, I’d recommend wearing a pair of leather work gloves when your first start whittling. Yes, the gloves feel a little cumbersome at first, but you quickly adjust.

If you don’t wear gloves, use a thumb pad. The thumb on your knife-holding hand tends to get the brunt of the nicks and glances. To protect your thumb, wear a thumb pad. They’re really cheap–you can buy leather thumb pads on Amazon for about $1.50. The problem with these is when they wear out, you’ll have to buy another set. Another solution that works just as well is duct tape. Before you start whittling, simply wrap your knife-holding thumb with duct tape. To avoid getting sticky stuff on your thumb, use this technique:

  • Wrap one layer of duct tape around your thumb with the sticky side facing out. Wrap it tight enough so it won’t slip off, but not so tight that you lose circulation to your thumb.
  • Then wrap a couple of layers of duct tape around your thumb with the sticky side facing in. Four or five layers should do the trick.

Wood Grain

Sometimes it’s easy to tell the direction of the grain on a piece of wood simply by looking at it. But oftentimes it’s not that obvious. If you’re having a hard time deciphering which way the grain is going, start making some small shallow cuts in your wood. Cuts made with the grain will peel away smoothly; cuts made against the grain will give resistance and eventually split. 

Generally, you want most of your cuts to go with the wood’s grain. Cuts against the grain cause your wood to tear, split, and just plain look ugly. Plus, the resistance the wood gives when you cut against the grain makes whittling much more difficult.

Don’t get frustrated if you lose track of which way the grain runs while you’re in the middle of the project. It happens to most people when they’re first getting started with woodworking of any kind. It happened to me at least. Just keep practicing, and you’ll eventually get a feel for figuring out wood grain.

Types of Whittling Cuts

Several cutting styles exist in whittling, but we’ll just stick with the basics for the purposes of this article. The directions assume you’re right-handed. Simply flip them if you’re a southpaw.

Straightaway Rough Cutting

Use this cut at the very beginning of your project to carve your project’s general shape. Hold the wood in your left hand and your knife firmly in your right. Make a long, sweeping cut with the grain and away from your body. Don’t cut too deep or you might split the wood. Make several, thin slices to reduce the wood to the desired size and shape.

Pull Stroke (Pare Cut)

If you’ve ever seen an old-timer whittle, chances are you saw him using the pull stroke. It’s the most used cut in whittling. To perform this cut, imagine you’re paring an apple. Hold the wood in your left hand, the knife in your right with the blade facing towards you. Brace your right thumb against the wood, and squeeze your right fingers in order to draw the blade to your right thumb. Make your stroke short and controlled. Keep your right thumb out of the path of the blade. For added safety, wear a thumb pad.

The pull stroke gives you lots of control over your blade and is best for detailed cuts.

Push Stroke (Thumb Pushing) 

Sometimes where you want to cut won’t allow you to do the pull stroke. That’s when it’s time to bust out the push stroke. Hold the wood in your left hand and the knife firmly in your right hand with the blade facing away from you. Place both your right and left thumbs on the back of the knife blade. Push the blade forward with your left thumb while your right thumb and fingers guide the blade through the wood.

The push stroke, like the pull stroke, gives you greater control over your knife for detailed cuts.

What to Whittle

So you have your tools and wood and know the basic cuts. Now, what to whittle?

For beginners, I’d suggest you keep it simple. Keith Randich, author of Old Time Whittling, suggests beginners whittle an egg as their first project. Yeah, an egg. I know, not very exciting. But a simple project like an egg is a good way to introduce beginning whittlers to the law of wood grains. Here’s a guide to carving your very own wooden egg.

After you’ve mastered the egg, you can move on to some simple patterns. Cowboy boots are a popular whittling project as well as animals. You can buy books with ready-to-go whittling patterns. All you have to do is simply transfer the pattern to your wood and start whittling.

Or you could just sort of wing it and make up your own pattern. I thought it would be cool to whittle a duck’s head, so I took a piece of wood, drew an outline of a duck’s head on both sides of it, and started whittling.

A duck head I started a few days ago. Not great, but it's turning out better than I thought it would.

After months of practice, you might be ready to move on to the really cool projects like wooden chains or the mysterious ball in the cage. Maybe even one day, you’ll be as awesome as this old-timer:

Whittling Resources

If whittling looks like something you’d like to take up, I highly recommend the following books.

The Little Book of Whittling by Chris Lubkemann. A great book for beginners. Lubkemann’s focus is on whittling branches and twigs. This book has a great guide on how to carve an awesome looking knife from a tree branch. You can see them at his website here.

The Art of Whittling by Walter Faurot. Get this book when you’re ready to move on to advanced projects. It’s filled with patterns like a chain, ball and cage, and even some simple puzzles.

Do you whittle? Share your tips with us in the comments!

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eric December 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm

This is pretty funny. I started practicing whittling again in preparation for a future present and thought that it might be a cool idea to write an article about if for the men on this site. Glad to see the McKay’s got to it before I did and did a wonderful job at that. Keep up the great you two!

2 Umar December 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm

How about those pocket knives from Big 5? Not the classic wood handle ones, but the metal stuff. How would those fare in whittling?

3 Trey December 12, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Whittling is one of the things I’ve always kind of romanticized. Kind of like learning to throw an ax or riding a bull.

Pretty sure I’d cut my thumb off though.

4 CS December 12, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Great article. I’ve also heard that if you have trouble with wood or want to practice creating different shapes without wasting your sweat on shaping wood, you can use bars of soap for practicing.

5 Matthew December 12, 2011 at 10:19 pm

I’m an off-and-on whittler. Sometimes the bug will strike and I’ll find some wood and pare it down to shavings. Then I’ll just carry that knife in my pocket for a few months and only use it for daily, not-whittling things.

Don’t be afraid of things like the “ball and cage” and “chain”. Get a good set of instructions (like those above) and some good wood (the balsa recommended above is great and easy to learn on) and set to learning. The trick with those is finess, not strength. It’s easy to get impatient and try to force the moving pieces apart, causing the wood to split.

Of course, I’m one of those mentioned in the poem at the opening. I still remember the day I got my very own pocket knife, I was 5, and it had to stay in the kitchen tool drawer unless I had permission to use it. Still an amazing day!

6 Kevin December 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Enjoyed this article, and, well, all your articles. This one takes me back to the boy scouts, makes me wonder where I put the old knife and if I have time to set out on the porch a while. Met a guy once who used to carve things with a hand ax; he was pretty good, and he still had all his fingers.

7 Charlie Galvin December 13, 2011 at 12:39 am

Great article! I was given a knife a couple months ago as a present. Since then I’ve been learning and practicing. I was actually doing some carving tonight; http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmgalvin/6503505327/

There is a local wood shop that I picked up my wood from. Normally they sell small pieces for $7-8. They range from 2x2x7″ to a little smaller or larger. They also sold a sealed up box for $22. The box easily contained 6 of the $8 pieces and then several smaller ones, all of them basswood.

I like to make things complicated, so I didn’t pick an easy first project. I am finally able to see it coming to fruition, but I still have a ways to go.

8 Linda December 13, 2011 at 6:23 am

Great info and so very timely!
The Boy Scouts are now receiving their wood for the Pine-Wood Derby competition to be held in February!
Thanks so much!

9 Matthew December 13, 2011 at 7:08 am

Keep your blade sharp! My Dad is an exceptional woodcarver and he drills this into my head.

10 Darren December 13, 2011 at 8:35 am

Good stuff. Scandinavians use a knife called a sloyd knife. Sloyd (pronounced something like “slood” with a u-ish sound) is a generic term for handy. If a person has sloyd it’s a high compliment, but I digress. Works well, costs little.

I’d also recommend Kevlar carving gloves over leather. You get much better feel of the work and you can work close in with the blade without worrying about a slip.

One fun thing this time if year is to carve miniatures of the gift you might give. If you’re giving your friend a kayak, carve a little kayak and wrap it up.

Oh…classes are cool:


Harley is awesome.


11 Dave M December 13, 2011 at 9:31 am

Great article, one of my favorite things is to sit by a campfire and whittle something for the kids. When it gets too dark to whittle, I get out my pipe and a glass of good sippin’ whiskey. Some of life’s simple pleasures.

12 Johnnie December 13, 2011 at 9:36 am

Great article. A little useless trivia for you: I’m a cubscout leader. A cub can’t carry a knife until he has his “whittling chip”. He can’t get that until he is in the 3rd grade/8-9 years old. We use a block of soap to teach them. Soap is soft, easy to learn on. Don’t use Ivory, it will melt as you hold it. If you want to teach your child or grandchild, and they aren’t in the scouts, this is a good way to show them the basics.

13 Beau T. Bradley December 13, 2011 at 10:13 am

Great Post! I used to sit with my grandpa, his brother, and a whole bunch of his friends and watch them whittle, talk shop, watch sports, etc. Today these are cherished memories. This post brought me right back to those days.

14 Adam December 13, 2011 at 10:37 am

Great post, and good basic tips. For anyone that does spend their time carving. here are some of the best hand forged knives out there – especially for anyone doing green wood/bushcraft http://www.pinewoodforge.com/
also the BEST book in the history of carving; Swedish Carving Techniques by Willie Sunqvist

15 Andrew December 13, 2011 at 10:58 am


I’m whittling a mini Cessna 172 for my father for Christmas, as he’s spending an awful lot of time in the sky these days.

Regarding knives: I also tried a couple Flexcut carving knives. They worked great, but I must not have stored them properly in my Wood Carving Storage Container (a tennis ball tube) because a few months later I took them out and the blades were rusted to the point of falling out of the handle. Back to the tried-and-true Swiss army knife.

16 Jared December 13, 2011 at 11:24 am

I have been very interested in the various carving and whittling arts for a while now, so it’s nice to have the coincidental reassurances (although maybe it’s just the “blue car effect”).

Woodbee Carver is a blogger that has some neat insight and information on his site as well. The origination of his blog name is that “Would be carvers would be carvers if they would carve wood”. A thing worth remembering.

The other thing that is nice about woodwork is that even if it comes out looking wonky, the wood will still catch fire so it’s still good for something.

17 Ryan Grimm December 13, 2011 at 11:31 am

1) make sure you use ONLY fixed-blade knives or locking blade pocket knives. Folding knives that do not have a GOOD locking feature are a sure invite to pain and blood. I know.
2) Razor sharp is the only way to go. If you have to push hard to cut the wood, the knife’s dull.
3) If working on your lap, use a piece of HEAVY leather to protect yourself. The thigh and groin are full of major blood vessels, and you can bleed out in as little as two (2) minutes. Dead.

Your mileage may vary.

18 Ian Feavearyear December 13, 2011 at 11:33 am

Very timely article – I’ve just been looking at getting into whittling and had already added a book on the subject to my Amazon christmas wishlist! Can’t wait to try it.

19 J. Levi December 13, 2011 at 11:51 am

Well, Mr. & Mrs. McKay, I could not help but note that you mentioned the wooden chain. You two are not so far from my country, and in Baxter Springs, MO (right over the border) rests a small museum that contains the world’s longest wooden chain. Its very impressive if you had the time to see the museum.

20 claude December 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm

This is a hobby I picked up a year ago. I found a series of videos on You Tube for creating a simple santa, and I just carved a bunch of those until I kinda knew what I was doing. The first one took me a day and a half. Now I can make one that looks better than the original, in less than an hour. Very relaxing hobby.

21 Annie André December 13, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Whittling is a great hobby to do and teach the kids. I tried it one year with my two sons when they were less then 10 years old. We whittled why we worked. We made toothpicks and it was a blast. Plus we had no food suivi between our teeth after dinner.

22 Joshua S. December 13, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I learned whittling a long time ago, when I was a Boy Scout, but I haven’t done it in a long time. This article has inspired me to take up whittling again. Thanks, AOM!

23 maxmike December 13, 2011 at 11:28 pm

While you’re at it, better add WORK OVER A STRONG FLAT SURFACE. I didn’t, and still have (40 years later) an eight inch scar running across my right thigh, when the knife skipped and drove down and outward. I remember limping downstairs holding the huge gash in my leg together, and saying to my mother, “Houston, we have a problem here…” To her credit, she didn’t faint–just groaned and dragged me off to the dispensary.

24 Simon Frez-Albrecht December 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I love to whittle spoons, it is a great hobby because the tool set it small (I use a saw to cut the branches to length, an axe to roughly shape, a knife to refine the shape, and a bent knife to carve out the bowl), the end result is also small, and eminently useful.

One trick that I typically take advantage of is that “green” (freshly cut) wood is soaking wet and consequently much softer than dried wood. I usually remove the bulk of wood from a spoon while green, then let it sit and dry for a few days before finishing it. Soaking in water can also help soften some of the harder woods temporarily.

As Adam previously mentioned, Wille Sunqvist’s book is terrific, and Del at pinewoodforge.com makes great products.

25 Salient December 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Perfect timing! I tried starting this hobby during Thanksgiving Break with a cheap bar of soap. Unfortunately, the soap I had just crumbled as I sliced into it and I forgot about all about it when I returned to school.

Now I have a clear guide to start me off as Christmas break begins!

26 jaklumen December 14, 2011 at 7:58 pm

I started with an Allied (similar to X-acto) set years ago that a neighbor gave me. Pine was easy to get, so that’s mostly what I used. The knives couldn’t handle anything harder than that, but the variety of the shape of the blades was something I really liked. So… please add the Pinewood Forge link. It’s what I’ll look at for knives if I get back into this hobby.

27 Brandon December 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm

This is great, and especially good timing — I actually just started whittling last week!

28 Javier December 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I read this yesterday morning, and gave it my first try last night itself. I thoroughly enjoyed it… let’s see if I’m able to finish my first piece with something nice, and then keep it up as hobbie!

29 Yes I Ham December 15, 2011 at 5:17 am

Love it, thank you for the journey back to simpler times when a sharp swiss army knife and that ‘perfect’ piece of wood on the summer break was as good as life could get :-)

30 Yes I Ham December 15, 2011 at 5:18 am

Love it, thank you for the journey back to simpler times when a sharp swiss army knife and that ‘perfect’ piece of wood on the summer break was as good as life could get.

31 Yes I Ham December 15, 2011 at 5:19 am

Love it, thank you for the journey back to simpler times when a sharp swiss army knife and that perfect piece of wood on the summer break was as good as life could get :-)

32 Andrew December 15, 2011 at 8:54 am

I just picked up whittling and its fun, however I have a a nick or two (three) in the process of learning.

33 Jeff The Bear December 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Thanks for the great article. You provided a fine precis of the activity. I find whittling to be relaxing and even peace-inducing and suspect my blood pressure drops a few points whenever I whittle. The comments are helpful, especially about Pinewood Forge. I have several knives from Del and will no doubt get more in the future. They are beautifully made and, with care, will be available to your great-grandchildren. Also, the sharpening stones he offers are the best I’ve ever used.

Some suggestions: Earlier this year “Wood Carving Illustrated” magazine issued a special edition on whittling that provided some good basic information about tools and techniques and projects from the most basic to whittled works of art. If it’s not on the news stands I’m sure it’s available from the magazine. It’s a good starting point.

If you’re in a traditional mood, try one of the carbon steel, shorter blade sloyd knives from Mora of Sweden, the “classic” style. They are available on Amazon but Ragweed Forge offers a huge selection at lower cost. I find them very comfortable, they come razor sharp and it is easy to maintain the edge. They are the best value for a useful knife I know of. Only the carbon steel, folding Opinel knives can match their value. I have several of each and wouldn’t be without them.

34 Cole Bradburn December 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I used to do this as a boy scout all the time, and was just thinking last week about whittling while staying at the family cabin during Christmas. Thanks for the refresher

35 Robert Hoffman December 19, 2011 at 4:02 pm

nice article, brings to mind when I got my first pocket knife. I was in the second grade, and preparing to go to a cub scout camp for the first time. My grandpa pulled me aside, and gave it to me, it wasn’t anything special, but to me it was a rite of passage. not a day has gone by that I haven’t carried my knife with me since.

36 Ellen December 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm

A fun project to start whittling on is a top. The shape is pretty basic, with a lot of the same curves that make eggs a good starter project, but whittling the stem requires a bit of problem-solving that helps to keep the whole thing interesting. You have to get it nice and smooth before it’ll spin right, too. Once you’ve watched it twirl and felt smug for a while, you can give it to the nearest kid, which makes it a lot more useful than a wooden egg. Unless someone in your life darns their own socks, in which case by all means make an egg for them.

37 Rana December 19, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I understand your nostalgia for older times- but the value of the nostalgia is because of the solid values that the times possessed- not because they made shit from wood. Can we have some non-hokey posts please?

38 Hunter December 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I have been whittling since I got a my first knife when I was 5. My grandfather would take a branch he found underneath his oak tree, and show me how to hold the knife and how to make the smoothest strokes possible. I know use a Case knife that also has a slip guard. The knife is a folding blade that locks. If you have sweaty hands like I do, I would recommend getting something like it. Mine is the Cheetah Cub model. Also, when you are using your left thumb (or right if you are a southpaw) to push the knife, try taking a hanky, folding it up into a little square, and putting a rubber band around it. It works better than the duct tape thing and than those pads because you can wipe the blade off on the soft cotton after you are done to clean the blade. One more reason to always carry a hanky, right Brett?

39 Jason December 30, 2011 at 10:47 pm

One of the few memories I have of my great grandfather is him and my dad sat on the porch late at night, both whittling. It’s so distant a memory I can’t even be sure it was him and not my grandfather. However, when he passed away my dad started to keep a stick of cedar on the dash of the car; it was a stick my great grandpa had given him a few years earlier.

40 Simon January 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm

The pull stroke is dangerous and not needed if you know what you’re doing.

41 Markies January 17, 2013 at 3:30 am

I have been whittling for some time now (year or two). Whittling spoons is a way to forget the world and “create”.


42 Ariel March 16, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I didn’t really think of whittling these days as mostly a manly thing. I love crafting of any kind and am always feeling the need to keep my hands busy. I actually found my first pocket knife lying on the sidewalk many years ago, when I was just a kid and still have it. My husband is a Boy Scout camp ranger, so, I have wood galore at my fingertips. Thank you for your info on getting started with something I’ve always wanted to do.

43 chris May 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Thanks for the article. I’m still a novice but I agree with the one poster that the pull cut isn’t all that necessary. I’ve done a spatula and a spoon and the two main grips I use are the push cut with both thumbs and the chest lever grip. A tip if you’re taking off a lot of material is to move the wood and not the knife. Much safer. ;)

44 Luke August 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I’m 14 years old and I’ve been thinking about whittling so I tried it and almost cut my finger off… So thank you for the advice to get me started on my masterpeices

45 Mike Sywyk September 18, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Where can I find instructions for whittling a wooden chain?

46 Neil October 18, 2013 at 8:50 am

Whittling….I am a novice at it, but after a deep gash in my palm I discovered a carving glove (woodcraft.com). Basswood is easy to carve. (see janka scale). As far as carving a chain, if you google it or use this example. http://www.littleshavers.com/ImageFile/Chain_Sketch.jpg. Beats staring at the idiotbox.

47 Chuck January 12, 2014 at 9:05 am

Amazing pictures and the directions excellent. Looking for someone like you who cares to share. Outstanding job of excellence.

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