Wood carving knives - need some suggestions

Sep 24, 2000
OK, I am about to graduate form whittling with my SAK and a couple of old paring knives to one or more "real" carving blades.

Mostly I have tried my hand at carving walking sticks and expect to be doing more of this sort of work.

I have looked at a few swoodworking/carving sites and all feature a bewildering (to me!) selection.

So: any suggestions for getting started? Is it better to get one really good knife and add others later or go with a set of 2 or 3 or..?

Anyone wood carvers out there partial to particular brands/styles/sets? Any help most appreciated.
Nov 6, 1999
I would strongly recommend any of the knives from Flexcut. KN13 and KN14 will make a nice functional pair and cost less than $20 each. Woodcraft also carries nice carving knives.

What you what is something with a long (5 inches or more) handle and a relatively short blade (less than two inches), giving lots of leverage. Fixed blade carving knives are much better than any sort of folding knife because of ergonomic handle shapes and long handle to blade length ratios. I would also suggest finding a good whittling book which explains common cuts and how to make them safely. Many whittling cuts are down towards your body and fingers and there are ways to hold the knife and the wood so that you can apply a lot of cutting force without losing control of the blade.

I primarily use two custom carving knives, one for roughing out (2" blade) and a very pointy detail knife (about a 1 inch blade). I use the flexcut palm and standard gouges for non-whittling projects like panels and larger sculptural pieces.

The Flexcut knives are inexpensive and made from properly hardened high carbon tool steel. They use very thin steel with a flat ground blade that's ideal for whittling. Have a look at their other tools as well. The company makes great products at very reasonable prices.

Happy whittling and carving!

Flexcut knives
Mar 5, 2003
Maury -

Paracelsus has given you some good advice above. The trick is to find the handle shape that best fits your hand for extended periods and in a variety of grips, and that has has a good carbon steel blade. I have several Flexcut palm gouges, and like the steel and shank flexability alot, but I don't find their knife handles suit me.

My favourite is the Rick Butz carving knife, which you can see on the www.woodcraft.com site, under 'carving', then 'knives' (sorry, don't appear to be able to post the link). That, and a strop will get you started. For a detail knife I use a custom Pinewood Forge detail blade of O1 tool steel (www.pinewoodforge.com) for $19. I have several others, but these are my favourites. I have one of the "Oar Carver" folding carving knives, actually made by Queen of D2 tool steel, if you want to talk folders. The blades took me days to sharpen down to 'wood carving quality' and they now cut common carving woods like butter, but I wouldn't want to use it for long periods due to comfort.

I would also suggest a good carving book to get you started. Best that covers all the different types of carving and tool care is also by Rick Butz, and is also available through Woodcraft, under 'carving', then 'carving books'.

Welcome to a new hobby, just as addictive as collecting knives, but at least these ones cost a little less.

Apr 20, 2001
Another recommendation for the Flexcut tools. They're great carving tools. One thing I'd like to add though is that you may want to go with some carving gouges and chisels rather than a knife if you're interested in doing a lot of carving. I always carry a stockman for whittling on the run but for sitting down and carving, I like my carving tools. A good book on carving can also get you going pretty well.

Good luck!

Mar 10, 2001
Speaking of carving knives:

Does anyone know how to find X-Acto on the Web, all I could find was an unaccessabe site for dealers.

thanks, A. G.
Nov 6, 1999
X-acto knives web site

Edit: Oops, posted link too soon. It looks like that site is a distributor site, not the company itself. I looked around a little but was unable to find the actual company web site, if one exists. Sorry.
Feb 11, 2003
A good carving knife really cuts much better and you will have more control in your carving. Just out of curiosity what do you carve/whittle?
I would reccomend two catalogs to you the first is Woodcraft their phone number is 1-800-535-4486, the second (and my favorite) is Sugar Pine their number is 1-800-452-2783. Sugar Pines web-site is www.sugarpinewoodcarving.com If you have not carved sugar pine you should try it. I carved bass wood for a long time and still use it some, but sugar pine is a joy to carve. Sugar pine has a very crisp feal under the knife. Try it you will like it.
Both the above companies cary a good selection of knives. I personally like a blade of approx 2 inches in length with a straight edge. The flex cut knives are very good, but my personal preference is for Knott's knives. Sugar Pine sells them or you can order directly from knott's knives. Knott's knives web-site is www.knottsknives.com I like the back to basic #6, and the S6. Knotts has a beginers combination that includes two knives and a strop for 80.00 that looked good.
Sugar pine also carries two more inexpensive knives that will serve well. The bench knife at approx 12.00 and the Murphy 1 7/8" at 10.00. Happy carving.