Whittling For Beginners
If you have landed on this page then it is very likely you are on the hunt for a new hobby and if you have a creative bone in your body, then whittling is something you might just find yourself becoming highly addicted to. To introduce you to this fascinating art form, we’re about to walk you through the very first steps of your whittling adventure – hang on tight!
What Is Whittling?
In the nuttiest nutshell, whittling is the craft of carving or shaving wood using a small carving knife. While some might compare it to your usual woodcarving, we say it differs quite substantially. Whittling sticks to knife work only, whereas carving can involve using a number of woodworking tools to create the design you had in mind – these “extra” tools can include gouges, files, and larger specialized knives.
When you whittle you can design anything from basic patterns to a detailed face and everything else in between. The one great thing about this hobby is that there is no rule or limit to what you can create. Whittling also gives more of a rugged finish and many appreciate the results for the artisanal look.
What Will You Need?
One of the great things about this hobby is that you don’t need much to get started and the tools and materials are relatively affordable. Apart from a steady hand, the other things you will require are:
- Wood– When whittling, you want to stick to softer and more manageable woods like Pine, Butternut wood, Balsa, and Basswood. These wood types are more malleable and can easily be carved with little effort.
- A Whittling Knife– When purchasing a whittling knife there are a few features you want to look out for. Firstly, the steel blade should be hard and stable and secondly, the handle should have an ergonomic shape so that it can fit comfortably in your hand without causing strain – this will assist to limit hand fatigue and allow you to whittle for as long as you please. Whittling knives are available as a solid unit but most seasoned whittlers prefer the collapsible pocket knife types.
- A Knife Sharpener – If you want your whittling experience to be enjoyable and relaxing (and safe) – then it’s very important you have a knife sharpener and that your knife is kept in a sharp condition. If you whittle with a blunt blade, you will have to exert more force to carve.
How To Whittle Wood
- Safety First – Before you pick up your equipment, make sure your knife is sharp. If your knife is dull it could slip and leave you with a nasty cut. Wearing a leather glove on your non-knife holding hand is also a protective measure that will prevent cuts.
- Take Your Time – Whittling is regarded as a therapeutic hobby because its something that needs to be done slowly and patiently – it’s really all about relaxing! Be prepared for moments of frustration where the cut doesn’t quite go as you would like.
- Cut With The Grain–Once you have your knife and piece of wood ready, take hold of the blade’s handle as firmly as you can while keeping your thumb extended (your thumb will act as a pivot and will help to guide the blade over the wood). As you move your knife, you want to slide it in the direction of the wood grain, not against it – it’s much simpler to carve this way.
Types Of Whittling Cuts
Straightaway Rough Cut
A rough cut is used to start a project and is implemented to carve out the general shape and form.
- With the wood in your left hand and the knife in your right hand, make long, sweeping cuts, moving in the direction of the grain. Do this while applying force.
- Cut thin slivers so that you do not split the wood.
- Continue to make several thin slices while you shape the wood to your desired size and shape.
This is the stroke that you will apply most often and the hand movements are as follows:
- Holding the wood in your left hand with the knife in your right, turn the blade so that it faces towards you.
- Now, brace your right thumb against the wood and squeeze your fingers so that the blade navigates in towards your right thumb.
- Your strokes should be short and controlled while you keep your thumbs out of the path of the blade.
The pull stroke gives you the most control over your knife and is used for detailing your design.
If you are looking for a different technique or an alternative way of cutting, then the push stroke is your other option.
- Just like the other strokes, you will start by holding the wood in your left hand with the knife grasped securely in your right hand (with the blade facing away from you).
- Place both your thumbs onto the back of the knife blade.
- Use your left thumb to apply pressure and push the blade forward.
- You can use your right thumb and fingers to steer the blade so that you can create the details of your design.
This stroke is a little trickier than the pull stroke but if you can master it, you will have more control over guiding your knife and forming finer markings.
You’re Ready To Whittle!
Once you have mastered the art of “stroking”, then you are ready to whittle away! You can now create anything from basic shapes like chess pieces and toys to more intricate figurine sets. You can purchase books that feature whittling project ideas or you can search online for beginner projects to get you started.
Whittling is a fun and relaxing pastime that can be done almost anywhere and at any time – the tools can easily be kept in your pocket!
- Whittling: Ultimate Guides for Beginners – Tools, Tips, Resources & More – Woodworking Toolkit
- How to Carve – WikiHow