Since humans first made blades from flint stones eons ago, we have been using knives to whittle objects. The earliest kitchen utensils were fashioned from tree limbs and preserved with oils. Many of us today might think of whittling as something past generations did on shady farmhouse porches on hot summer afternoons, but this lost art is resurging. Many people find that creating pretty and useful objects by hand is therapeutic. Whittling groups are a thing and wood carvers of all kinds meet to carve, chat and share tips. We dug into this topic and have a few ideas to help you get started. The materials are few, easy to come by and inexpensive.


Every camper’s first whittling project is probably a marshmallow roasting spear made from the nearest long branch and sharpened to a point with whatever knife is handy. Experienced whittlers will carefully select hardwoods from cut or freshly fallen trees for their projects. Fresh cut or “green” wood is easier to carve and hardens with time. For the beginner whittler, it is easier to start with precut blocks of basswood, pine or cedar. You can purchase easy-to-carve softwoods online or from a local lumber yard.


A three-blade pocketknife is great for making roasting sticks, but there are better and safer blades for beginners. The straight knife, hook knife and chip knife are basic blades that can accomplish a lot. The straight knife has the longest blade and is used for long cuts to take away excess material when beginning a project. A chip knife is used to carve intricate details onto a piece, since its blade is short and pointy and makes detail work easy. Lastly, the hook knife is used to carve out the bowl space in a spoon or ladle. The curved blade allows for smooth, round cuts and an even finish on concave work.


A few key saws, including coping saws, folding saws and Japanese flush cutting saws, are part of many woodworkers’ kits. If using found wood, you may want an old-fashioned handsaw to cut the piece to size. If you are cutting branches, you can choose a folding saw. Folding saws comes in various lengths and are a great multipurpose tool for any camper. A coping saw is a finer blade and allows the carver to make tight cuts around curved areas. A single handle and frame can accommodate different blades for different jobs. A Japanese saw is long bladed with teeth on both sides.


A few other key accessories for beginners include a pair of safety gloves, a sharpening tool and a hatchet or ax. While on the learning curve, you should protect your hands with a good pair of gloves. Every carver will also need to sharpen their blades and there are several methods for that. A sharpening stone or leather strop are good tools to have.. A good axe and sharpening tool will be handy if you choose wood in the wild.


Women’s Woodcarving and Whittling on Facebook

National Woodcarvers Association,

Anne of All Trades on YouTube,

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