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Whittling tools/knives Recomendations Please

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Forum topic by Stephen posted 06-05-2006 05:23 PM 32968 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Stephen

36 posts in 4978 days


06-05-2006 05:23 PM

My wife and I both have walking sticks (see “stupid stick” story below!) which have neat faces carved in them. We purchased them a few years ago from the Big Meadow gift shop/general store in the Shenandoah National Park. I’d like to try my hand at chip carving and see if I too can create such a spirit in a piece of wood.

I’ve browsed a number of websites that profess to have the best whittling/carving tools/knives, and the best prices, but this past weekend we visited the Sunset Mountain Craft Festival at the acclaimed Grovewood Gallery (Grove Park Inn – Asheville, NC) and talked to two (of many) carvers, that are clearly minimalists as far as tools for their craft go. One guy (literally) used a box cutter, and the other a pocketknife with a chip blade and a detail blade . . . 19 bucks from Woodcraft.com.

Value in all things is important . . . so . . . what does one “really” need in the way of tools/knives, how much should it cost, and are there brand names I should consider?

Stupid Stick Story . . .

My wife, Patrice, and I use to enjoy short vacations and long weekends away from our business and the hustle that is life around Washington DC. Our destination of choice were the Apalachian/Smoky Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. Of course, now we live smack in the middle of them . . .

One of our favorite destinations was Shenandoah National Park with its plethora of waterfalls, and the night-time rhapsody of bears in the trash cans, and not to forget, the relative comfort of “gaget” camping.

One day we were going to hike to a remote, hard toget to waterfall, but before we left, much to her chagrin, I bought a walking stick with, why not, a face carved upon it. She instantly dubbed it a “stupid” stick, and berated it me for making the purchase, accusing me of being a wimp, etc. As I had walked what seemed at the time, the entire width and breadth of Southeast Asia in my youth, and understood the value of such things, I would not be deterred from my purchase, or it’s use! Later in the day, about half way back to the trail head, all up hill, she tugged my sleeve and asked if she could use my walking stick. To which I replied with much ire, “You mean this old “stupid” stick?” We both laughed, and on the way back to our camp site, we stopped at Big Meadow where she bought her own “stupid” stick and we both shared an ice cream. The ice cream is gone, but for the “stupid” sticks, we still have and use them often . . .

Enjoy!

-- Stephen (A) Western North Carolina


23 replies so far

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4944 days


#1 posted 06-05-2006 07:01 PM

Hey Stephen: I continue to love to read your writings. You show your heart and wear it on your sleeve, which I respect in other men. I think your wife and mine would get along great.

I enjoy walking sticks, especially carved ones. So much so, that if I could make a complete living with them alone, I would probably go that route and forget about all the large equipment I still need, to be efficient with furniture building.

I suggest you get any of Tom Wolfe’s books on Wood Spirits. He’ll show you how, cut by cut, with dozens and dozens of close up photos, demonstrating the tools to use. This is how I did my first carved cane which I sold the next morning after I finished it. I still wish I had it, but I needed something with the money at the time.

I have almost completely moved over to power carving the faces, both Indians and Wood Spirits, with a Dremel and several bits. I have found this to be sufficient for quality of what people have wanted to pay for carved canes/sticks. I try to spend a minimal amount of time per cane from start to putting a tag on it, to keep the prices down, so I have elected not to do all the work with a carving knife.

I did a Wizard Walking stick for my son’s 4th birtday, you can see it on my project posting of the Walking Canes from my profile page, it is the third picture I posted on the cane page. Since it was made in Cottonwood, the rotary tools wouldn’t do much but fuzz the wood, so it is done almost completely with a sharp pointed carving knife I paid $6.50 for at one of Rockler’s sales.

I also use a sharp pointed knife around the eye sockets and eye lids, and the glint in the eye Tom Wolfe’s book describes. But the rest I do with the Dremel. Sure there are better motorized carving tools, but the Dremel is cheap enough that I have two of them on my table and can switch back and forth between the two most often used bits while I’m working.

Here is the downside though, when sitting at a show, working with a Dremel tool is not near as “romantic” as carving with a knife, to those that pass by and stop and watch or ask questions. For shows, I like to do the work with the knife. I have at times worked up the cane blank close to what I wanted before the show, and then just did the knife work on each one at the show. But, invariably, someone asks every time if I have carved it all with the knife, to which I have to admit, “no.” Then, they seem to lose interest. It is tempting to tell a lie in such cases, but anyone with a close eye and some carving skill could look at my work and see that it is done mostly with the Dremel tool.

I can send you some photos of the tools I use if that would be what you want. I think Tom Wolfe’s book will do better than I can show you with photos.

My first carving I did in 1982. I carved a small duck with a dull retractable contractor style exacto knife on a scrap of 2”x4” stud wood. I did this one summer between college semesters while I was building a house with another guy. I would take my lunch time and carve while he ran into the restaraunt to eat in the a/c. I still have that silly little duck.

thanks for your posting.
Mark DeCou www.decoustudio.com

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4944 days


#2 posted 06-05-2006 10:09 PM

Hey Stephen: can’t believe I forgot it earlier, but a carving friend of mine, Bob Goad wrote an article for Woodcraft Magazine late last summer about how to carve a wood spirit walking stick, using only simple hand tools. I bought the magazine issue to read his article, and really enjoyed it. He is a great guy, a world champion bird carver, and a very respected author by several magazines. I would recommend you check the website:
http://www.woodcraftmagazine.com/Search/SearchResults.aspx?type=Keywords

for a chance to order the back issue.

Hope this helps,
Mark DeCou www.decoustudio.com

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

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Stephen

36 posts in 4978 days


#3 posted 06-06-2006 02:49 PM

Well thanks Mark . . . . I appreciate your kudos, and I’m glad you find my muses to your liking . . .

I, on the other hand, am tickled putrid pink (that would be the shade of three day old roadkill) that your reply was so full of information! Outstanding! (That’s how you can tell an excellent Kansas farmer from a mere mediocre Kansas farmer. The excellent Kansas farmer is o-u-t-s-t-a-n-d-i-n-g in his field . . . :-)

I’m going to subscribe to Woodcraft Magazine so I can purchase your friend’s articleabout “wood spirits.” as soon as my wife let’s me have my credit card back.

-- Stephen (A) Western North Carolina

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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4944 days


#4 posted 06-06-2006 03:48 PM

Hey Stephen:
Glad you can use the information. Bob Goad is the type of guy that if you call, or email him, he will try to help. I met him at a show, and fell in love with his bird carvings, later emailed him to ask about tools to buy, and he helped me, sold me some things, and provided some ongoing support when I showed him what I was doing with the tools I bought from him. If you email me off-forum, I’ll forward your email to him, and then you guys can chat if you want to: [email protected]

I also posted on the Stickmakers International yahoo forum group that you had this question, and invited the members there to visit this forum, join lumberjocks, and see if they had some other ideas that might help you.

No credit card at your disposal. Huummmm. Your wife and mine might be sisters. What does that say about you and I?

Thanks for the farming note, I don’t farm, but they live all around me, and my Grandfather was one. On the other hand maybe I should become one, then I would finally be “outstanding” in something. At least until the banker called in his note.

thanks for your note,
Mark DeCou www.decoustudio.com

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

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OldJoe

1 post in 4911 days


#5 posted 06-06-2006 06:37 PM

A box knife would work fine for wood spirit faces on a stick. Any good knife and a couple of basic carving tools will do the job a bit easier.

Check out: http://www.oldjoe.org/WoodSpirit1.html

Start with a softer wood like willow, linden or aspen. Hard woods like hickory, ash, oak, dogwood, etc will be tough at first.

Good luck. Old Joe

-- Old Joe

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Stephen

36 posts in 4978 days


#6 posted 06-07-2006 04:24 PM

Hey Joe!

Thanks! Your website is VERY informative. When I have all of “she who must be obeyed” chores for the day finished. I’m gonna be all over your website like a cheap suit!

-- Stephen (A) Western North Carolina

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Stephen

36 posts in 4978 days


#7 posted 06-07-2006 04:26 PM

Mark . . .

I have subscribed to the magazine (won’t get my first issue until end of july) and I have downloaded your friends’ article! Pretty cool!

It’s a truly beautiful day in the mountains!

-- Stephen (A) Western North Carolina

View Ron's profile

Ron

3 posts in 4727 days


#8 posted 12-08-2006 12:30 AM

Stephen,

I just happened to to finally log on to the Stickmakers group after over a year absence and saw your posting which led to lumberjocks.

I started carving about 4 years ago with a wood spirit. A friend showed me how. Since then I have made a number of canes and designed a couple of faces for sticks. (You can see A Mongol Warrior on the Stickmakers World Wide site.)

At first, I too had a lot of questions about tools and knives. I have since found you can use anything that will remove wood. I now make most of my own knives using old files, saw blades, screwdrivers and even concrete nails, which I shape with a Dremel.

More important that the tools is to study the face that you want to carve and think about what cuts you want to make to remove the wood. I, too, use a Dremel tool to rough out my designs, but I also use gouges, knives and dental picks that I got from the flea market.

By the way, my wife says she’d like us to move to North Carolina when she retires.

Ron

-- Ron, L.A.

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Ron

3 posts in 4727 days


#9 posted 12-08-2006 12:33 AM

Stephen,

My photo is also in the StickmakersInternational gallery. Sorry!

Ron

-- Ron, L.A.

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4712 days


#10 posted 12-23-2006 12:06 AM

Stephen,
I’m not really too much into the face carving or the stick carving, but I do love my Wayne Barton chip carving and stabbing knives; they would certainly serve your purposes well. They’re a little on the pricey side at Woodcraft ($29.99 each – oof!). You can get them cheaper through Amazon.com ($49.95), but if you decide to go that route, you should support a fellow woodworker and use The Wood Whisperer’s Amazon store. Basically, you can get anything through Marc’s store that you can buy on Amazon.com, but Marc gets a little percentage to help keep his website, www.thewoodwhisperer.com, up and running and surprising us with new woodworking podcasts every week or so! Just go to www.thewoodwhisperer.com and you should see the link to his store right on the main page.

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

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Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4712 days


#11 posted 12-23-2006 12:07 AM

(That’s $49.95 for the pair…)

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

View Stephen's profile

Stephen

36 posts in 4978 days


#12 posted 12-23-2006 05:40 PM

Ron, Ethan, anyone else with interest . . .

I have collected a humble assortment of knives, scrapers, gouges, but I really want to learn how to make them for myself. I’ve collected some old saw blades, good steel, and a local welder has promised me all his old, used up files. Now comes the learning process; turning steel into tool. Any advice or resource information would be greatly appreciated!

Happy Holidays!

Stephen

-- Stephen (A) Western North Carolina

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Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4712 days


#13 posted 12-24-2006 03:11 AM

Another source for “steel” you should consider is old straight razors. I have several books on marquetry and inlay by Zachary Taylor, and that is what he uses for his veneering knives. It will take a bit of grinding, because you don’t really want that super-thin edge the razor came with; you want to get to the thicker back part of the blade.

I don’t think he goes into great detail about how to do the conversion, but he does discuss the shape of the blade and the angles at which your knives should be sharpend to quite some degree. If you can find any of his books in a library, it might be worth reading up on. I think he has the same “tools of the trade” section in all of his books, so any one of them should have the info you want.

If I come across any other resource, I’ll make mention of it here.

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

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Stephen

36 posts in 4978 days


#14 posted 12-24-2006 12:30 PM

Ron:

Your wife has good taste! After 9-11 we began looking for somewhere else to live. Being in the ten-ring so speak, just outside of Washington, DC, just wasn’t working for us anymore. After endless hours on the Internet, a plague of unsolicited Real Estate agent emails, a finally re-defining our wants and needs, we ended up in Western North Carolina. Happily, there is a huge, I mean H-U-G-E, woodworking and craft community in the area.

We love our mountain, our trout stream out the back door (literally!) and we have made many new woodworking friends. Our one dog, a city dog, has adapted very well, and like true “mountian folk” that number has grown to three.

Sounds idyllic to be sure, but if you’re coming, come soon. We have been “discovered”. North Carolina is the new Florida!

Stephen
Mountains of Western North Carolina

-- Stephen (A) Western North Carolina

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Stephen

36 posts in 4978 days


#15 posted 12-24-2006 12:39 PM

Ethan:

Using old straight razors is an interesting and creative source of materials. I learned on a Woodwright’s Workshop episode just yesterday, about tghe making and repairing of draw knives. Very interesting to be sure, but it included the discusion about the tempering of the steel once the metals, steel hammer welded to iron and shaped, were formed.

So . . . my question is: Where does one learn just enough of the blacksmith’s art to accomplish what one needs to do?

Stephen
Mountains of Western North Carolina

-- Stephen (A) Western North Carolina

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