In this guide, we are going to tell you how to whittle wood. Wood whittling is a type of wood carving so before we start to talk about whittling the wood, we are going to give you some information about wood carving, also.
From the very beginning of ancient times, materials that are made with wood have been used for various purposes. Wood carving іѕ а method that different objects or models аrе carved оr shaped from wood. It has different types and every type of wood carving has its own differences like the kind of wood and knives you are using, the method you choose, and more.
Types of Wood Carving
Wood carving is a wide hobby with lots of types. Actually, we come across different wood carving methods without knowing how they were made every day. The most popular types are relief carving, wood sculping, chip carving, and of course, wood whittling.
1. Relief Carving
Relief carving can be easily described as “carving figures in wood”. It is made of a flat wood panel. Like most of the other types of wood carving, it always begins with designing. The most common tools that are used in relief carving are chisels, gouges, and a mallet.
2. Chip Carving
This style of wood carving is a traditional folk art in some countries. It is a type of carving that is made by knives or chisels. By these tools, the carvers remove small pieces of a flat wood’s surface in a single piece
3. Wood Whittling
Wood whittling is the most popular style of wood carving. It is usually made by small-bladed knives but recently specialized whittling knives with single blades have become more popular. Wood whittling is basically a constant process shaving slivers from a piece of wood. In the past, humans used this style for their benefits, for the most basic example, they made artillery by whittling wood. They also whittle woods to create artistic creations, home decorations.
How to Whittle Wood?
The answer to the question “How to whittle wood?” may seem like an easy one. Of course, it will get easy with practice but you must remember that wood whittling is not something you can learn overnight. There are phases you should go through before starting whittling, there are different kinds of tools, even different kind woods. We are here to show you where you should start before starting wood whittling.
1. How to Get Prepared for Wood Whittling?
a. Sketch Drawing
Planning is the most important part of any job. Before you even touch the knives or find the wood you should use, you should plan to make it right. You will want to start with a sketch drawing to be a guide for you when you start whittling wood. Your sketch basically should show you want your wood to look like in the end. Do not underestimate this step and jump right in the next one because sketch drawing is the beginning of everything on this road. As you start to plan, it will be easier to imagine your work and this will even help you to decide what kind of tool you should use or what the perfect wood for your work.
b. Tool Selection
As soon as you finish your sketch drawing, you will figure out what kind of tool and wood you should use. There are plenty of tools for specific usage. We are going to give you more details later but before you start wood whittling you should know that there are a lot of tools for different usages. For example, the hook knife is used for drawing a layout in your wood or detail knife is used for you to work details on your wood. Also, deciding on what kind of tree’s wood you will use is another important step. Since the color of the wood and the grains on it will affect your work, you should choose wisely.
After you draw the sketch of your work, choose the right tools and wood you will work on, you can start doing your last preparations. Sharpen your knife, wear your thumb guard and you are ready to start.
2. Basic Wood Whittling Tools
Knowing your tools and what they are used for is important. As we mentioned before, there are plenty of tools for wood whittling and all of these tools are used for something else. When you start memorizing them and their usages, your job will be easier.
a. Pocket Knife
If you are a beginner and don’t want to right dig in wood whittling, you can start with basic pocket knives to test yourself if it’s the right hobby for you. It is cheap, easily accessible and you can learn how to hold it properly faster. Because of these reasons, it is perfect for beginners. Even though it is easier to use a pocket knife, remember that its blade should be sharp enough for good works.
b. Whittling Knife
Whittling knives are almost similar to pocket knives but they are made especially for wood whittling. As you get used to holding a knife, whittling the wood, these knives will be your savior.
c. All-purpose Knife
These kinds of knives, as they say in their name, are literally for all-purposes. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, or you are a carver, you will need this knife because it is used for both softwoods and hardwoods. With its thin pointed tip, you can even work on details of your work.
d. Detail Knife
The detail knife is basically for your close work. This knife has a smaller blade than other knives and a pointed tip. After you finish overall of your work, you need this knife for small details without ruining the rest of the work.
Gouges are for carve grooves without the corners of the tool ruining the wood. With this tool, you will be able to remove the parts that you don’t need in your wood. If there are bumps in your flat wood, a gouge will help you.
V-tools are similar to gouges. They are also used to carve grooves but these tools have a shape of “v” instead of the curvy shape of a gouge. With a V-tool, you can add some details on your work like fur texture or you can outline the elements on your whittling
3. Types of Woods for Wood Whittling
In wood carving, you can use both hardwoods and softwoods but when it comes to wood whittling, it might be hard to work with hardwood, especially if you are a beginner. Hardwoods have knots and growth rings more than softwoods so the grain goes multiple directions. Softwoods, on the other hand, have straight grains and it will be easy for you to begin whittling the wood with them.
Basswoods are woods with a light grain. It is so easy to whittle them, you don’t even need to have advanced tools. We can easily say that it is the best kind of wood for beginners.
Butternut has rougher grains than Basswood but it is very easy to chip these grains away. It is also a common wood, you can even find them in forests.
Balsa has straight grains and it makes it so easier to whittle on. It is dark brown wood but as you start to whittle, it will turn into yellow. Isn’t it so cool?
It is cheap, soft, and you can rely on it for this job. It is easy to identify and many in the field. Dried and dying pine branches can be used for your chipping practice.
Whittling the wood means you will using knives, there will be a lot of little wood chips, and there will be a lot of dust. So, safety is the first rule on your road to learning how to whittle wood. There are some safety tips for you.
- Carving Gloves
You should get yourself carving gloves before you start wood whittling. It doesn’t even matter if you are using a simple knife. You will want to use a carving glove on the hand that holds the carving to avoid cutting yourself.
- Thumb Guard
While you are wearing a carving glove on your one hand, you should wear a thumb guard on the hand that you hold the knife. Like the carving gloves, it will help you to prevent cuts.
- Sharpen Your Knife
If you are having trouble while whittling, it means you need to sharpen your knife. It is the safest way to avoid any unexpected situations.
- Protect Your Eyes and Mouth
Other most important safety rules of wood whittling are protecting your eyes and mouth. While you are whittling the wood, there will be small wood chips flying away and you don’t want them to get into your eyes or mouth. So, don’t forget to wear eye goggles and a dust mask.
Tips on How to Whittle Wood
- Start with Basics
As a beginner, it will take some time for you to get used to all of these tools and cutting techniques. Don’t forget that you need to take some time, start with basics, whittling the wood slowly, and soon, you will see your process.
- Learn How to Hold a Knife
Of course, choosing the right tool and right wood is so important when you begin to whittling the wood but at first, you need to learn how to hold a knife. It will give you a great advantage as you start wood whittling. Also, it will help you to avoid accidents.
- Do Not Cut Across the Grain
After you find which way the grain goes, start carving with the grain, not across it. Cuts against the grain cause your wood to split and tear. Plus, it is harder and more dangerous to cut across the grain.
In the beginning, wood whittling can seem so difficult and complex but please remember that practice makes perfect. Start with basics, protect yourself, and make mistakes. Soon, you will figure out how to whittle wood perfectly. On this road, have fun.
Nazlıcan Ay is a freelance writer for hire who creates original content for websites and blogs. She studies American Studies at university. When she is not working, she is reading poems and her biggest dream is to run her own boutique hotel one day.