Whittling is a simple form of wood carving. It involves shaving off slivers of wood using a pocket knife to make beautiful sculptures. For many, it’s a fun way to pass the time, while for others, it’s a serious art form.
However, choosing a good whittling knife can get a bit complicated since you need to consider several key factors, such as the grip, the edge, and the size of the blade. Also, what’s ideal for others may not work for you. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll help you find the best whittling knife for your needs.
- Best Overall: Morakniv Wood Carving Knife 120
- Best Sloyd Wood Carving Knife: Beavercraft Sloyd Knife C4s
- Best for Beginners: Flexcut Beginner Palm & Knife Set
- Best for Intermediates: Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack – JKN88
- Best for Professional: Flexcut Palm Set of 9 (FR405)
- Best Budget Whittling Knife: Old Timer 24OT
The ideal whittling knife has a fixed blade that measures between 1.5 and 3.5 inches. The handle features wood, plastic, or steel materials, whereas the blade is usually carbon steel, stainless steel, or laminated steel. This blade might also have different styles, varying between Wharncliffe, Sheepsfoot, or hook.
A good whittling knife works with many wood types, whether you’re whittling soft basswood or hard black walnut. Foldable knives are also good for whittling, but they must have sturdy blades with a proper locking mechanism. Otherwise, they may close unexpectedly and put your work and yourself in danger.
Continue reading to find out what features to consider before purchasing a whittling knife.
10 Best Whittling Knives and Wood Carving Sets to Buy in 2023
1. Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack (JKN88)
Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional carver, you won’t be disappointed with this whittling knife. Slightly larger than an ordinary carving tool, it’s super sharp and easy to use. It also features a two-bladed design that makes whittling easier and more enjoyable.
One of the blades is a 1.5-inch detail knife that lets you work on wood with precision and control. The other is a roughing knife, which is slightly thicker and longer at 2 inches. Overall, this knife is excellent for whittling and chiseling out chunks of wood quickly.
Each blade is made from durable, non-corrosive high carbon steel. They can hold their edge for a long time and can be easily sharpened when they become dull.
When these steel blades are folded into the handle, the knife’s overall length is only 4 inches. It will fit perfectly into your pocket, and at 3 ounces, you’ll hardly notice it’s in there. With its clever design and portability, this is the best whittling knife for woodcarving while camping.
In case the Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack (JKN88) doesn’t meet your needs, you may pick from the six other variations of this product:
- Carvin’ Jack Left-Handed: This product comes with six razor-sharp carving blades specifically designed for lefties.
- Pocket Jack: Small and compact, this 4-inch whittling knife will fit comfortably inside your pocket.
- Spoon Carving Jack: This triple-bladed knife makes it easy for you to transform pieces of wood into spoons or bowls.
- Detail Jack: This knife has a single blade that you can use to add fine details to your wood carving.
- Right-Handed Carvin’ Jack: An all-in-one tool, this product includes a chisel, a carving knife, a hook knife, a V-scorp, a gouge scorp, and a straight gouge.
- Tri-Jack Pro: Perfect for people on the go, this 3-in-1 knife folds easily and fits comfortably in the pocket.
- The high-carbon blade of this whittling knife is pre-sharpened right out of the box.
- The handle is slightly contoured for a comfortable grip.
- The aluminum handle features a wood inlay, which adds to this knife’s sturdiness while giving it a rustic look.
2. Old Timer 24OT Splinter Carving 6-Inch Traditional Folding Whittling Knife
Old Timer has a reputation for crafting high-quality and dependable whittling knives. These tools are designed and built to be passed down from generation to generation. This traditional folding knife is a fine example of the company’s exceptional craftsmanship.
A versatile whittling knife, this product packs so much in its small frame. It features six carbon steel carving tools:
- a detail knife
- a straight gouge
- a hook blade
- a V-scorp blade
- a gouge scorp, and
- a chisel blade.
This product has everything you need, whether you’re doing some serious carving or simply whittling on a whim. The blade is made of 65Mn high carbon steel, which means it’s durable and can retain it’s edge exceptionally well.
But compared to the Whittlin’ Jack, the blade isn’t as sharp right out of the box. You might want to hone it a bit before using it for the first time.
Overall, this item measures only 6 inches in length and weighs 3.9 ounces, while the detail blade is only 1. 5 inches long. These are just the right dimensions if you’re looking for a multi-tool knife for everyday carry and the great outdoors.
- The heat-treated back springs ensure that each blade remains secure and will not slip.
- The saw cut handle provides a good holding grip.
- This whittling knife comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
3. Morakniv Wood Carving Knife 120 With Laminated Steel Blade, 2.4-Inch
Morakniv is a Swedish knife manufacturer that has been in the industry since 1891. With more than 100 years of experience, they have their tool-making techniques down to a science. This product is one proof of that.
For its price point, this carving knife provides you with a 2-for-1 advantage. It features a narrow blade with a pointed tip that’s best for both roughing and detail work.
The blade is sharpened to cut through wood like butter while the spine is thick enough for your pushing thumb. Its clever design makes carving a satisfying experience.
The laminated blade is made of high-carbon steel layers, creating a nice balance between optimum edge retention and ease of sharpening. It’s also highly resistant to rust and corrosion, which means it requires minimal maintenance. The full tang construction also adds to the pocket knife’s durability.
Compared to the above-mentioned Old Timer and Flexcut whittling knives, this carving tool is not foldable. It’s also a bit longer at 9 inches. But it’s as efficient and easy to use even when making fine and detailed cuts. Its blade is great for shaving away thin layers of wood while giving you more control of your work.
- The oiled birchwood handle is ergonomically designed for a comfortable grip while you’re whittling.
- This whittling knife comes with a plastic sheath for the blade’s protection.
- The 2.4-inch blade is sharp right out of the package.
4. Flexcut Carving Knives, Starter Set of 3
This starter set is best for you if you want to use different knives for carving. It includes three types of knives (cutting, detail, and roughing) with blades that are made of high-carbon steel.
The cutting knife is a general-purpose 1-1/8-inch carving blade. It has a durable rounded point that can withstand hours of carving sessions – because of this increased durability, it’s perfect for hobbyists and experienced whittlers.
The detail knife has an extremely fine point, which is great for making very narrow and detailed cuts. Its straight 1-1/2-inch blade can handle larger chunk removal if needed. You can also use it for cleanups.
The roughing knife features a 2-inch blade with a rounded point. It’s the best tool for taking out heavier stocks of wood since it’s the thickest and most durable among the three.
Made with the same hardened steel as Flexcut’s gouges and chisels, each blade is durable and holds its edge very well. You can maintain its sharpness with some quick stropping before and after use.
- Each pocket knife is fitted with an ergonomic ash wood handle that feels comfortable on the hand.
- All three whittling knives are sharpened and ready to use right out of the box.
- The package includes a sharpening compound to help keep your whittling knife’s blade sharp.
5. Flexcut Palm Set of 9 (FR405)
If you’re serious about getting into the woodcarving life and want to take your whittling skills to the next level, investing in this toolset would be a great idea. This Flexcut Palm Set brings nine carving tools in one affordable and convenient package.
The set includes six gouges of different sizes along with two 70-degree V-tools and a skew chisel: which is just about everything you need to start your carving hobby.
Each whittling tool features hand-sharpened carbon steel blades, all precision-machined and triple heated for enhanced edge retention. You can use them for small and large woodworking projects without sharpening the blades every now and then.
Quality and affordability rarely mix when it comes to woodworking instruments. Either an item is top-rated yet too expensive or less pricey yet substandard. But this whittling set definitely provides great value for your money. Whether you’re a hobbyist or professional carver, this set is a practical addition to your tool collection.
- The ash hardwood handles are designed to fit comfortably on the hand to avoid fatigue, perfect for long hours of carving.
- The flexible, razor-sharp carbon steel blades provide optimum control and ease of cutting.
- The toolset comes in a custom wooden storage box.
6. Morakniv Wood Carving 106 Knife with Laminated Steel Blade, M-106-1630
Compared to the Morakniv Wood Carving Knife 120, this whittling tool features a longer blade designed for more generous cuts. It also has a pointed tip that makes it ideal for detailing work.
The blade’s grind is perfect for heavy-duty woodworking since there’s no relief edge aside from the main grind. This helps make very precise cuts possible, and with little unintended drift at that.
Made of laminated steel, the blade offers an excellent combination of superior toughness and edge retention. Whether you’re doing some fine carvings or heavy-duty roughing, it can stay sharp even after hours of use.
The full tang, which runs the handle’s full length, adds to the whittling knife’s strength and stability. It allows for better control and flexibility, whether you’re carving a spoon or a large bowl.
With its relatively lower price tag, this pocket knife is the ideal carving tool for beginners. Experienced carvers can also benefit from using this carbon steel blade.
- The laminated steel blade is pre-sharpened and ready to use right out of the package.
- The oiled birch wood handle allows for a safe and comfortable grip.
- As with most Morakniv whittling knives, this item comes with a plastic belt sheath.
7. BeaverCraft Sloyd Knife C4s 3.14-Inch Wood Carving Sloyd Knife
An all-purpose carving tool, this product is just as good as the Morakniv wood carving knife but at half the price. The blade is sharpened to a fine point, making it ideal for detailed carving.
If you love camping or spending time whittling in the woods, you’ll appreciate this knife for its superior versatility. The blade is sharp enough to make smooth cuts on softwoods like pine, cedar, and redwood. It can also slice nicely through most types of hardwood, such as oak, tupelo, basswood or walnut.
If you’re a beginner, you’ll find this knife useful in improving your detailing skills, especially when working on tight areas. The slightly curved blade also makes it ideal for taking on whittling and roughing tasks.
Considering its price, this knife is an excellent gift for those just getting into whittling. Its built and sharpness are comparable to more expensive brands, making it one of the best beginner wood carving knives out there.
- The high-carbon steel blade is hardened for proper firmness and sharpened to be used for whittling right out of the box.
- The ergonomic handle is crafted from hardwood oak and with a linseed oil finish.
- This whittling knife includes a genuine leather sheath.
8. Opinel No6 Stainless Steel Folding Pocket Knife – Premium Wood Handles
If you’re looking for a practical backpacking knife at an affordable price, this folding knife is for you. It’s best for common campsite tasks, such as splitting kindling and whittling tent stakes.
Lightweight, compact, and easy to use; this well-crafted whittling knife is also great as an everyday carry. You can use it for a variety of tasks, from opening boxes to sharpening a pencil. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket yet large enough for a solid and comfortable grip.
Made of a modified stainless steel blade, this knife has an excellent cutting edge and superior corrosion resistance. It may be low-priced, but it doesn’t mean it’s cheap, considering that Opinel knives are known for their exceptional quality and craftsmanship.
- The slim, ergonomic handle is made from Bubinga wood, which is known for its superior stability, humidity resistance, and natural durability.
- This folding knife is equipped with a safety ring, a locking mechanism that keeps the blade in place when in use, during transport, or while in storage.
- The blade is stamped with the Crowned Hand insignia for authenticity.
9. Gimars Upgrade 12 Set SK5 Wood Carving Tool Kit
A great starter kit for novice carvers, this wood carving package comes with 12 different easy-to-use items – each one has its own unique purpose. The kit includes gouges of various sizes along with parting and pinpoint tools. It also features narrow straight, wide straight, rounded, and four-angled chisels.
Made from SK5 carbon steel, each blade is highly durable and can withstand constant use. Whether you’re carving bowls, spoons, or creating stencils, you can count on them to see through the job until completion – all without losing much of their edge.
These whittling products make it easy for beginning hobbyists to hone their skills. The blade’s narrow angle allows the blade to slide into wood effortlessly, which allows for complete control of the carving process.
If you’re thinking of working on other materials, you don’t need to purchase separate instruments. Aside from wood, these tools can also be used on clay, linoleum, and soapstone.
- The extended length of the wooden handles allows for a comfortable grip.
- The blades have an electrolytic coating for enhanced rust resistance.
- Each tool comes with plastic caps for safety.
10. BeaverCraft Wood Carving Hook Knife SK1 (Right-Handed Hook Knife)
This tool from BeaverCraft is specially designed for carving concave shapes. With its U-shaped, single-edged, carbon-steel blade, you can make quick work on both softwood and hardwood, including oak and walnut.
This carving knife is perfectly shaped for smooth rounded cuts, in fact, customers say that using it feels like scooping ice cream from the tub. This sophisticated design makes it ideal for making spoons and hollowing out bowls.
This knife is an affordable purchase for beginners – it’s also great for professional carvers who’re looking for an inexpensive replacement for their old hook knife.
- The ergonomic handle is made of oak and processed with natural linseed oil.
- Sharpened to its maximum point, this knife is ready for woodworking tasks right out of the box.
- The curved blade is also great for making kuksas, bowls, cups, and concave items.
What to Consider When Choosing the Whittling Knife
1. Wood Types
The type of wood dictates difficulty level and what type of knife you should use. If you’re an entry-level whittler, start with softwoods with a small grain and a basic pocket knife like a Swiss Army Knife. Basswood will do the trick, as it’s easier to work and inexpensive. Try it out, see if you like the art, and use it to improve your skills.
Once you get better at whittling, you can move to a more advanced knife and other types of woods. These are the most common, which you can whittle with a 1.5-inch straight carbon steel blade.
Start with these four types of woods (Basswood, Aspen, Butternut and Balsa Wood) if you’re a beginner. Once you get the hang of it, you can move on to Cedar and White Pine for an intermediate challenge. The goal is to reach an advanced level to work with hardwoods like Black Walnut or Black Cherry, which would require a specialized whittling knife.
2. Project Types
For casual whittling, the most suitable tool is a pocket knife. This knife is lightweight and has a small blade, making it easy to maneuver the knife without any experience.
Professional whittlers that enjoy sculpting artistic work need a specialized whittling knife with a fixed blade. These knives come with thicker handles, which are easier to hold and feel more comfortable when you spend a long time whittling. You also get better leverage for more precision and control.
3. Blade Material
Whittling requires sharp and durable blades for more precision and resistance to regular use. In that regard, there are three materials you should consider: stainless steel, carbon steel, and laminated steel.
Carbon Steel Blades
This material is usually the most popular for whittling knives due to its capacity to hold a sharp edge without much sharpening. It’s the perfect blade material whether you’re working with soft or hard woods. The downside to carbon steel is that it requires constant maintenance, or it will rust or frail with ease.
Stainless Steel Blades
These blades are rust-resistant and the perfect alternative to carbon steel. The edge retention of stainless steel is not as good as the other materials, but this type of steel is less expensive and requires less maintenance.
Laminated Steel Blades
A blade made with this material features multiple layers of different steel types while forging it. The result is a sharper and more durable edge, which will have higher resistance to corrosion and rust. If you want the best out of stainless steel and carbon steel blades without disadvantages, laminated steel is the way to go.
4. Blade Shape/Style
If you’re starting your journey as a whittler, then consider a thin and long blade without a belly. Shorter blades may be safer and easier to control, but they can interfere with your ability to make certain cuts. The blade should also be less than 15mm thick because thicker blades will be obstructive. As far as blade shape goes, choose one of the following.
Knives with a Wharncliffe blade are the most suitable for whittling because the blade has a flat edge and a strong point. This blade is also smaller and thinner, providing finer and more detailed work while shaping wood.
This blade style has the tip aligned with the cutting edge, similar to what you see in a standard bench knife. It’s another option to consider if you’re a beginner because the blade doesn’t have a belly that interferes with your whittling.
This particular blade style makes excellent concave hollows in whittling projects that involve spoons, cups, or bowls. It’s not a common blade shape you would normally see, so there’s a bit of a learning curve before using it correctly.
Drop Point Blade
Unlike the hook blade, a drop point blade is more common, available in kitchen and pocket knives. We recommend to choose this blade shape only when other options are not available as belly of the drop point is a major issue if you want to work small details.
Whittling is an art that requires high precision, and the handle of the knife can contribute to that with balance, comfort, and durability. Usually, whittling knives feature either wood, plastic, or stainless steel handles. Here’s a quick rundown on how those materials benefit your whittling skills.
Wooden handles look attractive while providing a smooth surface for a comfortable grip. Nonetheless, wood is also a porous material prone to absorbing excess moisture. Over time, this issue leads to swelling and splitting problems if you don’t care for the knife and keep it stored properly. Hardwood handles are less likely to split, but you still have to take good care of them and seal the scales using oils.
A plastic handle is usually inexpensive, easy to clean, and durable. This material is also lightweight, allowing you to use it at different angles for efficient whittling. It’s not as stylish as wood, but you won’t have to worry about the handle splitting or swelling. The downside is that whittling knives with plastic handles are not easy to find.
Stainless Steel Handles
If you want a durable and easy-to-clean handle, choose one made with stainless steel. This material makes the handle feel sturdier and heavier with excellent balance. However, steel is not as comfortable as wood or plastic if you use it for too long, which is not ideal if you’re a beginner. It can tire your hands faster than the other handle types.
5. Single-Blade vs Multi-Blade
Single-blade whittling knives often have a fixed design, whereas multi-blade comes in a foldable format. But that’s not the only thing you must consider before choosing one or the other.
Knives with a single blade are easier to use, and they come with a durable handle that feels sturdier and easier to control. Furthermore, the blade is exclusive to whittling, making it stronger to put up with the pressure you may apply over it. The downside is that you only get one blade, meaning you need to buy another knife if you want some variety.
The biggest reason to buy a multi-blade knife is that it comes with many blades of different styles and sizes. As a result, it’s easier to adapt to different types of woods you may encounter outside. However, this type of knife is not as durable or comfortable as the single-blade knife. The handle is larger, and the blades don’t particularly shine in a specific area. These blades are also less effective because their attaching point is far from the center of the handle, affecting the control and cutting power you may have over it.
6. Folding or Fixed Blade?
Choosing between a folding or fixed blade may seem complicated, but it’s easier than you may think. Primarily, you must consider your working place, the projects you want to accomplish, and how much you’re willing to pay for the knife. These are the different scenarios in which each blade would be more useful.
First and foremost, you must ask yourself where you will be using the knife. If you work on a bench, the fixed blade knife is the better option. These knives have larger and more comfortable handles, and their price is lower than the folding blade knives. On the other hand, a pocket knife would be the most suitable option if you’re on the go. You can put it in your pocket, and it usually comes with multiple blades that come in handy when you’re away from your bench without your tools.
Another thing to consider is what type of whittling project you have at hand. Fixed blades are better for precision work like detailed figurines, whereas folding blades are better for quick work with less precision when you’re outside.
Fixed-bladed knives are cheaper than pocket knives, which also play a role when you’re trying to pick one of the two. The price of folding knives is higher because they are complex tools, while fixed-bladed knives are basically a blade on a stick.
To Consider: Keep in mind that folding blades are not perfect and they may close unexpectedly if you apply pressure over them. A proper locking mechanism is necessary to avoid this issue.
7. Blade Locking Feature
After establishing that pocket knives are good whittling tools for beginners, it’s important to mention that some have foldable blades instead of fixed blades. If you pick a knife with a folding blade, make sure to choose one with a blade locking mechanism. This feature will keep the blade from opening in your pocket by accident, and it will also secure it in place when you’re using it for whittling.
8. What Size Whittling Knife Should You Choose?
Blades within 1.5 inches (38mm) and 2.5 inches (63.5mm) are excellent for whittling. If you want something a little larger, consider a 3.2-inch blade, like seen in the Morakniv 106. A blade this size is thinner at the tip, which will let you do finer work while still being long enough to remove material faster.
It’s a good idea if you choose two knives, one with a short blade and another one with a larger blade. The Morakniv 120 and 106 are perfect examples of that. This way, you can try both and see which one works better for you.
Keep in mind that larger blades are safer because they keep your fingers farther away.
9. Other Extra Features
Thimble. A thimble is an accessory you wear on the thumb to protect it while whittling.
Face mask with eye protection. Wear these items if you’re using power tools for sanding.
Cut-Resistant Glove. The glove goes on your holding hand to minimize the risks of injuring yourself.
Sharpening stones. Use this tool to sharpen and re-hone the edge to keep the blade aligned and sharpened. Get yourself a sharpening stone with 1000 or 3000 grit. Anything less than that will remove more metal than necessary out of your blade.
Wood Carving vs Whittling: What’s The Difference?
People often use the terms whittling and carving interchangeably, but they’re not the same things. Carving usually involves chisels, gouges, or powered tools like lathes, whereas whittling involves using just a knife to reshape wood.
Do You Need a Special Knife to Whittle?
You don’t need a special knife to whittle. A pocket knife with a pointy tip is the perfect tool if you’re starting your way as a whittler. Then, you can advance to a specialized whittle knife once you get the hang of it.
Is Opinels Good for Whittling?
Opinel knives are a great choice for casual whittling but not for fine and detailed work. The blades usually have a belly that complicates using the blade’s tip with utmost precision.
Can You Use a Pocket Knife for Whittling?
A pocket knife is the easiest and simplest knife type you can use for whittling. This knife is easy to carry and has small blades that let you whittle with decent precision. Use it for whittling stuff like a tent stake, fishing spear, whistles, or bows and arrows, among other things.
Can You Whittle With a Kitchen Knife?
Using a kitchen knife for whittling is not a good idea. Kitchen knives usually have blades longer than 6 inches, which affects your control over the tip if you want to do some detailed work. The blades are also thicker, meaning you will be removing larger chunks of wood.
One cool thing about whittling is that it can be done anywhere. This means that your blade shouldn’t just be sharp and durable, but also portable. Those qualities make the Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack our favorite. It’s lightweight, reliable, and easy to use. A close second is the Old Timer 24OT, which also works as a multi-tool everyday carry.
All carving and whittling knives have their own special qualities – but for our money, these two are a cut above the rest.