Whittling In Wood Carving
Whittling in wood carving is a genre within the hobby that is extremely popular on its own. The technique is quite similar to wood carving, in terms of the concept, but the difference in technique makes it quite unique. With the right kind of tools and the right technique, it becomes quite easy to practice whittling, in wood carving, as a hobby. However, before getting into something like this, you need to get the right kind of knowledge and tools to get started so here's something to help you along the way.
Buying Whittling Tools
Whittling, in wood carving, has a very small array of tools and most of it is nothing but a knife. The size of the knife, and its shape, can vary but all you basically need is a very sharp knife to get started. A chip-carving knife generally does enough for whittlers while something that's hand-made or made of tempered steel will last a really long time. It's always better to buy a good quality knife for the hobby, and keep it nicely sharp, rather than buying new, cheaper, knives over and over again.
If you are buying knives, then you will need sharpening equipment as well and that means anything like sharpening stones or sandpaper with a mix of water or oil. The sandpaper needs to be rated at 600 or more grit-value while a simple piece/strip of leather can be used as the strop, to apply the metal polish in the end.
Buying & Whittling Wood
Once you have your tools, the next thing to buy, to get started, in the hobby is the wood itself. The kind of wood you use isn't as important as just finding something to use. However, if you are planning to start off and are looking for something cheap that you can buy in larger quantities without spending too much, you are better off buying Basswood. The wood is quite soft and easy to chip or cut away, making it ideal for beginners who just want to get in a lot of practice to master the technique, more than anything else. All you need to make sure is that the wood is dry so that your knife doesn't slip or slide on the surface, giving you greater control over your project.
Whittling, in wood carving, becomes a lot easier when you have knowledge of how the wood's grain affects the process. You can spend a lot of time whittling but if you are not aware of the grain of your wood and how it helps your cutting process, you won't be able to do the best job as easily as possible. Every piece of wood that you use will have a pattern or grain. The orientation or direction in which this pattern flows is the ideal direction for you to cut that piece of wood in. Your knife needs to move along with the grain and to start off, buying a single-grain wood variety is the best way to begin.
Carving along the grain, or across it, is the most convenient way to work. However, grains can also run up and down, but your job is to ensure that your knife is always moving "down", with the grain.
Speed and Safety in Whittling
The most important thing to remember when whittling, in wood carving, is that the knife is always close to your fingers, which means that getting hurt is a realistic possibility. When you use your hand to hold the knife, the thumb of the holding-hand always needs to be behind the blade of the knife. Instead of your arm or wrist being involved in the cutting motion, it is your thumb that provides the force needed for the blade to drive through the knife. Not only is this a better way to control your knife, it also ensures no jerky or sudden movements that can cut you in any way.
Pushing hard on the knife is the easiest way to get hurt! If the knife is jammed or doesn't seem to be cutting the wood anymore, then it is probably because the grain of the wood has changed direction. All you need to do is stop and try different angles to get that cut right. Pushing it forward will just lead to the blade slipping and your fingers getting cut. The most important thing is that there is never any need to go fast because it doesn't help you work any better, just makes things more dangerous!
The last thing you need to know about whittling, in wood carving, is that you need to pay a lot of attention to what you are doing. That means, you need to listen to the sound of the wood as well as the way your knife feels when it goes through the wood. The difference in carving with the grain or against it is quite prominent, something that will come to you with time. Just spend as much time as you can and whittling, in wood carving, can become an extremely important & interesting part of your life.