How to Whittle – Guest Post

In an effort to continually bring you great information not just from myself, I am pleased to have Nathan Dobson from Best Wood Carving Tools bring us a guest post. Check him out on Twitter as well @MasterCarving

logoHow To Whittle

There are several styles of wood carving; the most popular is whittling. This artful skill has no age requirement. It is even taught to boy scouts at a young age and some of the best whittlers can be as old as their grandfather!

The artful craft is most popular because there are only two things you need to get before beginning, although there are safety tips and cutting techniques to know before chopping anything up.


A knife and wood are all that is needed to start whittling. Also, sharpening stones and compound are helpful for taking care of the knife, but for now wood and a knife will be perfect. Not just any knife will be ideal for carving wood, there are a couple details which make up the best whittling knife.

Whittling knife – Make sure the blade is made out of carbon steel, it does wonders against wooden projects and it stays sharp longer than other types of steel. The only issue you need to consider is rust, but as long as it is not stored in a moist environment, it will be just fine.

Wood – I’ve always thought that the best wood to begin with is whatever is readily available. Most beginning woodcarvers start with a soft wood with fine, even grain and no knots. A good example of wood grain is wooden school desk with dark lines running through it and the knots are the dark swirls that look like eyeballs. Basswood is a great wood for beginners to use because it has all of these ideal qualities!


Always use steps of safety to prevent hand injury. Although this is considered an art form, the tools used can do real damage if they aren’t used correctly!

Don’t use dull knives

Working with a sharp blade so closely to your hands is dangerous, but not near as dangerous as using a dull knife. A blunt edge won’t run through wood easily, in fact it will catch on to chips and will slip out. The amount of tension trying to get the blade to carve the wood will end up slicing your fingers. I’m speaking from experience here so sharpen those knives and wear hand protection.

Make a safety zone

Any objects, people, or animals within arms reach of the working environment are potentially a hazard. Before whittling, stand up with your arms fully extended and spin in a circle. If your hands touch anything then remove it to a farther position.

Carve with the grain

This safety tip is important for your project. Carving against the grain causes splints and chips that break off and can completely ruin it depending on how close you are to being finished.

Whittling techniques

Now that we have a good grasp on how to protect ourselves from harm, let’s learn how to actually use the equipment we have! There are plenty of other woodcarving techniques to learn, but these are the basic cuts to start with.

Push cut – This cut is to remove large portions of wood and is usually used at the beginning of a project. Grab on to the handle of the knife with the sharpest part of the blade facing away from you and run it along the wood while having a firm grasp around the handle. The more dramatic the angle of the blade is into the wood, the bigger the pieces of material will be removed.


Pairing cut – Use when you need to carve small amounts of wood. To do this cut, visualize how an apple is paired when taking the skin off, it is exactly the same way. Lodge the handle in the crease of your fingers with the spine against your fingers. Use your thumb to brace the wood and pull the blade along the surface of the wood.


Final Thoughts

Whittling is a fun and relaxing skill to learn for all ages. There are no limits to what you can start carving. Toys, wooden spoons, and even a present for a loved one are all great examples of what you are capable of. As long as you respect your tools and learn to handle them with care, they will handle your projects with equal respect! You can find all other guides, tutorials, and tools at the best wood carving tools website!

Thanks again to Nathan for doing a great job and keeping us informed.

Until then,

Use your instincts to survive