Whittling is probably the most basic or rudimentary form of wood carving. It was, as a boy one obtained a Jack Knife and began whittling on a branch or a twig to create a whistle, a flute, or a walking stick. Thus began a career in carving wood.
The Jack knife more than likely got its name from being the Jack of all trades knife. Carpenters had themmechanics had them electricians had them. and all boys had them. Times have changed on this matter, however, as now if a boy has a knife and he takes it to school he gets suspended or arrested. Political correctness is a wonderful thing.
I got my first GOOD pocket knife or Jack knife when, as a boy, I joined the Boy Scouts. I still have it after more than seventy years of carving. and several others too. It was this knife that taught me the first rule of carving
Whittling Rule Number 1:
Never carve with a dull blade. Be it a knife, or a chisel. never carve with it if its dull. A sharp blade is your best friend. A dull blade is your biggest enemy. A dull blade WILL get you and it will hurt and bleed.. but you will have learned this first RULE. Sharpen it first: then CUT with it. This is especially true with a new knife or chisel.. right out of the box. Knives or chisels fresh from the box seldom or never have the fine honed edge that it takes to carve. I suppose that manufacturers do not have the time to make that finely tuned and stropped edge, when they know that it will not hold up to the rigors of shipping.
Whittling Rule Number 2:
Learn how to properly sharpen your knife or chisel. In the course of your carving career, you will have ample opportunity to hone this basic skill. Many books have been written on this subject, and this website features some of the better ones available. A sharp knife or chisel is your best friend and a dull one is your most bitter enemy.
Whittling is a great hobby. It can occupy your time and relieve stress by keeping your mind and hands busy at the same time. It can be fulfilling, in that you can whittle a plug to fix a leaky boat. or you can whittle the whole boat from stem to stern.
John Dillenger, a criminal, during the great depression, was incarcerated in Indiana charged with bank robbery and murder.. He was on the most Wanted list by the FBI. While he was locked up he carved a gun likeness and used it to escape. The likeness must have been pretty good.. painted with shoe polish, as it bought him some freedom (which he didnt deserve) and ultimately his death (which he did). Thomas Edison was a whittler, as was Abraham Lincoln. Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain loved whittling also.
And then there was YOU !