In regards to tools, I was slightly limited, back when I made an elephant out of a Christmas tree. I used an old blunt chisel, which I would not recommend at all. I quickly made a decision that I should buy a Swiss army knife as recommended in a whittling book. The knife was cheap and allowed me to get carving straight away. There are a few positives and a few negatives to the typical Swiss army knife that I'd like to share with you.
The Swiss army knife is a multipurpose tool that is sharp and is capable of being used to carve wood. There are many tools on the one knife which means that this can easily be used for many jobs, on top of that It is extremely affordable. Overall the knife is strong, well made and can be sharpened if it becomes blunt. The negatives are that it is small, uncomfortable to hold when using it for carving for long periods of times and as the blade folds to put it away it can easily cut you by mistake.
I have cut myself more than five times with this blade and it happened the same way every time. I applied pressure when carving a piece of hardwood and the blade retracted cutting my finger. My opinion is that despite it being a cheap option that is capable, a good knife is a safe knife. If you do go for this option, make sure you wear safety gloves.
This tool is multipurpose and will be your main carving knife. It is strong, and has a wooden handle that is more comfortable to hold for longer periods of time. The knife is more robust than the Swiss army knife and I feel that you are less likely to cut yourself because it doesn't retract. That being said, the knife is always out which means that you have to ensure you put it back in its safety blade cover after use.
The only issue with this knife is its price, being a high quality knife you do have to pay the premium for it. A great alternative is the Mora 122 which is often cheaper due to the blade being slightly smaller. There are many cheaper alternative brands but I do not recommend them as the blade are not that great and you will be making carving more difficult for yourself. Despite this one tool being so multipurpose, and now I do use it all the time. I did find that it was not such an all-rounder and especially for spoons, a tool you will need is a hook knife.
This tool is very good at carving out the wooden bowl of the spoon. A really good sharp hook knife for a professional can be quite expensive however using the cheaper ones will make the process of carving out the bowl a lot more challenging. I learnt the hard way and brought the cheap ones as a set and had to buy them again because they were terrible.
Chisel sets range from about 15 pounds to 100 pounds and usually you get what you pay for. Buying a cheap set will mean that achieving the carving you want will require more work in comparison to a more expensive set. The sweet spot is around £40, this will get you about four great chisels that you can use to not only carve wood but to also add texture and stylise the wood.
Other useful tools
Fine sandpaper is useful for finishing projects as it will help make the wood soft and smooth. Sanding the bowl of a finished spoon is a must to achieve that finished look. You will need a pen or pencil for marking out your design on the wood before carving. When making a spoon, you will want to draw your bowl before carving as it will be your template.
Super glue is a useful tool that you can put on the edge of a carved wooden knife to make it stronger. After it has dried you can sand off the excess, the glue will help the wood stay in shape by hardening it. A wood burner is great for personalising projects with names and designs.
A clear polyurethane finish is a must if you want to protect your piece. Some projects won't need it but some will. You may also want to apply a food grade finish if you plan on using the wooden item for food purposes.
Sharpening tools such as wet and dry sandpaper of various grits from 320 grit to 600 can be useful for sharpening knifes. When sharpening you should start with a courser grit and then use the finer grit. Alternatively, you can also use sharpening stones to do this and the knife can be buffed afterwards with a piece of leather.
I hope you found this lesson helpful and hope that you continue the path of whittling. We would love to see anything that you carve so please do make sure to tag us on Instagram at Carved_Culture_