The 5 Best Whittling Knives [Ranked]
In this post, we examine 5 of the best-selling whittling knives.
Whittling is the art of carving shapes out of blocks or pieces of wood. While there are multiple knives for wood carving, whittling knives (or pocket knives) are generally straight edged. Whittling knives are specialty knives and are designed for use over longer periods of time (Source).
How do they work?
Unlike wood carving in which the carver uses a mallet to chisel wood, the whittler uses only the pressure from their hands to direct the blade against the wood.
When buying a whittling knife, experts say the blade is the most important piece and that you should look for a blade that’s thin, sharp with a nice flat cutting surface and whether to choose a fixed blade or folding blade is purely a matter of preference (Source).
Whittling is both a hobby and an art that’s been passed down through generations. For this article, we looked at 5 whittling knives that are ideal for the beginner.
Whittling Pocket Knifes Compared
Comparing The Options
First up is the Morakniv Wood Carving Junior 73/164 Knife. Morakniv is a well-known and respected name in the knife industry and this particular knife features a 3-inch carbon steel blade and is perfect for the beginning woodcarver. The oiled birchwood handle offers a good grip without being too slippery. Users commented on the quality for the price and it comes highly recommended.
Next is the Flexcut Cutting Knife, which features an ash handle and high carbon 1 1/4-inch steel blade. The handle is curved for more comfortable grip over longer periods of time. Made in the USA, this knife is highly rated by users for being sharp out of the box and maintaining its edge.
The Opinel No 8 Folding knife is a classic knife that’s well known and features a 3.25-inch carbon blade and a hardwood handle. This knife features a folding design, which is nice for putting in your pocket or bag. We found the blade locks tightly in both positions to avoid accidental opening or closing. If you want quality and simplicity, you can’t go wrong with this knife.
The Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack is a smaller version of their popular Carvin’ Jack and Pocket Jack knives. This knife features two blades: A 1 1/2-inch blade for detail work and a 2-inch blade for rough cutting and is also a folding design. This knife by far is the most versatile knife we looked at. A minor complaint noted is the knife could use a locking mechanism, but otherwise this is a popular knife and well worth the price.
Lastly the Morakniv Wood Carving 120 knife features a 2.4- inch laminated steel blade and an oiled birchwood handle. The handle/blade combination provides good control and stability. This is a no-nonsense knife that’s well made and gets out of your way so you can concentrate on your work. Morakniv knives are very popular and highly rated and this one is no exception (Source).
Best Whittling Knives For 2023
Ease Of Use
The Morakniv Wood Carving Knife is a good option for a hardcore woodworker who looks for tools with ergonomically designed handle. Users love the quality and sharpness of this product, but some do complain about receiving a defective item.
This product is a whittling knife with a durable laminated steel blade 2.7 mm (0.10’’) thick and 60 mm (2.36’’) long. It features an oiled birch wood handle. This item seems like a good choice if you want a high-quality whittling knife that is optimally adapted to the task for which it is intended.
The general user consensus concerning the Morakniv Wood Carving 120 Knife is that it is an excellent all-around carving knife. They praise its sharpness and comfortable fit. One satisfied purchaser shares that it stayed razor sharp through carving on a very dry and hard scrap of pine lumber.
However, several buyers complain about receiving a knife with a defect. As they say, the blade arrived rusted along both sides.
Mora Carving Video Overview
Ease Of Use
The Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack is a good option if you are a discriminating woodworker or camping survivalist. Users love the sharpness of the blades, but do complain about difficulties with opening them.
This product is a Detail Knife (1- 1/2″ long) and a Roughing Knife (2″ long) combo. The blades are made from Flexcut’s high carbon steel and are pre-sharpened to a razor’s edge. The knife weighs only 3 oz. and is just over 4″ long. This two-bladed whittling knife could be a good choice since it provides the most needed blades any carver could need.
In general, users have a favorable opinion of the Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack. They agree that it is extremely sharp, fits a hand well and is very comfortable. One user advises using only a strop for sharpening it because a stone or diamond plate will ruin the edge.
However, many buyers complain about difficulties with opening the blades. As one online reviewer says, it takes care to unfold the blade since the blades are extremely tight, with too little of the blade back exposed to make opening easy.
Flexcut Jack Video Overview
Ease Of Use
The Opinel Carbon Blade Whittling Knife is a good option for those who want not only effective and practical, but also a beautiful pocket knife. Users love the usefulness of this product, but do complain about it not being made of stainless steel.
This product is a traditional French picnic knife which is easy to use. It has a safe, foldable blade design. The knife features a carbon steel blade, hardwood handle and stainless steel locking collar which prevents accidental opening or closing. This foldable pocket knife might be a good choice if you want one that is made by a manufacturer whose knives have been displayed in museums.
In general, users have a favorable opinion of the Opinel Carbon Blade No8 Folding Knife and they agree that it is a great light utility knife (great for slicing, cutting, whittling and some carving). They add that the blade is very sharp and that its quality is great for the price. A very satisfied buyer says that the wood finish and craftsmanship are just incredible.
However, many purchasers complain about the blade not being made of stainless steel. They warn that the blade will, therefore, rust and oxidize quickly. One buyer states that the blade doesn’t seem to hold an edge.
Opinel Video Overview
Ease Of Use
If you are looking for a top-rated whittling knife, you might want to consider this one offered by Flexcut. Users love the quality and ergonomics of this product, but there are several complaints regarding the loose blade.
This product is a1-1/4’’ straight-edged knife with an ergonomic ash hardwood handle for prolonged periods of carving without fatigue. Its razor-sharp hard carbon steel blade is ready to use right out of the package. This item could be a good choice if you are looking for a perfect general purpose carving knife.
In general, buyers have a very positive opinion of the Flexcut Cutting Knife. They state that it is a great knife for the price and that it does a beautiful job. Users add that the blades are razor sharp and that the knife has a perfect shape for a comfortable grip.
However, some buyers complain about the blade being loose. Several purchasers experienced the blade falling out after just a few hours or days of using it.
Flexcut Video Overview
Ease Of Use
If you are looking for a whittling knife, you might want to consider the Morakniv Wood Carving Junior Knife. Users like its handiness and only one buyer complains about it being suitable only for rough cutting.
This product comes from a Swedish manufacturer of the highest-quality knives. It features an ergonomically designed oiled birchwood handle and a thin carbon steel blade with finger protection guard. If you are looking for a premium-quality whittling knife, this might be a good option.
In general, users are happy with the Morakniv Wood Carving Junior Knife. They like that it is very sharp and holds the edge well. They agree that it is a very light and handy whittling knife. In addition, users say that the knife is small enough to be easily controlled and maneuvered, as well as that it is great for detail carving.
The only complaint comes from a user who says that the knife is fit only for rough cutting.
Mora Video Overview
Understanding Wood Whittling
If you don't know what whittling is, then let me enlighten you.
It is basically a pastime for someone who is not a full time dedicated sculptor but is also interested in making small pieces of art from time to time.
What is Whittling?
Basically speaking, whittling refers to the art of etching and engraving shapes using just raw pieces of lumber with just a knife. However, whittling also refers to mindlessly shaving off slivers of wood from a piece of lumber without any artistic intent.
If you are interested in carving as a casual whittler, then you can easily do that with just a small and light, sharp bladed knife. For example, a boot knife is a perfect tool for the casual whittler.
If you want to get more serious about your carving, you can buy specialized knives that are made for the express purpose of carving lumber. These are knives that have fixed blades and are recommended if you want to create a true piece of art by carving a piece of wood.
These whittling knives are easier to grip for long durations of time thanks to their thick gripping handles. They also provide the whittler with better leverage, which lets the user be more precise and accurate with the exact amount of pressure they are exerting while whittling.
Sometimes, people use the terms 'carving' and 'whittling' as if they are both the same thing. However, you should be aware that the two are completely separate arts. In the art of carving, the carver makes use of a variety of tools to shape a piece of lumber into a piece of art. These tools include gouges, chisels, mallets, etc.
Advanced carvers even use electrically powered machines to help them in their carvings. On the other hand, whittling only requires the artist to have a single knife.
In the developed, first world parts of the world, whittling has been relegated to the position of a hobby instead of a serious occupation like it used to be in the past.
There is a historical decorative whittling technique used in Norway called 'Splash Whittling' in which an ax is used to form a herringbone pattern.
Always keep your safety in your mind while you are carving, as you are handling a knife and you don't want any unfortunate accidents with a knife while you are creating your piece of art. So always use a leather thimble to protect your thumb from any accidental cuts and put a carving glove on the hand that you are using to hold the knife.
Best Wood Types
Although it is true that practically any type of lumber can be used for carving purposes, there are some types of lumber that are much easier to work with with a knife or some other carving tool.
For example, woods like basswood are much easier to whittle as they have small grains and are generally softer when compared to most other types of lumber. Basswood is also less expensive than most other types of timber. Also, hard lumbers are much more difficult to whittle as they require more skill, pressure, and precision.
People have been using basswood for millennia now for the purposes of woodcarving. For example, while the Middle Ages were going on, basswood was the lumber of choice for German sculptors who were tasked with developing complex and complicated pieces of art out of wood, such as church altarpieces.
This is a testament to the fact that basswood is a great type of lumber to whittle with as it does not have many grains and is softer when compared to most other types of lumber. If you are interested in working with basswood, you can easily get it from your local arts and crafts store for economical prices.
Random twigs and branches
Although ready-made blocks of lumber are convenient and easy to use to start sculpting into pieces of art, you can create art pieces just as good by using random twigs and branches that you find lying around out in nature.
In fact, you would be hard put to find something more enjoyable than sitting around a campfire with your friends and carving away at a twig or short branch that you found on the ground near you. For carving/whittling tree branches, simple wooden knives are ample enough for the task.
Another popular type of lumber that has been long used for whittling is pine. It is readily available as pine trees grow almost everywhere, and the wood is soft and easily cut. However, pine does have its disadvantages.
According to some experienced whittlers, pine lumber is not a good type of wood if you want to include detail and precision in your finished sculptures. In fact, if you are using a freshly broken off pine branch or twig, then you will have to deal with the sticky and messy sap that is likely to leak out of the branch or twig as you whittle away at it.
Balsa wood is the perfect type of lumber for beginners to whittling. It is cheap to buy, very light in weight and also very soft, making it easy to cut. You can easily buy large amounts of balsa wood from arts and crafts stores.