The Art of Whittling: A Woodcarver's Guide to Making Things by Hand
“The Art of Whittling: A Woodcarver’s Guide to Making Things by Hand is a strong working guide for a beginning woodworker.”
The Art of Whittling: A Woodcarver’s Guide to Making Things by Hand addresses all aspects of the craft. Niklas Karlsson’s credentials are strong as his whittling techniques are passed down through generations. Karlsson’s grandfather founded a settlement in Lapland, and the handmaking of tools and other implements from locally sourced materials was necessary for survival. With this inspired start, Niklas Karlsson became a master woodcarver whose work represents a passion for creating functional art out of natural materials.
“Whittling has been my main purpose for 20 years. Wood can never be fully exhausted. There is always something new to discover. Yet it is strikingly primitive. In its simplest form, you are dependent on a knife and a piece of wood. “
Karlsson’s instruction begins with tools that are key to the success of any woodworker. In order to command the carving, one needs a selection of well-maintained tools and the knowledge of how to use them. Karlsson describes in detail with accompanying images the variety of tools available and the particular purpose of each. Knives, axes, drawknives, gouges, scorps, planes, and spoon knives in varied shapes and sizes are featured. He identifies each tool, explains how to make a productive cut and, last but not of least importance, how to use sharp tools safely.
Karlsson further addresses how to set up a workspace. He provides instruction on tool sharpening methods. He identifies preferred wood types, compares hardwoods and softwoods, and cites which may be the better choice for a specific piece.
The author speaks about the characteristics of wood explaining the unique multi-layer makeup. He instructs that an understanding of the grain pattern is key to determining the carving approach.
“As long as you peel off one layer at a time, the wood will follow, but when you want to carve complex shapes such as curves and cavities in the wood, you will discover that you cannot keep carving without thought.”
The latter half of The Art of Whittling gets into the nitty gritty of transforming a piece of wood, from a log into a spoon, spatula, small drinking cup, peg rack or box. This is the fun part. Detailed, well-articulated instructions for each project are provided.
The Art of Whittling: A Woodcarver’s Guide to Making Things by Hand is a strong working guide for a beginning woodworker. It's possible also that some experienced wood enthusiasts who have not had formal instruction could learn something to improve their technique. Karlsson’s detailed description of his methods is useful indeed. In the end however, it’s the actual dance with a piece of wood, tool and log in hand, that yields the greatest satisfaction.
“Although it might seem like a long journey when you make your first few fumbly cuts, it is one that is always rewarding, often remarkable, and rarely dull.”