A Compendium of Useful Information for the Practical Man/Carpentry and Woodworking/Carving and Whittling

How To Whittle


The age of whittling began with the invention of the pocket knife and reached its climax about 1840 or '50, dying out some time after the Civil War, probably about 1870. All the old whittlers of the whittling age whittled away from the body. If you practise whittling that way it will become a habit.

Indians use a crooked knife and whittle towards the body, but the queer shape of their knife does away with the danger of an accidental stab or slash. Cobblers use a wicked sharp knife and cut towards their person and often are severely slashed by it, and sometimes dangerously wounded, because a big artery runs along the inside of one's leg near where most of the scars on the cobbler's legs appear. When you whittle do not whittle with a stick between your legs and always whittle away from you.

The American boys' handybook of camp-lore and woodcraft By Daniel Carter Beard

Straight and Cross Whittling


Stand erect—shoulders back and head up.

Hold the piece to be whittled in the left hand.

Grasp the knife in the right hand, binding thumb and fingers over the handle as in clenched fist.

Support the left arm against the body and leave the right arm free.

For straight whittling, with the grain, let the blade of the knife slant backward (about 45 degrees), and beginning near the handle draw the blade through the wood as it advances, thus using the entire cutting edge. The strokes should be long and even. If much wood is to be removed do not split it off in thick pieces but make the shavings as thin and uniform as possible.

For cross whittling, bring the piece nearer the body and elevate it slightly, resting the arm firmly against the body. Grasp the knife so that the thumb will rest against the side of the handle. Make a slight incision straight with the line, then a deeper one outside the line, slanting toward it, (about 45 degrees.) Make another straight cut just deep enough to remove the first chip. Repeat the process, always making the slanting cut deeper than the straight one, until the middle of the piece is reached, then turn it and begin at the other edge. When the surplus wood is thus removed grasp the piece between the thumb and knife and trim carefully to the line.

Drawing and manual training journal, Volumes 1-2