9 Whittling Projects For Beginners

If you are a beginner, and new to woodworking, you will want to try some simple projects at first. We recommend that you start off by whittling. Luckily for you, we have all of the information you will need to get you started. 

This includes all of the whittling basics, the best tools to use and the best woods to practice on. We have also got 9 whittling projects that you can try, that are simple, easy and perfect for beginners to the trade! But first, let’s give you a little introduction to whittling!

What is whittling?

Whittling is simply a very quick and easy process of slowly shaving off slivers of wood, or carving with a knife to make specific shapes and sculptures. For many whittlers, it is a way to soothe the soul, or to show off some artistic flair and skill. 

The act of whittling is just to cut, trim, style and shape a piece of wood with a knife, into various shapes and designs. Many people who love to whittle will carve animals and creatures out of the wood. 

Whittling has been a pastime for many people for centuries. Whittling and wood carving dates back to prehistoric times when wooden objects would often be used for ritual functions, or tribal purposes.

However, whittling really became prevalent in the United States sometime between 1865 and 1965. Young boys would be handed a whittling knife as a sort of rite of passage, and young men would spend down time during the War carving and whittling things out of wood. 

Now, a lot of people use the terms whittling and carving interchangeably, but when it comes to actual woodworking, the two are very different. So, what’s the difference?   

What is the difference between whittling and carving?

Carving wood and whittling wood are two very different things. Although both are ways to cut, shape and design models and carvings from wood, the processes are different.

For instance, the act of carving something involves the use of gouges, chisels, mallets and various other tools. On the other hand, whittling is just with a knife or a single cutting tool. This tool is used to work away at the wood by itself to create shapes.  

Is whittling difficult?

There are many methods of woodworking, but whittling is considered by far the easiest and simplest to start with.

As only one tool is involved, it does not take a lot of money or skill to get started, you just simply have to try it, and you can whittle your first project in a matter of an afternoon, a day or a weekend. 

Is whittling good for beginners?

Due to the simplicity of the craft, whittling is perfect for beginners, and is a great place to start your woodworking journey and hobby. If you are a creative or hands-on person, then whittling will be just right for you.

It’s a great creative outlet, and a wonderful way to relax and shut off for a few hours. 

You can block out any external distractions and stresses, and just focus on the task at hand, and whittle something new today! The good news is that there are plenty of video tutorials and step by step guides available on how to start your first whittling project as a beginner. 

What wood should beginners use first?

If you are just starting out, then it is best to begin with softwoods as these will make it easier for you to whittle. This is because softwoods have a much lower density than hardwoods, which is simpler to whittle or carve.

However, this does not mean that you have to avoid all hardwoods, as some like Balsa wood or Basswood are lower density and easier to work with.

That being said, we would recommend that you opt for something like Pine or Cedar to start off with. You can also purchase Basswood blocks that are simple to use, and great for first timers:


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Which whittling tool is best for beginners?

For any whittling project, no matter what it is, you will need a sharp tool with a straight cutting edge. You can find countless whittling knives and carving tools online, you just need to look for some that can make precise, sharp cuts for the best results.

For instance, there are some low cost options for beginners, such as the BeaverCraft Wood Carving Detail Knife: 


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However, as you progress, if you invest in a professional, woodworking knife such as a Morakniv: with 2.4 inches of hardened laminated steel edge, you can really work with some close precision and detail. 


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How to whittle safely

As you will be dealing with sharp knives, you have to be careful and cautious to ensure that you are safe whilst whittling. The last thing you want is to slice off your fingertips whilst enjoying your new hobby.

So, the best piece of advice we can offer is for you to go slow and steady. Do not rush when you are whittling as not only will you harm yourself, but you can make mistakes and your cuts may not be as precise as they should be! 

In addition to this, you may want to invest in some good whittling gloves to protect your hands and fingers. These gloves are typically cut resistant, offering you the optimal protection from the sharp blades, and shielding your hands from injury. You can find these here:


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We do recommend that you only wear the gloves on the hand holding the piece of wood, as you will find it easier to whittle with the knife in the other hand without any restrictions. Luckily, these gloves come in pairs, so you will only have to use one, and can keep a spare handy. 

Learn the basic cuts

Once you have your wood, tool and gloves at the ready, you will want to get started. But first, you should be aware of some of the basic starting cuts for whittling. There are four techniques that you will want to use for the majority of your whittling projects.

Stop cut

A stop cut is an essential cut to learn when whittling. This is when you cut straight down into the wood, before you cut again into the wood at an angle to meet up with the first cut. This can be used to carve and cut features or shapes out of the wood. 

Vee cut

A vee cut is aptly named as this is when you whittle at a 45 degree angle, and then make the exact same cut on the opposite side, which will form a V shape in the wood. 

Pyramid cut

A pyramid cut is used to cut triangular shapes in the wood. This is done very gently and delicately, and is not designed to take large chunks of wood out. You can use this to create detail and intricate features in your craft. 

Sweeping cut

A sweeping cut is also one that you will want to master, as this can help you carefully whittle pieces of wood from the edge of the wooden block in a controlled manner. This can help you whittle down the overall size and shape of the wooden craft, reducing the square wooden block into a precise size and shape. 

9 Simple Whittling Projects For Beginners: 

Check out some handy YouTube tutorials for step by step information on how to create these simple wooden whittling projects!

  1. Carve a cuddly bear https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-GyX3yFcqk 
  2. Easy mushroom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZLk-7syfj0 
  3. Wooden beaver https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nk6yx4bL098 
  4. Elephant https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPcszKihoSU 
  5. Wooden spirit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dR-7VrMxjv8 
  6. Carve a dog https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twBlA4XMf40 
  7. Try a cat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvH4wQxMp9c 
  8. Whittle a squirrel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BPAU4FtwkM 
  9. Happy bunny https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1skFDPTeaM