The second type of knives available perfect for the craft are speciality whittling knives. Though they may not match up to the ideals of the purists, speciality knives are great, mainly because they are built specifically for the job. Unlike their pocketed counterpart the speciality knives have a fixed blade meaning that it won’t retract, though this does offer more sturdiness. The ergonomics are also often better suited to whittling in long bouts, usually they’ll be fitted with a nice, curved handle that fits nicely to the palm of your hand, this helps reduce fatigue.
I’d say that when trying to pick which one’s best for yourself think about where and when you’ll be whittling. If you’re planning on doing it in the great outdoors, perhaps simply to pass the time on a nice camping trip then go for the pocketknife. If it’s at home maybe at a workstation then perhaps the speciality blades would be more suited for you. It’s really whatever you feel more comfortable with.
Sharpen Your Blade – If this is your first time using a knife for anything other than cutting up your dinner then this is a tip that you’ll certainly want to take note of. As you work away at slicing up that block of wood you may notice over time it may become more and more difficult to deal with. It’s easy to think that you may have a particularly stubborn piece of wood and simply soldier on until it returns to its old soft self but what you may actually find is that your knife needs sharpening. Get yourself a sharpening stone and some lubricant and give that knife the care it needs. After doing so you should notice the difference immediately, the knife will likely glide through the wood and give your aching hands a good bit of relief. Whenever you feel the wood getting tougher give your knife another sharpening.
Stay Safe – A point that’s worth remembering in any craft that involves a knife. Though you may feel confident in your steady hands or your ability to use a knife that doesn’t mean you should shirk your safety equipment, particularly when starting out. Many a whittler has started out with the best intentions of crafting a simple starting piece and then ruined it with their own blood. Odds are you will slip whilst whittling away and have the knife slice into your fingers or thumb. To start out with I’d heartily recommend you use protective gear, either protective gloves or at least a leather finger and thumb pad, though they may seem cumbersome to start with you’ll quickly get used to them and better to feel slightly uncomfortable than in searing pain.
Work with the Grain – When you begin carving, you’ll want to make sure that your cuts are made with the grain instead of against it. Cuts with the grain will feel smooth with the wood peeling away easily whereas cuts against will give you resistance and will lead to splits in the wood. Usually you’ll be able to see the grain of the wood fairly easily but if you’re having trouble make a few chips in it and you’ll soon be able to feel it.