Whittling Techniques


First thing is to choose the right blade for the task at hand . Are you moving wood or are you rough shaping or are you detailing all need different blades as choice ie sheep’s foot , standard blade shape or a narrow finer pointed one.                                                                                                                                Next make sure your blade is sharp even keen as this makes it so much easier that battling you work piece especially if the wood is a harder type .Also a blunt blade tires out your hand and even results in cramping.
To avoid cutting yourself and getting blood over your work you should always wear a thumb guard[s] and or mesh glove

Types of Whittling Cuts
There are several cutting styles in whittling, and here below we’ll just stick with the basics most well known for the purposes now.

Straight Rough Cut

Whittle or Carving using Sweeping Cut
Sweep or Rough Cut

This cut is used at the very start of your project to carve out the basic bulk to your project size. Hold the wood with one hand and your knife firmly in your other. Make a long, sweep slice cuts with the grain across and away from your body. Don’t cut too deep or and start making several, light slices to eventually reduce the wood to the desired size and shape.

 Thumb Pushing ( Push Stroke)

Whittle or Wood Carving a Thumb Push
Thumb Push

Sometimes where you want to cut won’t allow you to do the pull stroke. That’s when it’s time to bust out the push stroke. Hold the wood piece in one hand and the knife firmly in other with the blade facing away from you. Place both your right and left thumbs on the back spine of the knife blade. Now cut by pushing the blade away from your body with your thumbs using these alternately to cut and steer to direction the of the blade through the wood. This cut has a good deal of control to it.
The push stroke, like the pull stroke, gives you greater control over your knife for detailed cuts.

  Pare Cut (Pull Stroke)

Pull Cut for Whitling or Carving
Pare or Pull Cut

    This is the most used cut in whittling. To perform this cut, imagine you’re peeling a potato. Hold the wood firmly in one hand , with the knife in the other with the blade facing inward. Position the thumb of that hand against the wood, and squeeze those fingers inward in order to draw the blade toward your thumb that hols the knife. Make your stroke short and controlled. Keep that thumb out of the path of the oncoming blade. It is a good idea to wear a thumb pad and or a mesh glove to avoid cutting yourself.

     There are different schools of thought about straight edge and curved edge blades for whittling and carving .Some have found that a curved edge allows many more types of cuts to be made & more easily with less force. This allows for a much wider range of whittling cuts to be made.
You ca also gouge easier and achieve hollow cutting therefore making convex or concave surfaces.
Other Cutting Techniques

AXE cutting
   There is a historical decorative technique  which is in Norway using an axe  to create a herring bone pattern called "Splash whittling". Axe chopping or cutting is some time used especially in foreign ethnically differing communities such as in Asia or Africa

  Here it is useful to mention the terms whittling and carving .These are some times used interchangeably, but they are different arts. Carving employs the use of mallets, chisels or gouging tools while for the purist whittling involves using only knife. Also Carving frequently uses powered equipment such as drilling machines, routers and lathes. About the most that whittlers deviate would be the use of specialized gouging tools and these are often included in the set of whittling kits sold today.
Specialized whittling knives, with fixed single blades, are preferred for sculpting artistic work. They have thick handles which are easier to grip for long periods, allowing more precise control and pressure.



This is apparently the oldest technique for wood carving. It involves carving a pattern into the wood base which is very often flat stock piece to form a pattern or decoration. Because the depth is relatively shallow the removal of the wood looks like chips hence the name. The type of things that are chip carved are for items like plates, bowls, canes or walking sticks, boxes [round or square]and boards .
Because this technique is regarded as the most simple it is a good staring point for whittlers and wood carvers to begin with on just a new wood blank or to add decoration to an existing piece is the easiest way to begin with your journey of whittling and wood carving.

Add the Pattern
There are a wealth of patterns that can be sourced and use here. After accessing these you can enlarge these or reduce these to suite the area
Sourcing and Placing the Pattern
Using tracing paper with the pattern on and carbon paper you should transfer this to the surface by tracing this out

The work need to be holding down and here you may do this either by clamped the piece in a vice or with clamps on say a table or need to use a fixed substrate surface board the you screw the work down with say custom wood pieces that have drilled holes and can as mini clamps and be screwed down to the flat wood platform


The  wood carving technique for chip carving is basically two dimensional so it involves just following the pattern outline with the carving tool which is usually a V cut chisel or a curved gouging chisel of different depths or curvatures. So the skill is in guiding the chisel along the pattern lines at the depth needed which is one predetermined depth / And that's  it. Like following a trail. Its all about control and consistency. A good training point for future skill development.

Sharpening your knife

Sharpening and honing your whittling knife and tools
Every whittler or wood carver needs to sharpen their wood working tools and keep these in top shape.
The degree of difficulty is not big and requires one to get a feel of the technique
and after a while it becomes second nature.You need some sharpening stones, grit sand papers a leather strop and some honing compound

There are a variety of stones of type and grit . There are wet stones and dry stones. There are stones
such as Arkansas and Japanese wet stones. There are compound stones which are formulated from grit and resin.
To be effective theses stones work best with water,oil or dry .You will need to read purchasing directions as to what these are for and to follows best practice here from the instruction sheets.
These stones cone in different shapes which you need to have for different sharpening requirements.
Here a good idea is to go to various hardware or hobbyist shops to get the feel as to what is in the
marketplace . 
Ceramic stones are very convenient as they operate dry and are easily cleaned up with detergent for next use
Also they do not develop a wearing groove causing the knife edge to be sharpened out of the plan you want it
to be.Also Wear on these stones requires the stone surface to normally be dressed

Sharpening a shaped knife edge means to bring this to a razor edge again. Here the tools and technique can be
brought down to a very simple procedure.For the first step you need a flat surface such as a
wooden block or even a table top and drag the edge of the blade at a roughly 12 degree angle with the long edge held at 90 degree to the direction of dragging along the wet
surface of 400grit paper . This angle is called the secondary angle or bevel of the blade sideways profile.
The primary  angle is the included angle between the knifes surface as originally supplied by the manufacturer.
To sharpen and hone you will need to angle the knife again to this 12 degree angle and sharpen in this
position. This is the first stage and is primarily to remove any fin nicks or damage to the blade.
You then repeat this using a wet 600 grit paper. You can wash and re wet the paper from time to time.
To determine an eleven degree angle it is roughly equal to putting a coin under the spine edge of a one inch wide blade or you can cut a template from a piece of cardboard
To hone you sharpened edge you will need to strop this . This is done by using a strip if leather hide or tight felt piece and adding honing compound to it.