Whittling is an activity that involves carving and shaping of wood. It is an activity that has been practiced since time immemorial. This is a practice that dates back to the time when mankind was seeking means and ways of surviving. But over time and with the evolution of human and advancement of technology, it has become popular among different generations. Primarily, whittling is still practiced to date because people find some fulfilment from the practice. DIYers also find whittling to be a useful process in woodworking.
Typically, the art of crafting something, whether it is a small figurine or a big one, helps greatly in relaxing the mind and at the same time rewarding your body with some physical representation.
So I guess you are reading this piece because you want to become a whittler, aren’t you? But first you have to understand what whittling is and all the aspects that revolve around it. Whittling is primarily the removal of pare shavings or the cutting of small bits from a piece of wood. It is the most basic form of wood carving, but it is not the art of wood carving, as it is done today.
Essentially, you need a particular type of knife to perform this artistic activity. A whittling knife must be special enough to provide the precise amount of control and accuracy when crafting. Without a proper whittling knife, it becomes close to impossible to produce a beautiful carving that would give you a valuable piece of art.
As a culture, whittling has never been richer, and there is no particular time for anyone interested in this activity actually to start out on it. But there is one thing that you need to understand before you decide to venture into this practice, and one of the things you need to bear in mind is that you must have a good quality whittling knife to enjoy the art of whittling.
5 Characteristics of a whittling knife
Any topic that raises interest has to be elaborative when it comes to providing information regarding the particular tool. It is essential because it helps the readers, especially the novices to make sound and informed decisions when it comes to purchasing.
It is appropriate to provide a consensus in regards to the expected standards of an ideal whittling knife to obtain. Some of the few overall agreed –upon characteristics to factor in when looking for this kind of knife include the follow;
1. Shape of the blade
The blade is the most important part of any knife should be given utmost consideration. As in the case of a whittling knife, particular attention has to be paid to how it is shaped from top to bottom. You need to make sure that the blade you are choosing takes a relatively narrow from top to bottom shape. The reason for this mainly is because it makes it easy for you to cut through intricate sections. These are areas of mostly above 15 mm because the general purpose knives find it difficult to make good carvers hence the need for one that is comparatively thin.
2. Should have a Scandi grind
This term commonly refers to an edge that takes a triangular shape from top to the perfect point. If you look at most all-purpose knives, you will realize that they have what is known as a secondary bevel, which apparently not the best to use in controlled woodcarving. Choosing a knife with a Scandi grind means that you will be able to control it effectively even in the difficult angles to allow you to make beautiful and desirable carvings/shapes.
3. Comfortable handle
The perfect whittling knife ought to have a handle that not only offers comfort but that also provides adequate ease of use. These two features are not debatable as whittling is quite tasking and therefore will require a good quality knife that has a comfortable handle. It is essential to ensure that the whittling knife you are choosing offers comfort when used in different grips to make it easy in obtaining suitable carvings without causing discomfort to your hands or fingers.
4. Quality Steel blade
There are different types of woods that you will occasionally come across during your whittling experience. Some may be hardwood while other may be soft. Irrespective of the nature of wood, you need to ensure that you the knife for this activity have a strong steel blade.
It has to be durable to make it possible for it to endure the possible extreme conditions that it might undergo during the whittling process. It is also important to ensure that the blade can be sharpened easily and be able to retain the sharpness for a considerable period before going blunt or needing sharpening again.
5. Multiple blades
This is another characteristic of an ideal whittling knife. Traditionally, the knives for this purpose were made of a single blade, but over time, manufacturers have been producing those with multiple blades for convenience and ease of use. It is important that you get a knife that has multiple blades as this will allow you several options when it gets to crafting your wood to get different sizes with different shapes.
Multiple blades will also reduce the frequency of sharpening your knife. Ideally, you may also go for a single blade knife, but it is important to ensure that it offers versatility regarding usage.
These are some of the few characteristics that should make you look into when selecting a whittling knife. By carefully considering the above things, you can choose the best whittling knife there is and get to enjoy your whittling experiences.
Factors to consider when buying a suitable whittling knife
Be able to perfect your art of whittling or to be able to create intricate wood designs and shapes simply, you will need to have a well-shaped, high quality and sharp whittling knife.
But the major challenge is that most of the manufacturers tend to compromise on various aspects revolving around the design as a strategy of making their respective products to reach out to the wider target market for high returns.
It is more than important to ensure that you understand the variables when it comes to buying whittling tools and make the right choice. Here are some essential features to look out for when buying a whittling knife;
Type of steel
The kinds of steel material that is used in manufacturing the knife and the manner in which is it forged are integral elements that you have to consider. In many occasions, the manufacturers usually use the standardized stainless steels, which are resistant to wear rather than oriented to holding a razor-sharp high-performance edge.
When considering the type of knife blade to have, ensure that you go for anything with between 58 and 62 steel hardness as measured by Rockwell C scale. Anything that is below that measurement is unsuitable because it will be relatively light for you to obtain and retain the necessary razor-edge sharpness.
Edge of the knife
This is also another essential element that you must consider when buying a whittling knife. It primarily refers to the angle that your knife’s edge is designed with. It is vital to ensure that you regard it as important particularly when you are thinking of sharpening it yourself.
Some whittling knives often come with a factory edge of between 22 to 25 degrees on each side. However, depending on your preference, you may adjust it to suit your needs. But an ideal knife edge for whittling should be between 15 to 717 degrees as this will make it possible for you to obtain finer meticulous whittling.
Size and shape
These knives come in different shapes and sizes. These elements are vital because they help in determining the overall results that you will be able to obtain from your whittling efforts using that particular knife.
An ideal size and shape to go for should be narrow from top to bottom so that it can allow you to enjoy precision control when using it, especially in concave areas. It should also have a comparatively long and thin blade that has no excess belly i.e. the rounded piece at the edge towards the point.
When choosing these knives, it is important to ensure that you avoid going for the ones that have a blade guard or one that has a hilt. This is because these elements tend to get into the way hence unnecessary for whittling or even carving.
A handle of the knife is arguably one of the most important features that you must consider when looking for a whittling knife. You know that this practice is about controlling the knife to get the final shape that you desire. It, therefore, shows how valuable the material used in making the handle and the design is essential.
Firstly, ensure that the handle of that particular knife fits your hand perfectly. It helps in enhancing efficiency when undertaking the whittling process. But when you are making your purchase online, you also need to be cognizant of the fact that large handle in most cases fits well to both large and small hands, but the opposite is not factual.
Secondly, when you are buying a knife that has folds, it is necessary to make sure that it has a solid snap or it locks tightly. I believe you would never wish to have a flimsy or loose knife when working with on your wood.
We can never overlook the pricing factor when it comes to making a purchasing decision of this knife. Ordinarily, the cost ranges from one knife to the other depending on the manufacturer as well as the features that each particular knife presents. You need to buy one the suits your budget. It does not necessarily imply that the cheaply-priced whittling knives are of low quality. So much time as you can do your research well and determine the knife you are buying by purpose and your needs, you will be able to get one that is worth the price.
It does not sound like a serious consideration owing to the nature of the job it is designed to do, but you also need to go for one that appeals to the eye regarding design.
Going for one that is made of the smooth wooden handle. They always feel beautiful while holding in hand, last relatively longer and look fairly good. However, you should also realize that when it comes to making a choice by aesthetic value, it all narrows down to personal preference since some would go for plastic handles while other would choose to go for steel handles.
Safety measures when handling whittling knife
One thing that you should never disregard when it comes to carving woods when using this kind of knife is taking safety precautions. Remember this knife is a dangerous weapon that causes serious injuries when handled inappropriately.
The essence here is to inform you that you need to be extra careful when using this particular tool in carrying out your craft. Here are some of the measures that you need to undertake to stay safe when using a whittling knife.
Wear gloves when sharpening the edges
You can get severe cuts on your hand or fingers when sharpening the edges of the knife. You, therefore, need to ensure that you wear gloves to prevent your hand from such situations. When your hands are free from injuries, you will be able to enjoy each one of your whittling experience as well as be efficient in carving and shaping wood.
Store in suitable place
How you store your whittling knife is very important. You need to ensure that you store the knife away from the reach of children. This will prevent them from getting access to this tool and misuse it which may be dangerous as it could lead to injuries.
Also, ensure that you store the knife in such a way that the edge is not exposed to moisture because if it does, then it will become blunt. Moisture is also not good for steel blades. It tends to corrode steel surfaces of which it will make your knife ineffective.
Choose a fitting handle
Another significant safety measure is to ensure that you are using a knife that has a handle which fits the palms of your hands well. The importance of this is to reduce the chances of injury. A loose fitting whittling knife possess greater risks of injury as your hand can easily slip when you are carving wood and end up cutting it.
A well-fitting handle is also much more comfortable and will allow you adequate control over your carving movements
Tighten any loose joint
Again you also need to know that continue working with a whittling knife that has loose joints is dangerous. This is because you tend to apply pressure and control of the knife when carving the wood, which may later lead to breaking of the loose joint and eventually harming you in one way or the other. You, therefore, should not take such loosening for granted.
Anytime you notice a loose joint, tighten it in place before you proceed to use the knife.
As mentioned previously, whittling is an ancient practice. It is a craft that is beautifully contemplative and can also be meditative. At the end of the day, it is always the aftermath that matters and nothing else. Therefore if you actually want to engage yourself in whittling and see how well you fare on, wait no more! Get yourself the best whittling knife there is, learn the art and enjoy while you can.
As you pick the knife, try as much as possible to keep in mind the features discussed above, also ensure that you care for it well to be able to enjoy whittling for longer. Here are 5 maintenance tips: how to maintain whittling knife to help you care for your knife.