Whittling is an age-old practice that is practically the first DIY. Gather up your supplies and start with a clean space. Many people find it easy to whittle in a chair, but if your woodworking project will be intense, it’s a good idea to work at a clean desk or table.
Whittling can be done at any level. When you're just getting started, it may be a good idea to practice with some soap carving to warm up your fingers. Soap carving is easier, more affordable, and will teach you the basics of whittling before you have to tackle anything big. Any of our whittling project ideas can be done by beginners or advanced whittlers alike—the differences will all be in the details.
Beginning whittlers: don’t get ahead of yourself. As you master the basics, you’ll get more comfortable with the tools and your work will improve. If you see a whittling project that you love, don’t be afraid to pare it down and simplify. Don’t be afraid to get on Youtube or Pinterest for step-by-step video tutorials on how to whittle specific items.
Similarly, advanced whittlers: don’t steer clear of simple whittling projects. Take advantage of the opportunity to get creative and see what you can do on your own, beyond what the project dictates. Also, don’t be afraid to get on Google or Pinterest to find new inspiration and ideas for your next big project.
Whittling animals requires a variety of small whittling tools, a block of good wood, and wood stain (if you wish). If you have a pattern or a book, feel free to follow the instructions written there. If not, freehanding will do.
Start with a piece of wood shaped in a way that will help your animal come to life. You’ll often have a choice to make between rectangular and cylindrical wood. Then, draw your animal on the side of the wood. Remember, this animal will be three dimensional, so you need to think about it from all sides.
You won’t be able to draw everything on your wood, but that's ok. Whittling takes creativity! As you begin to roughly carve out your animal, use small, precise cuts to start shaping it into something that moves and breathes.
Whittlers have been making toys since the early days of human civilization, and with the tools and guides available today, whittling a toy has never been simpler. Beginners—start with creating Montessori toys and go from there. Montessori toys are clean and simple, and often the finished product is left untreated (a safer choice for small children, who love to put things in their mouths). More advanced whittlers may find joy in carving a wooden toy chest or even things like dollhouse furniture.
When whittling toys, the most important thing to consider is safety. Think about the age of the child who will be using the toy, or the age of other children in the home. Are there small, thin parts that could easily break off your creation? If so, it’s best not to give these toys to small children—they could be a choking hazard.
Not only are whittled utensils and ladles lovely, they're also functional! If you don’t want to start from scratch, get going by whittling a new design into the wood handle of something that you already have. This could be anything from a spatula to a spoon.
You can also whittle things like a ladle from scratch and personalize the entire item. If you choose to whittle something that will be touching food, make sure to treat it properly and not seal it with dangerous chemicals. A simple DIY wood oil may be your best route.
If whittling spoons is a tad too basic for you, try personalized cutting boards, a set of matching bowls, unique wooden cups, or even measuring cups or teaspoons. If you choose to tackle the latter, remember that precision is key if you want to use the cups and teaspoons to actually cook.
If you want to finish out your whittled DIY with another DIY, try making your own wood treatment or sealant. A simple way to start is with one and a half cups of olive oil and a cup of lemon juice. Mix this together and apply it with a rag or with a spray bottle in a circular motion. Let the mixture sit and then use a dry rag to rub the wood and make it shiny.