Tips for carving at home

Whittling and spoon carving are an excellent therapeutic, productive, useful and creative activities and we hope it will bring all those benefits to those who take it up.

However it’s even more important to stay safe when learning at home with no teacher to keep an eye on you, so we’ve written some brief tips for carving at home. Some of these things are obvious it doesn’t make them less important and frankly neither does it make you more likely to do them.

  1. Sharpen your tools before you use them.
  2. Don’t use a folding knife for whittling or woodcarving, even one with a locking mechanism is not fail safe. We recommend Morakniv 120 for adults and Morakniv Rookie or Scout 39 Safe for kids.
  3. Do not carve with gloves on, or any type of kevlar finger barrier. Instead develop safe habits that protect your hands. We think that these kinds of finger guards are dangerous because they encourage bad practice. Instead develop safe habits that protect your hands.
  4. These knives for kids have slightly smaller handles but are just as sharp. The most important safety feature of a knife for kids or young people is a blunt tip. If you have a knife that didn’t come with a blunt tip you can grind it off on a course sharpening stone, the kind that people usually have for kitchen knives. This will drastically reduce injuries, and can be done for adults knives too.
  5. Find a safe space, other people and objects needed to be a full arms length away from you. Don’t work in a space where people, especially children, will be moving about around you.
  6. Obviously whittling outdoors is always better where you can.
  7. Whittling indoors is fine. Wood shavings (unlike sawdust) are clean and easy to sweep up, even on carpet. Just don’t walk through it in your socks or it’ll follow you everywhere.
  8. Kids and young people should be supervised at all times when they’re using a knife. There’s a reason you have to be 18 to buy one. Arguably adults should be supervised at all times when using a knife.
  9. Carving together is better, get into it with your household. Then your partner, family, flatmates won’t mind about wood shavings stuck to their socks and you can keep an eye on each other (see 7.).
  10. Even one drink is too many, make a choice between booze and carving.
  11. Carving green wood is easier because it is softer. The wood will dry quicker if it’s in small logs, has been split already, in near a heat source or in the sun, or a windy spot. You can keep wood in the freezer, this form of stockpiling is a long standing habit of many spoon carvers.
  12. Whilst you are making something you can keep in wrapped up in a damp plastic bag in the fridge in between carving sessions to keep it wet. This is very successful for few days after that the wood will start to go moudly. You can still carve mouldy wood, the wood will be fine once it’s been throughly dried out. You can soak pieces of wood or unfinished projects in buckets of water to re-wet them, but especially for larger spoons, kuksas etc. anytime you soak the wood you are increasing the risk of it cracking as it dries.
  13. Stop when you are tired.

Further links to tools and resources can be found here.