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Whittling Glossary

Posted by Chelsea Place on

Whittling Glossary

Learn these terms and instructions before starting your first project.

Types of Cuts

  • Pull Stroke: also known as the pare cut, this is the action that is used for detailed cuts. You perform this by placing your thumb against the wood and pulling the blade through the wood to your thumb.
  • Push Stroke: another stroke for detailed cuts by using both of your thumbs to push the blade through the wood.
  • Stop Cut: one side of a cut is sloped while the other is straight.
  • Straightaway Rough Cutting: cutting away from yourself to mold the shape of your design.
  • V-Shape Cut: using the tip of the blade to cut into the wood from two angles to result in a “V” shape into the wood.

Other Whittling Terms

  • Cut Resistant Gloves: protective gloves that have built-in cut resistance designed to reduce the chance of injury from accidental blade slips. Be sure to choose gloves that still allow your fingers to move with ease.
  • Shavings: pieces of wood that have been whittled off the design.
  • Sharpening: rubbing your blade against an abrasive surface to create a wedge shape that is used to make cuts into wood.
  • Thumb Pads: used to put on your thumbs for padding on pull strokes as well as applying pressuring on the blade.
  • Wood Grain: arrangement of wood fibers resulting in a pattern on the wood from growth parameters on a cut piece of wood (it is best to carve with the grain).

Best Woods For Whittling

  • Balsa: Balsa wood is the perfect choice for beginning whittlers because it is soft, inexpensive, lightweight. It is sold at most craft and hobby stores.
  • Basswood: Basswood is an excellent choice for whittling because it's soft and easy to acquire. The wood also doesn't have much grain which also makes it easier to whittle. Basswood blocks are easy to find and available at most craft stores in various sizes and reasonable prices.
  • Pine: Pine is another great choice whittling wood. It’s soft, cuts easily, and is readily available, however some whittling enthusiasts believe that it doesn't hold detail very well. Additionally, if using a fresh pine twig or branch, be prepared to frequently clean the sap off of your blade and hands.
  • Twigs and branches: Twigs and branches from most kinds of trees are also good choices for whittling.

Shop Whittling Knives

Knives best suited for whittling have multiple blades to be able to make a variety of cuts and carve outs without needing to switch tools.

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