I think that wood carving gains popularity as people are getting fed up with the exponential growth of technology in the last decades. Technology is great, I’m no technophobe, but I know lots of woodcarvers, including me, who turned to carving once they got sick of the LCD screen.
So, I believe that the future belongs to the “back to basics” trend. If you are that kind of guy (or a girl!), than let me introduce you to whittling. It’s a perfect hobby for anyone in need for a new hobby to settle their thoughts and create something useful yet beautiful.
Sometimes, the words “whittling” and “carving” are used interchangeably. In truth, they are quite similar, but they are not the same. Whittling is an older, simpler, and rustic version of carving. There are no drills, lathes, or sanders in whittling. It’s just you, your hands, a knife, and a piece of wood.
Whittling is a very gratifying craft. You don’t need much to do it, and what you do need, it’s usually not expensive. There are two basic things you need, and several accessories. The must-haves are
As for the knives, you can definitely start with a pocket knife, but remember that you need a really sharp knife. Also, in case you don’t want to purchase the professional wood carving knife, prepare that it will probably get dull quite often. Most knives aren’t made to last long if you are working with a material as hard as wood.
Regarding wood, it’s best to start with basswood, most beginners start like that, including me. However, any kind of softwood is great for beginners, such as pine. Again, if you don’t want to buy pre-made wood, next time you walk in the forest you can just pick up any piece of wood there and work with it.
Accessories that you will need are some sharpening tools (such as a paddle strop or sharpening stone) and protective gloves. Trust me, you want to have gloves in the beginning.
There’s no way to learn how to whittle by reading a text. However, it is definitely good to inform yourself before taking a particularly sharp knife in your hands. So I will write here what you should know before your first cut.
There are three basic types of whittling cuts. They basically refer to the way and direction you move the blade of the knife through the wood. Pay attention to the position of the thumbs of both hands, it’s them that dictate the cuts:
I already mentioned that using gloves is important, but there are some other things you should pay attention to. Be sure to take your time and fully focus on what you are doing. Learning a craft is something like learning to drive: at the beginning, you have to think a lot, before it gets automated. So, work in calm and safe surroundings, where no one can distract you in any way.
Also, keep your knives sharp. If they are dull, that will not only affect your nerves, but also your safety, as then they slip much more easily.
That was easy, right? The charm of whittling is in its simplicity. In this whittling for beginners guide, you could find all the necessary information to get started. The next thing you need to do is find some piece of wood that inspires you, grab some good knife, and start building your own whittling experience.