Instructables
This instructable covers basic wood whittling technique. You will learn a little bit about tools, wood, technique, and safety. Hopefully it will be enough to get you interested in learning!

Wood carving is not something you pick up over night; it requires a lot of patience and practice. What you will find, however, is that as you practice you will develop intuition that will allow you to tackle increasingly difficult problems on your own. It's an enjoyable and relaxing activity that I would recommend to anyone interested in learning a new skill.
 
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Step 1: Tools

Let's start with tools;

Knife
You're going to need a knife. While you could conceivably use any kind of sharp knife, I highly recommend investing in something nice... I use the chip carving knife pictured here. High quality tools are going to be hand-made with tempered steel that will cut better and last longer than the low quality stuff. There are chip carving knives with different shapes that will make difficult cuts a little easier, although they aren't necessary for the beginner.

Sharpening Supplies

You'll be putting your knife/knives through a lot of stress and thus you will need to sharpen them. You can buy sharpening stones or you can use a combination of 600+ grit sandpaper and water or oil. Any piece of leather will work as a strop. I won't get into sharpening in this instructable, however there are plenty of resources out there for you to learn.

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ckerr518 days ago

could you give me a specific brand or type of knife used? I tried searching for what was suggested and couldn't find it. I'm interested in picking it up as a hobby and the information was super helpful!

mwevre ckerr55 days ago

Get a knife from flexcut. I love them.

squidcraft12 days ago

could you use a pocket knife?

mikewhittler2 months ago

I've been whittling for 30 odd years & I would differ from the author in his choice of a straight edge blade. I have found that a curved edge allows many more types of cuts to be made & more easily with less force. This allows for much more sophisticated whittlings to be made, using gouge like hollow cutting making convex & concave surfaces. The image below is 4" tall & carved with a curved bladed knife alone.

aaaaa flower girl.jpg
biptybop3 months ago

if you made more you could play a really big dinosaur chess game

SwanRonson2 years ago
That's a pretty nice kangaroo you carved, but you forgot that Kangaroos also have ears. Unless this piece was meant to not have ears then you nailed it. Good work, be well.

bwhahhahah!

its a dinosaur :|
LOL
mooner773 years ago
Could you possibly use a x acto knife. And what tpe com wood would be the easiest Tony work for beginers. Thanx for any answrs d:

Cedar is a good soft wood and you can find it at a hardware store.

Also it smells good :)

Im having a harder time understanding the "Grain". Im new and would like to try whittling as a new Hobby. I have many because i like to keep occupied and to try things new. Do you have any more tips for a beginner? -Tyler
Grain, you see the lines in the wood. Always try to carve with the grain. When you must cut across it, go slow and make little cuts. As for what direction the tree grew, it makes a difference when you carve. If your knife or chisel starts to bite into the wood deeper than you want, turn the piece of wood 180 degrees and try it from that side. I've saved
many carvings from this tip.
Craftwright2 years ago
Hand carving tray a must have for all whittlers and wood carvers.

Check it out!
http://www.instructables.com/id/Carvers-Whittlers-Lap-Tray/
IMG_0959.JPG
"It's cheap and you should be able to find it locally".

You know this internet thing is global, right? Could you possibly explain what properties of basswood make it good for carving and suggest alternatives?

don't know about basswood but when I was into carving Lime was the wood to have. Very even and fine grain and also relatively soft to cut, but hard enough to wear well. Guy in our joinery had an epic eagle he'd carved from an old lump of lime. This is wittling (whitling? sp?) though so it may be different. We carved with fine chisels and gouges.

As for dry wood is best, I know wet wood will warp and crack as it dries but wood is just sooo easy to work when its green off the tree. Totally different though, I agree.
Lime is the same as linden and basswood, so you are talking about the same wood, although the exact species might be different. All three are names for various trees of the Tilia genus. Check out Tilia on Wikipedia if you want to know more.
 Now I'm curious. I'm no expert but I've done some carving and some projects, especially those that call for carving initially with an axe (my favorite part) call for using green wood.

Maybe it's just to make the initial rough work easier?
When he says find it locally he means at a nearby hardware store, not youre backyard
Hi Everybody and especially Schroeder8!

Basswood is a light colored,straight. even grained wood that is exceptionally easy to carve. In many parts of the world, it is called Linden. It is recommended as a beginning wood for most carvers. The grain is not pronounced and it will not conflict with the design of the carving. The structure of the wood is very consistent and that means that the cuts made find uniform resistance when the blade cuts through the wood. To understand the importance of this, think of pine. Pine has noticeable lines of harder, resinous wood that alternate with softer wood in between. When carving pine, the blade glides through the softer wood and has to be urged harder to go through the harder bits. Linden, or basswood, often has lengths that are free of knots which are another obstacle in the beginners carving experience.

As it was explained to me some time ago, any wood can be carved but some lend themselves to the process better than others. Basswood, pine, and butternut, all carve fairly easily and well. Butternut has a very noticeable grain [dark and light sections that look like lines] and so will compete with the overall lines of the design. This means that the carver must choose his or her project carefully.  Mahogany carves easily but along the grain and tends to leave a powdery deposit along with any chips. It is a sturdy wood but resists fine detail.

Hard woods, like walnut, hold details well but are harder to carve and darker so that the design often is harder to see. For woods like walnut or oak, gouges and chisels are often necessary to achieve what the artist is aiming at.

One interesting bit of information that seems to be counter intuitive is that your blade or tool must be sharper to carve soft woods than it needs to be to carve hard woods. Softer woods must be sliced through the grain and, if the tool is too dull, the grain simply gets crushed and detail is lost. Hard woods resist the cutting action of the tool and thus the tool slices through them more cleanly.

I do hope that this helps!

J.F.Kendall
that is cool i don't have the patients for wood but it looks like you do good job
It doesn't make sense that you would have patients for wood. Unless you were a doctor for trees or something of that sort. Have a good day, be well.
SwanRonson2 years ago
Good Information regarding the Basswood. I found it locally and it's a pleasure to work with
littl3d00d2 years ago
ruffly how tall is this figure?
Ray from RI2 years ago
I like to carve myself I use a different set up in the form of a carving knife... However I am more interested in what you have carved. What kind of critter/creature are you carving?
Very cool!
staylor252 years ago
wow! thanks man i really neede those pointers you are really good at explaining to 5 stars young man
it looks preagnint
You should DEFINATELY make an instructable for the dinosaur!
kcls4 years ago
You should enter the dinosaur contest!
kylestetz (author)  kcls4 years ago
!!!

i didn't even know about it! i most certainly will, thanks
what wood did you use to make the dinosaur???
mooner773 years ago
Com: of. Tony: Tony.
Wasagi4 years ago
 Excellent t Job! Sounds to me like that dinosaur would be a great wingman. Just go to bars with him, "Hey ladies, have you met my wooden dinosaur?" 

I can see no downsides to that at all!
dombeef Wasagi3 years ago
If there was an award for the funniest comment, this would be in the top five
 LOL! 
Me Neither.
You should post an instructable specifically for the Dinosaur
I agree
wisdom from my dad on how to carve a fish form wood "you take a block of wood and cut everything off that doesn't look lie a fish"
Hehe, love that one.
LoneWolf4 years ago
Wow you are good at this!!!!!!

Nice Instructable, you explained it very well considering how hard of a subject it is to explain on paper.
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