Wood Carving Guide

How to Whittle? Guide for Beginners

Read our Beginner’s Guide, learn the basic types of cuts, and start whittling.

Whittling Guide for Beginners

To begin with, let’s figure out what whittling is and what is its advantage over carving. Unlike carving, which only adds to the object’s charm with its relief patterns and ornaments, the objects themselves are created by whittling. With only a pocket knife and a piece of wood, a craftsman can pass the time anywhere by creating an incredible wooden object.

Wood for whittling


So, you need at least a piece of good wood. Everything seems clear here, isn’t it?

But what type of wood should you choose to cut nice and easy?


Follow a few good and simple tips when choosing raw materials:


  • choose any kind of wood, as long as it is soft;
  • avoid wood with knots;
  • pay attention to the grain of the wood. It should be straight. 


The most popular wood species ideal for newcomers are:


This is perhaps one of the most demanded woods not only in whittling, but also in any woodworking craft. What is the secret of its popularity? Thanks to its fine grain, it is easy and pleasant to work with. Products made from basswood have a pleasant creamy shade. Finally, the icing on the cake is its accessibility and reasonable price.


Basswood’s competitor is balsa. It is soft and light, so even children love to make crafts out of it. So adult beginners will be even more able to come along with it.


Pine is a wonderful and soft tree. However, its structure is slightly coarser than that of basswood and balsa, so it is more difficult to work with it. However, this decent wood is held in high esteem by more experienced craftsmen. It is not surprising, because the items made from it look dignified and expensive. Therefore, you can also dare to give a new form to this wood.

These are the most common types of wood that can be easily found in a craft store. However, you don’t have to buy ready-made blocks to whittle. Almost any branch with trees growing nearby is suitable for this.

Knife for Whittling


For many years, wood craftsmen have used ordinary pocket knives. So a good pocket knife is a great tool to start with. 

To diversify the arsenal of tools, you can purchase a set of three knives designed specifically for whittling.

Their blades differ in size and shape, depending on the task and the delicacy of the whittled shape.

These knives have fixed blades, which means they don’t fold. They are not so easy to store and carry, but they are more durable and have a comfortable handle.

Types of Whittling Cuts

Having decided on the wood and the tool, it’s time to talk about the whittling process itself. There are three main cutting styles. If you master each of them, you will be able to rightfully call yourself a skilled craftsman.

The following instructions are given with a right-handed person in mind, but if you are not, just flip them.

  1. Rough Cutting. 

This style is used to give a piece of wood the rough shape of a future object. Take a piece of wood in your left hand, and move your right away from you, cutting off thin slices of wood. The main thing here is not to overdo it with force in order to prevent a split.

  1. Pull Stroke. 

This is the most common cutting style that suits more delicate cuts. In general, if you’ve ever peeled an apple, it’s the same here. The thumb of your right hand (better in a thumb guard) rests on the wood, and the blade moves towards you. 

  1. Push stroke.

Another type of cutting is used instead of pull stroke. In this case, the blade is directed away from you and the thumbs of the right and left hands, which are on the opposite side of the blade, push it forward and guide through the wood.

Tips and whittling Rules

To avoid trouble and make your job easier, follow these guidelines without asking why:

  1. Always keep your knives sharp.
  2. Do not rush.
  3. Wear protective gloves or at least a thumb guard.
  4. Cut along the grain.


And the last is not a rule, but rather advice – enjoy whittling!



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    July 20, 2021 at 8:34 am

    I am interested in expanding my designs. I can learn quickly and I’m looking for sharp knives that won’t break easily. Is there such a thing as blue or white steel like Japanese chisels?

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    Crazy Carver

    July 21, 2021 at 10:17 am

    Hi, Michael! We are working on a couple of different steels and I can’t give out too much info since we’re still creating prototypes. As far as some of the famous Japanese chisels, they use high carbon steel like Aoto and white steel like Shakudo. There is no real way to make these kinds of steels.

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    July 23, 2021 at 11:05 am

    I’ve been interested in woodworking since I was a kid, but I haven’t done much recently because my apartment doesn’t provide a place to work. My solution so far has been whittling. I’m wondering if you have any advice for cutting efficiently around curves and tight spaces with the tools available in my apartment? The only power tool I have is a small Black and Decker jigsaw.

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    July 23, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    I started whittling because I was living in an apartment too! It’s great to hear that carving is keeping you busy. There are a lot of tricks to working on curves and tight spaces with hand tools. And what you are asking is, I think, best found on youtube.

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    July 30, 2021 at 7:11 am

    Hi all! I’ve been wood carving for quite some time now, but have only had a regular pocket knife to work with. I love wood carving and want to upgrade my tools. Do any of you know a good brand or model? Thanks in advance!

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    Crazy Carver

    August 2, 2021 at 9:13 am

    A pocket knife is fine for a beginner. Once you get into it, I wouldn’t worry too much about upgrading until you are able to make an income from your work. That’s the only time I would recommend really spending some money on tools. As far as brands go, there are a LOT out there. It all comes down to what kind of carving you prefer.

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    August 3, 2021 at 9:12 am

    What is the difficulty in carving cherry wood, and do most carvers avoid it?

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    Crazy Carver

    August 3, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    Cherry wood is a beautiful soft reddish-brown color. It’s very easy to work with, but it becomes difficult once you start carving details that must be perfect or they will show up every time you look at your finished piece. Cherry tends to sand like butter, but any faults in the grain will show up when burning and finish

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