Saturday, August 25, 2018

Do as I say, not as I do!

When teaching or showing others how to carve, it is important to demonstrate how to safely and properly use the tools.  All of us develop bad and unsafe habits when we carve.  I think it is critical to set a good example when we ourselves carve, especially in the presence of those we instruct.  But really all the time.  Thus the old saying DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO.

I am one who needs to be reminded of this all the time.  For the past month, I have made a real effort to apply all the safe whittling techniques that I try to offer in instruction.  This effort started out with thumb guards, and progressed to safe knife use.  This means that I have had to slow down a bit and think before I make knife cuts.

Guess what?  No knife sticks or cuts!  No blood!  And another bonus; cleaner finished pieces.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

More simplified Flat Plane whittling

These are so easy and fun once you cut the blank.  I really don't think I need to add the step by step.  I am using these as first projects for beginners to learn and practice knife cuts for whittling.  Most will complete at least one animal, and be excited about it too.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


I've said it before and I'll keep on saying it.  "When teaching beginners to whittle, the most important thing is to be sure that they have a successful first experience".  For me, this means that  there is no blood. and that the beginner has a whittled item completed that they are proud of.   In order for this to happen you must select a project that is within the beginners ability.

After several tears worth of teaching newer carvers I have settled on the knife as a good first introduction to wood carving.  For most this would be called Whittling".  I start out with knife safety, followed by sharpening and blade maintenance.  I teach three basic knife cuts; STOP CUT, PUSH CUT, and PARING CUT.

I supply blanks cut from Basswood.  These blanks vary in thickness from 1/4" to 1".  I use the SIMPLIFIED FLAT PLANE STYLE.

Here is a typical first teaching project.


As one will notice, The knife cuts are all straight line cuts.  The cuts are either the result of a STOP CUT,  PUSH CUT, or a PARING OR PULL CUT.  You should also notice that this dog is small.  When teaching beginners I will usually prepare the blank with a "handle".

The ARROWS on the pattern indicate the direction of the grain.

To prepare the learners for this project, I usually have them practice the STOP CUT, PUSH CUT, AND PARING/PULL CUT  on a scrap piece of Basswood. Be sure to include practice with the GRAIN and against the GRAIN.

 After a bit of demonstration followed by practice making short corner stop cuts on scrap it's time to move to a blank.  The following photo shows the eight (8) stop cuts necessary for the Scottie dog.  These stop cuts are illustrated by the red lines.
There are any number of animals that lend themselves to the SIMPLIFIED FLAT PLANE whittling style.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Idea for an Excess of whittled items!

Sometimes I end up with quite a few small Santa heads, as a result of demonstrating whittling a small face.  Normal uses of these pieces have been to put either an EYE screw or a PIN BACK on them.
Last year I tried to think of another way to use the excess Santa's.  I settled on PARTY PICKS.  All I had to do was drill a hole in the bottom and place a skewer.

  I took a bunch to a local carving show/sale.  No interest at all!   The Santa's with a pin back and eye screws sold, but not the party picks.  Finally a young fellow stopped and picked one up and looked at it.  I said, "party pick".   He said, "swizzle stick"!  That's just what I need!  He said, I'm bar tender, and I need something special for some of my good customers, at Christmas time...This fellow was the only person who was able to see what he could do with the Santa skewers.  I gave him all ten for thanks...

I now display the SANTA SKEWERS with olives, and always sell out........NOTE - The olives are whittled too.

Monday, April 16, 2018

WHITTLING Small.........Advantages

Whittling "small" has its advantages.  Remember, "Whittling" is wood carving with a knife.

Your initial investment can be quite small.

An inexpensive bench knife or a home made knife.  A decent pocket knife.  Home made strop and some stropping compound.
My personal favorite pocket knife, but not really inexpensive anymore.  Single blade lock back

Smaller size Basswood.  I get freebies/scraps from other wood carvers.

Paper for a pattern and transfer paper to transfer the pattern to the wood.  Transfer paper used to called carbon paper.  Transfer paper can be found in most office supply stores, but don't ask for carbon paper (younger folks won't have any idea what you're asking for).

I would suggest, at least a thumb guard for the hand holding the knife.  A carving glove for the hand holding the wood is also most advised.

The main item left is a scroll saw.  This item will be necessary if you plan to whittle animals or other items that require  irregular cutting.  I would bet that if you don't have a scroll saw, one of your friends or neighbors do.

Time to get started!  But what is a "small" whittling?  This is kind of relative.  What is small to one person may be large to another.  When I say small, I mean the finished piece is no larger than 2" by 3" in size (plus or minus a smidgen).

Here's what I mean!  Here's dish pan of small flat plane whittled animals.


For this post we will focus on whittling small animals.  Kinda like the previous post, but with more detail.  

The animals that I whittle are in profile.  I like the profile because you get more of the complete animal.  I also think that the animal profile is much easier to cut out.

There are several ways to acquire illustrations of animals to make patterns from:
A.  Search for animal illustrations of the computer.
B.  Coloring books, or animal books.

You can make a copy of a selected animal from either of the two sources.  A word of caution!
Unless the animal illustration is copy right free, you may not wish to copy the illustration.  This is especially true if you plan to sell the finished piece.  However, there is usually no problem when you use an illustration as the pattern when whittling for you own enjoyment.  Lets face it, a profile of a chicken would be kinda hard to defend as a copy right protected illustration.....Enough of this!

Once you acquire a sized profile illustration of the animal on a piece of paper you are ready to transfer it onto the wood to be cut.

TIP  If have any thoughts of doing more than one whittled piece from the illustration, select a piece of wood a wee bit thicker than you need for your first blank.  Cut the animal out of the thicker wood and use the saw to "slice" off a pattern.  This thinner pattern will be easy to trace for additional blanks.

NOTE:  The key to safe and successful whittling is knife control.  I like to move the wood into the knife blade whenever possible, especially in making STOP CUTS; instead of moving the knife blade into the wood.

I also think that the most knife control is when you use the THUMB ASSISTED PUSH CUT and the THUMB ASSISTED PULL CUT.

Thumb Assisted Push Cut,  Your thumb acts as a fulcrum and / or to push.

Thumb assisted pull cut.  Your thumb acts as a STOP or a controlling BRAKE to prevent the knife blade from going too deep or too far.

NOTE:   Your knife cuts will also be easier to make when you use a slight SLICING of the blade.

NOTE:  You may be more comfortable if you leave a "HANDLE" on the smaller blanks.  The handle can be cut off after whittling is completed.

Whittling steps.   There's no set sequence.  Experience will tell you what works best for you.

STEP 1--------Make stop cuts separating legs from body, head from body, and comb from the head.  Narrow  the comb, the head. and the legs as shown.

STEP 2--------Begin the Flat Plane whittling.  Remove flat slices of wood on the edges that are  "flat" not curved.  Start with the head and the body.

NOTE:  In traditional carving/whittling you would use the knife to ROUND over the blanks edge, in flat plane you do not want to ROUND over the edge.  In flat plane you use the knife to create larger flat surfaces on the edge of the piece.
------Here's a side view so you can better see the flat planes on the head and the body.


STEP 3----Continue around the top of the body and tail feathers, to use the knife to taper the tail feathers to their "points"; then remove slices on the edges where the flat cuts are to create the flat planes.  Go to the head and make the knife cuts at the edges to create the flat planes there..Taper the front of the had and beak....

STEP  4---Finish the piece (paint or leave natural or stain).

And now for the biggest advantage to whittling small! 
Whittling small takes very little time.
It's getting to the season to take walks in the park. 
 Its getting to the season to sit in the park and whittle. 
I like to fill my pockets with small animal blanks, my pocket knife, and set and whittle.  Sometimes I sit in the park.  Other times at the marina docks.  Some times at the mall when my wife is shopping. 
One thing for certain is that kids will stop and watch, and ask a million questions.  I find it very satisfying to have a little whittled animal to give them.  Maybe when they are older they'll remember and give whittling a try..

Friday, April 6, 2018


Kids, and especially little kids love kittens.  I think baby kittens are liked by all.

Here's a real simple project for newer whittlers.  One that will bring a smile to little kids.  This little kitty is small, therefore fast to whittle.  And what little does not like small things.  All you need to whittle this little kitty is a sharp knife and a blank,

I use 1/2" to 3/4" thick Basswood for this kitty.  Most of the Basswood for this small piece comes from scraps from other wood carvers.  Print the pattern, transfer the pattern to a piece of Basswood.

TIP:  Add a small "handle" to the kitten, that can be removed after the piece is whittled.  This handle give you a bit more to hold onto when whittling.  It will also keep the knife blade a bit further away from fingers.

After the pattern is transferred to the Basswood cut the blank out.

The following is the whittling process (condensed).

1ST,,,,,Stop cut at the neck to separate head from body.   Narrow the head/face down to the Stop cut.
            Stop cut separated tail from body.Narrow the tail down to the stop cut. Both sides of blank.

2ND..... Make stop cuts separating back leg from body.  Remove wedge of wood at front edge of
              back leg.  Do same at rear of front leg.  Use knife to round over the edges (body and head).

3RD....Front view.

4TH...Rear view.

If you like, notch/separate the legs.  Notice, that this kitty has no finish.  This because when I am out and about with a pocket full of the blanks, and whittle these kitties, kids want them right then.  I will take a ball point pen and apply dots for the eyes and nose then add a few lines for the mouth.  I don't whittle the blanks with the handles for these occasions.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Focus of this blog!

From time to time it's important to address the main focus of this blog.

It's that time again!

Beginners Carving Corner and Beyond is the title of this blog.  But I think the main focus is on the "Beginners".  That's not to say we'll not stray above the beginners level.  You see, I believe that we're all beginners whenever we move on to something new and out of our comfort zone.

Most of the posts here will be of a nature that a beginner, or intermediate whittler can accomplish.

Here's another interesting word -"WHITTLER".  To me a whittler is one who uses a carving knife almost exclusively.  I personally feel that beginners will benefit from starting out with mainly the carving knife.  First off, there need not be much of a financial investment in tools (just the knife).

The posts on this blog will, for the most part include steps to accomplish a specific project.  Each step will be supported by a photo.  Within the posting  there will normally be TIPS that will help one to have a successful learning experience.  Where appropriate a pattern will be used and included in a post.

Comments are encouraged and will be answered.

It is my goal to introduce folks to the world of wood carving, by providing learning activities that will insure a successful learning experience, and pave the way for a lasting experience.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"Lift off - beginner class

Second day of a beginner class (two 3 hour sessions) completed successfully - No Blood!
This second session focused on face carving.  The 5 Minute Wizard steps were modified into a Santa pin or ornament.  The class focused on using only the knife to whittle the face.

In the following photo the Santa on the table was the second one this class member.

I was impressed!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Beginner class - successful start!

I think that a successful start to any beginner class begins with a project that uses only a knife.  And that the first exercise uses but a few knife cuts.  The stop cut, push cut, and the pull cut.  The first project must be fun to do, not real difficult, but still challenging for the beginner.  It should also have a great chance of being completed during the first hour and a half of instruction.

I choose this small dog, whittled in simplified flat plane style.

The class of beginners were very successful, as this example clearly shows.  The colored example on the left was shown as an example of the finished project.  The example on the right is one of the beginner results.

I present this beginner stylized flat plane learning exercise in a step - by - step sequence.

This next photo is a second learning exercise, done in the same style and step sequence as the first little dog.

These two examples have proven quite successful as a way to introduce beginners to whittling.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Some Patterns!