Tools for Green Woodwork
Mora knives are our go-to carving blade. They’re affordable, widely available and the perfect knife for carving green wood. So, what makes them so good? The handle is symmetrical, which is essential in allowing you to use a variety of knife ‘grips’, while it’s belly means it won’t slip from your grasp. The blade itself is both long and relatively narrow, making it versatile in carving wide surfaces as well as finer shapes. It’s laminated, made up of high carbon steel sandwiched between more flexible low carbon steel, making the knife strong whilst also holding a sharp edge well. Finally and most crucially they have two perfectly flat bevels that meet at the sharp edge. Riding these bevels along the surface of the wood is what gives you all the fine control in your carving. We like Moras so much we include them in our Beginners Whittling Kit.
Most axes you’ll find come blunt, and these are perfect for splitting open a log. When you want to start rough shaping the wood though you’ll want a sharpened carving axe.
For most of our work we use Bahco axes. Out of the box they have a dull edge and we’ll keep some like this for splitting. The rest we grind ourselves to create a sharp edge perfect, for precision carving. You could sharpen a blunt axe yourself by hand, though it may take a while. We use a machine to grind ours how we like them.
There are many axes on the market that come sharp. You can get by fine with just one sharp carving axe, but if you want to really protect that honed edge we recommend having a separate blunt one for your splitting.
If you want to carve with an axe you need some form of axe block! Your block supports the wood and opposes the force of the axe as it strikes, which is vital for safe & effective carving. Axe blocks come in many forms, and can really be any bit of wood with a flat surface that’s not going to fall apart with use.
A knee-high section of trunk is perfect for sitting and carving. But you can get by perfectly well with something smaller, and kneeling down to work. We’ve even used a piece of ply wood laid flat on the ground when caught short! Whatever you use, try to make sure your block is free from grit and dirt as these may blunt your tools.
For top tips on getting hold of logs see our Wood Sourcing Guide
While your straight knife can be used for most carving work, to make spoons you’ll also want a spoon knife. These are bent blades that are used to hollow the bowl of a spoon.
There’s a lot of choice on the market but the general concept for all spoon knives is the same. The crucial difference is in how they’re sharpened, and most importantly knowing how to sharpen them yourself.
Our favourites are made by Nic Westermann. They work extremely well, they come perfectly sharp, and the hollow grind he puts on them makes it very easy to maintain that sharp edge.
View our guide to the Basics of Spoon Knife Sharpening.
Looking after your tools is very important. If you’re knife gets horribly blunt, it’s no longer the same tool! So learning to sharpen and having a simple, decent kit for doing so makes all the difference. As with many things, there’s a daunting amount of choice out there! But if in doubt don’t skimp on quality. A brilliant cost-effective option is wet & dry paper, it’s basically sandpaper for metal and comes in a standardised system of ‘grits’, from coarse to fine.
Basic Tool Kit
If you want to get whittling, all you really need is a knife and a bit of wood. But a few key additions will open up all manner of possibilities. Here’s our run-down of the ultimate beginner’s kit list…
• Straight Knife
• Spoon Knife
• Axe Block
• Sharpening Kit
Forge your own tools at The Green Wood Guild