Summertime Whittling

24 Jun
walking stick

Rustic branch cleaned and ready to carve

Whittling is a time honored skill that reaches back to prehistory. You may be surprised at just how enjoyable and relaxing whittling is, especially if you are sitting in a comfy rocking chair on the porch or in the garden.

Whittling a hiking stick is a great activity while camping, even the youngsters can get in on the act with some simple instructions and adult supervision.  Whittling a sturdy hiking stick complete with a fork tip is fun and rewarding.  We always bring an assortment of colored sharpie pens to the camp and decorate our sticks, working every evening while sitting around the campfire. Bring along jute, heavy butcher’s string or leather strips to make a sturdy grip towards the top of the stick.  Sharpies do a great job adding color to the grip.

By the end of the trip you will have a lasting memory that doubles as a folk art piece perfect for leaning in a corner or even out in the garden.

Whittling is one of the oldest hobbies around.  Wood carving is a relaxing, enjoyable and if you develop a real interest it can become a profitable hobby and bring you a great deal of satisfaction. It is easy enough to get started in wood carving by beginning with a simple project that requires few tools. Just about any type of wood can be used to create a wood carving. Finding a fallen branch is a good place to start. Look for a tall branch, tapered with a branching toward one end that will serve as a sturdy fork, great for snagging branches.   Check for areas of rot that might weaken the stick.  Even out the length by lopping off side branches and twigs (best done by an adult) then peel off the bark and smooth the wood – following safety rules of course!

~Find a comfortable place to sit, with plenty of space, at least 4 feet away from the next person.  ~Use only a sharp knife and keep it well honed.  A dull knife requires more pressure to bite through the wood making a cut from an accident deeper!
~Use a canvas or leather lap cover.
~Cut away and out, never cut towards your body – or anyone else.

Beginning carvers should consider starting with a soft piece of wood to get a feel for carving.

Use a pencil and sketch pad to simply jot down your design ideas so you have a rough plan or use a black sharpie to draw the carving lines directly onto the peeled wood.

If the bark is hard to remove, try heating it over fire. Very hard wood can be difficult to carve.  Soften it up easily by making a solution that’s 50% water and 50% denatured alcohol and spray onto the wood to soften it.

Work with care and patience, carving small portions of wood away at a time, and you will gradually see the carving come to life!


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