Whenever I show off my whittling collection to family and friends, they are always impressed and wonder how on earth am I able to make the carving they are holding out of a solid block of wood. Then when I say they should give it a try and that they would probably like it, they come up with a laundry list of excuses why not to do it.
Whittling is one of my favorite pastimes and doesn’t require lots of expensive tools or gadgets to get started. I have other hobbies that are far more expensive and require the activities to be done in specific locations.
You don’t need to have a bunch of skill or experience to start whittling, nor do you need to have specialized whittling tools, just a sharp knife, some wood, and a peaceful spot to sit and relax while you chip away at the piece of wood you are holding.
Here are 10 very good reasons why you should start whittling today!
You can’t get much simpler than whittling, just take your knife and start shaving wood. You don’t even have to whittle something into a figure of some sort, just take a stick and start cutting notches in the side or shave it down to a point.
Whittling is easy to do and requires very little equipment to get started. All you will need is a sharp knife and some wood to whittle. You can either shape the wood in an artistic way by creating a small figure, or you can take the non artistic approach by just shaving small slivers and notches out of the wood to pass the time.
One of the last things I made was a simple block of Swiss cheese. It just started out as a scrap wedge shaped block of wood left over from another project, and just by making little holes in the wedge with my knife I turned it into something fun! Maybe I should make a mouse to go with it….
If you are new to whittling, start small. Smaller whittling projects require less time and effort while providing lots of enjoyment and quicker results to keep you motivated.
The Tools and Supplies are Affordable
You don’t need lots of expensive equipment to start whittling, and you probably already have everything you need to get started today.
All you need to whittle is a nice quality knife, a piece of wood, and a way to keep the knife sharp. All of this can be found for less than $30 by finding an affordable knife that comes sharp out of the package, a sharpening tool like a leather strop with polishing compound or a fine grit stone, and a stick from the ground.
For example, the picture above shows a nice knife and nice leather strop that were all purchased for $30 shipped to my door. You can get cheaper strops or fine grit sharpening tools if you want for cheaper, but that is all you need for tools. The stick was picked up in my back yard and turned into a spoon quite easily with little effort.
If you want to see where to get some supplies, check out my One Stop Whittling Resource for Beginners to see where to find everything you will need.
It’s a Fun and Relaxing Pastime
Whittling is one of those hobbies that you can just focus on what is in front of you and not worry about the world around you. It allows you to really get into your project and is a nice relaxing activity that can make the time fly by.
I have myself started whittling on a few projects in the garage and before I knew it, it was nearly 1 o’ clock in the morning! I was having such a good time that I didn’t even realize that I had been whittling for well over 4 hours!
On those few days that work proves to be extra challenging, I can just sit down and start whittling something new to ease my mind off of the stresses of the day. Sometimes I don’t even start with an end goal in mind and just start chipping away at the wood until something comes to me. More than once have I whittled a stick to nothing and just grabbed another to do the same.
Even the act of sharpening your knives is relaxing to me. The calm, repetitive motion of slowly removing steel to a fine and sharp edge can be quite enjoyable. My wife claims that I enjoy stropping my knifes more than I do whittling sometimes, she might be right.
You Probably Have Everything You Need to Get Started
Most people I know have a pocket knife of some sort and a yard full of sticks. That right there is the basics for getting started!
You may not have to buy anything as most people already have some sort of knife they can use or even carry around with them, sticks or scrap pieces of wood, and a way to sharpen their knives. Right now at this moment I can go to at least 10 of my family and friends homes and start whittling with what they have available in their house and none of them whittle or carve wood.
The requirements are very low and what stops most people is thinking they need specialty tools to get started. Heck, I started whittling back in cub scouts with my trusty swiss army knife and whatever piece of wood I found on the ground while camping. I even had a sharpening stone with me to keep my knife sharp after I used it.
Make Personalized Gifts for Family and Friends
Lets face it, finding a gift for someone who has everything can be a chore and super hard to do. The best way around this that I have found is to make something unique and just for them out of wood!
My parents may be the type of people to give gifts to others, but fining them a gift that they will appreciate is hard. But one thing they love is when I make a sculpture of some sort for them to put on display. It’s easy to know what they like by just walking around their house and knowing their own hobbies. A simple visit can provide lots of inspiration for what to make for their next gift.
Decorate Your House With Exactly What You Want
Lots of people have a theme to their home decor or even a themed shelf with various knickknacks. Finding the right item to fill an empty space can be hard to do unless you know how to make it!
My wife loves to put my various creations around the house on several different book shelves and even on her work desk. Right now she has a little “critter corner” with several of her favorite sculptures I have made and I see her rearranging them every now and then.
Make Your Own Christmas Ornaments
One of the things my wife and I do every year is get a new Christmas ornament for the tree. We either find them on our travels, have someone else make them, or just make them ourselves if we don’t find the right one.
I also make a new ornaments for my parents as well and have been doing so ever since I was a kid. They don’t have to be Christmas themed either, sometimes personalized ornaments go a long way as a gift if you can’t find something to give them.
Helps to Improve Motor Skills
One thing that whittling has done for me is improve motor skills and hand eye coordination. I believe the constant and repetitive cutting movements combined with focus and intent really help you understand where your hands will be and where they are going.
I think one of the reasons why some people may feel like they are bad at carving or whittling is because they need more practice knowing how to hold and manipulate the knife to shape the wood. They may not have yet learned how much force they need to apply, what angle to cut at, or how to trim the side of the figure they are working on without accidentally chopping off a section of the wood they wanted to keep attached.
Sometimes I do get carried away and apply too much force or cut at the wrong angle, and then have to try and reshape the project to adapt to the awkward cut I just made. I’m not perfect but I also don’t strive for perfection in my carvings either.
It’s An Easy Activity to Clean Up After Your Done
One of the things I really like about whittling over carpentry and stone carving (yep, I make soapstone and alabaster sculptures too) is the ease of cleaning up. I am not usually covered in wood shavings or stone dust and can just sweep away the wood chips from my work bench.
I probably only spend 10-15 seconds sweeping off my workbench of all the wood chippings per project.
I you are working outside, you could even leave the chips on the ground to decompose naturally or whittle right into a fire pit and use the shavings to start a fire.
You Could Make Some Money
Now if you want to add more incentive to make cute figures out of wood, you could always try your hand at selling these at craft fairs, online, or at specialized events like dog shows.
Some cities have a farmers market that they can go to and sell things to the public. My city has one that is free to attend and is free to set up a table (have to coordinate with the planner first). This can provide an extra bit of cash to feed your hobby or extra spending cash for what ever you may want!
If you are ready to get started, check out my One Stop Whittling Resource Page for more information.