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The Best Whittling Knives For Beginners and Beyond

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: March 23, 2020
The Best Whittling Knives For Beginners and Beyond

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The art of whittling requires a good knife. When I was a little girl, whittling is mostly what I used my knife for. I wore blisters on my fingers whittling. I loved being able to find an old stick laying in the woods and turn it into something else.

Nowadays you see a lot of tactical knives that while they may be great for survival and defense, are not necessarily the best for whittling.

Lockbacks used to be my go-to knife

I always preferred a good Lockback for whittling. It was a safer option than something that could just fold up on me. Part of the reason for this preference is just that my Dad started me out with lock backs but the reasoning behind it was that he didn’t want it to fold up on me, especially since he let me just carry it wherever I went at a very young age.

The lock-back is an easy design to find and a reasonable choice for daily carry and versatility but there are a lot of better options out there for serious whittling. At the same time, knife choice is very personal so if you are skilled with one style, it is a factor to consider.

Specific Whittling Knife Vs. EDC

Some of the knives on this list are very specific to whittling. This does not mean I think you absolutely need a specific knife just for whittling. There is a lot of every day carry knives that will allow you to whittle and get good results.

At the same time, there is something to be said for having a specific tool designed for a precise job if you intend on doing a lot of whittling. There are some tools that can be nice to have when whittling that is not standard on a typical folder.

On Personal Preferences

If you get a group of knife enthusiasts in the same room talking to one another you will get a lot of different opinions on knives. There is no one knife or knife brand that is for everyone.

It may take trying out a few whittling knives before you find the one that really feels right to you. I encourage you to try a few if you are new to the world of whittling and pocket knives. If you have buddies that whittle you may be able to spend a few minutes with one of their knives to get a feel for it.

What type of steel is best for a whittling knife?

There are many types of steel available compared to in the past but there are still two major categories and that is carbon steel and stainless. While stainless has some advantages, particularly that it can stand up to corrosive environments, steel that has a high carbon content can be sharpened more easily so you can touch up your blade a bit faster and you may not be as likely to wait too long to sharpen it.

Whittling Knife Comparison Table

Flexcut Right-Handed Carvin' Jack

Jackknife with 6 carving specific edge tools
Razor-sharp and ready to use

Flexcut Whittlin' Jack

Jackknife with two whittling specific blades
1 1-1/2 inch detail knife and 1 2 inch roughing knife

Morakniv Wood Carving Junior

Designed for the beginning wood carver
Oiled Birchwood handle

Flexcut Right-Handed Carvin’ Jack, Folding Multi-Tool for Woodcarving

For those that are serious about whittling, this is a knife that claims to offer it all. You get an amazing 6 different blades for doing basic and detailed work on any whittling project. At 4.5 inches closed, this is a tool that is easy to store and perfect for those that want some fun hobby tools but don’t have a lot of space to dedicate to projects.

I like that this knife comes with a decent sharpening strop and polishing compound. It is also very encouraging that the description claims that it is razor-sharp right out of the box. Over the years I have found it extremely frustrating to get a new tool or knife and then discover that it needs a lot of sharpening to even be slightly functional.

Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack

For those that want a really good dedicated whittling knife, a lot of people will say that you should get the Flexcut Whittling Jack. It is priced moderately so even if you are a bit unsure just how much whittling you will be doing, it is not going to break your budget.

The Whittling Jack features two blades with distinctive purposes. The 2-inch blade is great for roughing out an initial design whereas the 1 1/2 inch blade helps you to achieve the details.

The Whittling Jack is small enough to be stashed in your everyday bag if you want. The 4 inches closed size is comfortable for a variety of hand sizes.

Morakniv Wood Carving Junior 73/164 Knife with Carbon Steel Blade

Morakniv may be budget-priced but that is to your advantage because they are very good quality knives with an outstanding reputation and dedicated fan base.

This knife features a large handguard which is something I always like to see. The handle is a light-colored oiled birch while the blade is thin carbon steel. A solid plastic sheath is included and can be worn on your belt or lashed to a bag as needed.

Case Seahorse Whittler

The Case Seahorse is a classic knife that I bet plenty of people reading this have seen before. When looking for this knife it is important to realize that the difference in handles can have a big impact on the overall cost. I don’t care about having a specialized handle material personally, especially for something I am actually going to use and not just put up on a shelf to collect or give as a gift.

The blades are all stainless steel. With the 3 blade versatility offered by the Seahorse, it is a knife that many carry every day, not just for whittling. The handle is burnt bone. The case has good resell value with collectors if they are in decent condition at the time of sale so if you decide it is not for you, someone else will probably buy it or trade you out of it.

Old Timer 24OT Splinter Carvin’

Old Timer used to be a go-to brand in the past. I am not sure exactly how the newer ones hold up over time but I could not help adding this knife into the post as a budget whittling option from a brand that I used to like but have not had any experience within more modern times.

This Old Timer is made of high carbon steel and at 4.25 inches long, is slightly larger than some whittling knives.

The Old Timer features a detail blade, gouge, and a hook blade. The Old Timer would make a good beginner blade for someone.

Opinel 7

The Opinel brand is known for producing quality whittling knives in various sizes since 1890. Each knife is made in France and you can choose a variety of different handles, including walnut. If you have been looking for different blade and handle sizes, then I recommend checking out Opinel. These knives are good for a lot of tasks beyond whittling too. The Opinel 7 is a favorite among a lot of whittlers. It features a 3.15″ blade. For a larger version, check out the Opinel 12 with a 3.72″ blade. These are stainless steel blades so if you prefer high carbon steel, it is worth noting that this is stainless. If you have a good sharpener and remember to use it, you should be fine.

I also have to point out that the Opinel knives are folders so they are easy to stash places and carry.

BeaverCraft Sloyd Knife

The BeaverCraft brand is not one I am familiar with but it has received a lot of attention. With so many different knife brands out there, any specific knife getting a lot of attention is worth noting.

You can get the BeaverCraft Sloyd with or without a sheath. I recommend getting the version with a sheath since it is a straight-bladed knife. If you like to make your own sheaths than go for it but if not, spend the extra money and stay safe.

The carbon steel blade is designed to work well for roughing out projects whereas the sharp tip can be used to provide detail.

Boker 115465 Carver’s Congress Whittler Pocket Knife, Rosewood

Boker makes a lot of quality knives. This pocket knife is great for whittling. You get 3 blades for roughing out and detailing your favorite whittling projects. This is a good folder that also offers you a lot of versatility and function for daily tasks.

The Congress design is one to look out for if you want to whittle since it is a reliable design that is easy to find, especially among classic manufacturers like Case or Boker. If you have knife buddies you trade with, I bet you run into this design.

Buck Knives 0371BRS Stockman 3 Blade Pocket Knife with Woodgrain Handle

Buck Knives is another one of those trusted brands of knife that have been on the market forever. This whittler is 3 7/8″ long when closed and features 3 blades for all your whittling needs. The spey blade is good for skinning or sweeping strokes, and the sheepsfoot blade helps you make clean cuts on flat surfaces. The clip point blade is useful for working in tight spots. Each blade is made of 420C Stainless Steel.

Whittling Projects

There are a lot of things you can make by whittling. Here is a link to some beginner projects to get started on. A lot is strictly for decoration and fun but you have to start somewhere. Choosing a project you can complete in little time and have something neat will help you gain the skills and confidence to go on to bigger projects and more useful items.

Of course, there are a ton of different tutorials on Youtube and links on Pinterest. Amazon has a lot of different books on the subject. Here are a few books to consider.

Complete Starter Guide to Whittling: 24 Easy Projects You Can Make in a Weekend

Easy Wood Carving for Children: Fun Whittling Projects for Adventurous Kids 

Chris Pye’s Woodcarving Course & Reference Manual: A Beginner’s Guide to Traditional Techniques 

Whittling Kits

If you want a fun winter project with kids, you might consider getting a whittling kit or two. These are great ways to teach skills including how to handle a knife or anything sharp. Here are a few kits to consider as well as some wood blocks that you can just order. For beginners, spending a little on some uniform wood might be a good idea, especially if you plan this out to be a kid activity. You can always move on to finding your own the next time you have whittling time.

MAMAR Pine Wood Carving Whittling Kit

This kit has a lot of different carving implements and wood included. It is pine so anything you make is going to be mostly decorative but it is still worth considering for a fun practice kit.

BeaverCraft S15 Whittling Wood Carving Kit – Wood Carving Tools Set

This kit contains tools made by BeaverCraft. You get a basic bench whittling knife, a small cutting knife, and a chip carving knife. The set also comes with a tool roll for keeping everything organized and stored. If you whittle much you will want to stop and sharpen your knife. Luckily this kit includes a strop and honing compound to help you out.

Carving Blocks

This is just some inexpensive small carving blocks. You can get larger sizes and more pieces if you want to pay more.

Practice Wood

When I was growing up in the North Cascades I would just grab whatever wood I could find, but Alder was pretty nice to use for general carving. Some people choose to order blocks of basswood to practice whittling and get consistent results.

This is a good way to practice or get younger whittlers started on some projects. I have to say that some people don’t live where they can just go out and get a piece of wood to carve on when the notion strikes them.

Here is a list of some good wood for whittling practice and some small projects. If you live somewhere that none of these are common, consider what the softer woods are in your area and try them out.

  • Basswood
  • Pine
  • Alder

Some whittling projects will turn out better using harder woods but the carving will be more difficult. For example, hickory or oak would be best for a knife or ax handle because you need a tight woodgrain that is strong.

Practice, practice

Don’t start out carving out really complicated things. Like any skill, whittling takes time to master and you are working with sharp objects which means you need to give yourself some time to learn and not get ahead of yourself. I know there are some impressive carving projects out there but they take a lot of time and people don’t just start out being that good at something.

Try to whittle out a basic shape like an owl and then proceed on to other projects like wooden spoons.

Kids can be shown whittling strokes using a bar of soap

Learning how to do basic knife strokes can be safely done using an inexpensive bar of soap. This is a good way to start out younger kids and help beginners gain confidence before going on to other projects. Some people even start kids out with a butter knife and a bar of soap. I remember they let us do that in school.

Remember to oil and treat utensils and other whittling projects that are meant to be used near food

Remember that any wood carving project you do that is intended to have contact with food should be oiled using only food-grade ingredients. All major home improvement stores have wood preservative products that are made specifically for wood that is to be used in contact with food.

An alternative is to just buy some good quality walnut oil used for cooking and use that to treat unfinished wood. Wood will darken when treated but that is just how it is if you want to preserve it and make it usable for the long term. Avoid using oils that can go rancid such as lard, tallow, or other animal-based fats.

What is your favorite whittling knife? What projects do you recommend for beginners? If you have a project you are proud of, send me an email with the photo and I will put together a post of reader projects if I get a large enough response.

Please make sure to let me know what name to use to give you proper credit or if you would like me to just use the picture and not your name. Photos can be sent to [email protected].

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4 Responses to “The Best Whittling Knives For Beginners and Beyond”

  1. Whittling used to be just a way to pass time, not to mention to make something that was needed. think about this…your whittling chips make a great fire starter. Been doing that for many years.

  2. I can’t wait till my grandson and 2 granddaughters get to the age where I can do this with them.

    • Sorry, Dennis. I used to put prices in but Amazon has guidelines if we want to use their links. This is why I sometimes use other companies to link to. They have really started giving some sites a harder time about their rules. Also since we don’t take down posts, the prices can become outdated so following the links will give you the most accurate price.

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