Since then I have always had one kind of pocket knife or another and whittled when the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes it’s nothing more than reducing a stick to a pile of chips, sometimes it’s carefully shaping the links of a chain out of a single piece of wood.
Anyone with sharp knife and a stick can whittle. It’s great fun, easy to learn and I have passed many pleasant hours whittling in camp.
I’ve listed some resources for learning how to whittle below.
The Little Book of Whittling
Chris Lubkemann’s book is the clearest, simplest beginners book and has the best treatment of choosing, modifying and sharpening a pocketknife suitable for whittling. Lubkemann concentrates on easy projects made with sticks – perfect for a leisurely afternoon in camp. Start with Lubkemann if you are a true beginner but more advanced whittlers will find good ideas and techniques too. Making a rooster from a forked stick is a great way for Scouts to practice knife skills for tote-n-chip. The Little Book of Whittling on Amazon.
Whittling and Woodcarving
Written in the thirties this is the whittler’s magnum opus. Classic whittling tricks and projects, soap carving, etc. Get this book, a pocket knife and a chunk of white pine. Find a shady tree or a park bench and whittle away. Want to make a pair of working box jointed wooden pliers?, a ball in a cage?, a wooden chain? Tangerman will walk you through the process step by step.I have a wooden chain with a ball in a cage hanging in the shop for people to casually discover. When they do my stock goes up three or four points right away. Whittling and Woodcarving on Amazon
The Art of Whittling
Many of the same projects and techniques from Tangerman’s book above, but better illustrated and described. The focus is more on puzzles and tricks but a good resource. The Art of Whittling on Amazon
You may want to get a pair of cut resistant (not cut proof) gloves. A sharp knife and good technique will help you avoid cuts more that gloves but when you are starting out you may find gloves are useful. Cut Resistant Kevlar Gloves on Amazon
You don’t need a fancy, expensive pocketknife or other specialized gear. While you can whittle with any knife you’ll get the best results from the ones I’ve included here. My favorite knife is the old Camillus “official whittler’s knife” pictured above that has been out of production for at least five years. Mine is twenty or so years old and still cuts like a champ. (I got the picture from Scoutknives.net, a great reference for anyone with an interest in Official Scout Knives).They do show up on eBay, but they may be pricey.
You’ll get change from a twenty dollar bill for either of the knives recommended by Chris Lubkemann – the Victorinox tinker and the Schrade two-blade jacknife – you’ll be doing most whittling with the smaller blade and Lubkemann suggests you modify this blade slightly.
Schrade Middleman Jack 2 Blade on Amazon