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Whittling.....does anybody do it?

Kodiak PA

Gold Member
Dec 3, 1998
One of the neat things that my boys and I are enjoying is hiking to the beach, finding some drift wood and whittle to our hearts content.

We looks like fools at times, something out of that movie Edward Scissor Hands.

Does anyone else like to whittle? And tips would be appreciated like what other tools are needed for projects, any book recommendations, what type of wood you like and what are some of the projects you have made.

For me, the only projects I have completed are a bunch of pointy sticks.



Every once in a while I find some drift wood worthy of carving on, the best is actually cottonwood bark. I also do some soapstone from time to time, and all of it is done with my pocket knives. (Guess what I carved for my friends back in the day when I was a little miscreant......hehehe....I don't miss my good ol' days.)


Why of course
!! I still have a 5.5' wormwood hiking staff with carved handle and decorative rings that I fashioned while chaparoning some girl scouts a few years back.

Biggest project I did started innocently with the boy scouts. They had a display of some type up (exactly what now escapes me) and I had carved 4 inch high numbers representing their troop in 2" diameter round stakes. Next thing I knew, the counsel asked me to fashion several dozen stakes with lettering and numbers they wanted. Took quite a while and when done I didn't want to see a piece of wood again for a l-o-n-g time (but time heals such things.)


Keep yer powder dry and cutters hair poppin' sharp!

[This message has been edited by bald1 (edited 24 January 1999).]
I like to whittle when out in the wilderness. Usually I pick up a good walking stick and modify it while sitting around the campfire.

Honestly though, I feel the blade on my SAK is the best one I have for whittling. Never tried my leopard cub, though. I bet it'd be a good one.

What do you guys usually use for whittling?

Clay Fleischer

"10,000 Lemmings Can't Be Wrong!"
As a child I whittled many samurai swords. (Can you tell my ethnicity?) Now that I don't pretend to be a samurai warrior (?), what I do the most is sharpening pencils. We do not have a pencil sharpener in our home (by design). My kids have to bring their pencils to me; I pull out my knife (Spyders, BM's, MOD's, Busses, CS, or whatever I'm wearing at the moment) and sharpen them to their specification. Whittleing is very relaxing to me, especially when the knife is sharp and the wood soft. There is nothing like the feel of a sharp blade gliding through a smooth wood separating thin slivers, which falls silently to the trashcan. (Very much like the Zen moment.) This is one of the reasons why I do not like fully serrated blades.

When I want to whittle seriously (to make toy animals for my kids), I pull out my favorite, the pearl handled four blade Fighting Rooster stockman. I don't have to do a good job. My kids love them anyway.


Yes, I do whittle. When I was a boy, I did normal kid stuff like walking sticks, wood knives, whistles, etc. As an adult, I just re-kindled my interst about 2 months ago. The very limited knowledge I have gained recently is as follows.

The best woods to use for whittling are cedar, soft white or sugar pine, and basswood. I found a large size assortment of basswood at a local hobby shop. I purchased a block of basswood approximately 4"x4"x15" for $9. I have rip sawed it into many pieces for various projects. That $9 block will last me a long long time. I found the basswood is very nice to work with, but I can not compare to the other types of wood.

A couple months ago when I got started, I decided to used a simple folding jack knife similar to what I had as a boy. A local store had their Uncle Henry 897 Stockman 3-blade jack knifes on sale ($20 reduced to $10). I bought one and have used it as my exclusive knife for the above projects. I use the sheepsfoot blade for scoring/heavier work, and the clip point for finer work. This knife is certainly not optimum for the job at hand. It it probably smartest to use a lock back or some type of Xacto carving knife set, but I went for traditional simplicity.

I have carved 5 ornamental "ball in cage" projects. They are about 3/4" square by 3" long. The the carving time varied from 13 hours (first one ever) to 8 hours on the fifth one. I usually carve for about 1-2 hours at a sitting.

I am just completing a candle stick holder "ball in cage" project. I probably have 30
to 40 hours wrapped up in this one. This one probably has 10+ hours that I would not normally have, but my wife wanted it stained. So I put in extra effort to smooth the piece prior to staining.

I am going to try a wooden chain next.

I have listed two books below. I was able to find the "Hobo and Tramp Art Carving" book listed below at a local library. It gave me some nice history, great pictures/ideas, but was light on instruction.

"Hobo and Tramp Art Carving"
by Patrick E. Spielman
128 pages in color
ISBN: 080693185X
Sterling Publishing Co, Inc: $16.95 + $3 S&H
(800) 848-1186
Barnes & Noble: $13.56

"Old Time Whittling"
by Keith Randich
60 pages , 54 pictures/drawings , 5.5"x8 1/2"
$9.95 ppd

Keith Randich
211 Wood Smoke Lane
Greece, NY 14612-2255
??? Rochester, NY 14612-2255
Phone: (716) 588-6442

Best Regards, Todd
I do (whittle) and really relax with that. Whittling is, or has been, a very common pastime in Finland, the land of Puukkos. I did that as a boy, of course, but at least two decades went without whittling. Not more than six-seven years ago I found it again. I guess, I just had to do something sensible, for a change.

For reasons that I do not understand, I whittle mostly KNIVES. No matter what my initial intentions may be, but the end result usually seems an awful lot like a knife. The most recent example would be an AFCK (aspen wood, about four hours, an exact copy of the original, though not folding [trouble with the liner lock, hee-hee], except for the weight, a nice "soft" trainer; sorry, no pictures yet).

[This message has been edited by Markku Huttunen (edited 25 January 1999).]
I don't whittle in real life, but I always whittle some wood when testing out a knife. Why? Because I find whittling efficiency to be one of the best tests of edge performance. Yes, it's a push-cut test, but a knife that whittles well typically does well in every other test that has to do with cutting performance.

These are great replies. Thanks to all for the great tips & ideas.



I have a whittled wooden sword dated 1914 made by my mother when she was a little girl, so I guess it's in the blood. I've been whittling and woodcarving since I was old enough to access the tools in my father's workshop. I wore out a couple of good Boker three-blade stockman's knives (great steel, those Germans) on projects like wooden chains. Yellow cedar (cypress) from British Columbia is my favorite carving wood. A.E. Tangerman's classic book Whittling and Woodcarving has been reprinted many times; I think Lee Valley Tools (www.leevalley.com) carries it.
I too am a whittler. I had slowed down a bit lately, but with a new knife in hand, that cuts very well, I'm finding renewed interest in turning big blocks of wood into toothpicks. Once I get back in shape I can make some old letter opener shapes I used to whittle. Then if anyone gives me grief for wasting my time, I'll lie and say I'm going to sell the letter openers at the flea market!

Yeah, I guess you could say I whittle, I make little snakes and primitive animal forms, paint them in my own style and give them as gifts to family etc. The best knife that I have for this is a very short blade Anza knife(made here in San Diego county and fashioned from files), it takes a very keen edge and has a stubby semi-skinner witha bit of a point that works very well.
I once made a spoon when I was a girl scout (don't laugh) and lately I have made a walking staff (really easy, just smooth off the top and bottom) but what I'd really like to know is how do you whittle in the house without getting the shavings all one over the place. Anyone have any helpful hints?


We take a garbage bag and cut it open and place it underneath the trash can. For a larger receptacle use an brown paper grocery bag.

We still make a mess sometimes, though.