So you want to whittle wood. Good for you. Whittling is the simple removal of pare shavings or cutting small bits from a piece of wood with a knife. No more, no less. So what does it take to become a good whittler?
To become a good whittler, you’ll need to know several things. You’ll need to know how to choose the right wood and the right knife. You’ll want to know some basic whittling techniques and just a bit about maintenance and storage.
Choosing the Wood.
æ Soft woods are best for whittling. Pine cuts very folding knife easily but isn’t able to hold detail well. Basswood and Balsa are also very popular.
æ Birch, cedar and maple aren’t considered to be soft woods but they are often used for whittling.
æ When selecting wood for whittling, rely on two things: a straight grain and uniform color. A straight grain is usually a softer wood than crossed grains. Because changes in color usually mean changes in hardness, you’ll want to avoid this. When all else fails, press down on the wood with your thumbnail and rely on that to tell you how hard it is.
æ If whittling wood is difficult to purchase, you could check your local lumberyard for a scrap bin. You just might find a treasure trove.
Choosing the Knife. There is no one specific type or brand of knife that is best for whittling. Mostly, it’s a matter of comfort.
æ Avoid stainless steel knives. It isn’t easy to sharpen them correctly. Even when you do, they usually can’t hold a very sharp edge for too long. This is very inefficient and entirely avoidable.
æ Most whittlers like small knives that fit in the palm of your hand. Others like pocket knives, switchblade knives or folding knives (with lockable blades) that can be opened with one hand. Comfort and portability rule.