How to Select a Knife.

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Forum topic by JoshInTheMiddle posted 09-17-2015 01:48 PM 1031 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 981 days

09-17-2015 01:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: knife flexcut jackknife beginner whittling woodworking basswood hobos question carving tool carving traditional

Hello Lumberjocks,

I am a fresh soul to woodworking and have recently fallen in love with it after crafting my first spoon out of redwood. It was an incredibly enjoyable process through a workshop I was apart of. This experience made me immediately go and buy a block a basswood. This is where I hit a major snafoo. What kind of knife should I purchase and where should I purchase it from to begin my craft?

Here is where we get into a bit of philosophy; the reason I picked up woodworking was the simplicity of it all. It brought me back to a simple time where hobos could craft ornamental figures with just their pocket knifes and old sages could share wisdom while crafting a ball in cage. I have asked several woodworking stores and they all point me to expensive tools and a bunch of Flexcut knives. This really turned me off as I didn’t feel the need to buy 5 separate knives and gauges to make a 2-inch robin (which was decidedly my first solo project).

So here is the question: do I need to go and buy a specific ‘woodworking knife’? Or is it possible to sharpen my old pocket knife enough to work? I sharpened my pocket knife a good deal and spent three hours trying to shave access basswood to take shape, but it was taking a crazy amount of time with little results. I watch videos of whittlers cutting basswood like butter with their knives, so I really believe it can be done.

Last questions: my ideal knife would be a jackknife. My father used to have one from his grandfather but lost it. This is where my soul gets excited as I use one simple tool to craft fresh art. Does anyone know where I can find an affordable jackknife that will be good for whittling?

Thank you so much for all the help and staying with me through this long description. I am excited to join this amazing community!

4 replies so far

View mpounders's profile


875 posts in 2893 days

#1 posted 09-17-2015 05:00 PM

You can carve just about any kind of wood, if you want to bad enough. And any knife will work, if it is sharpened correctly for the type of wood you are carving or for the purposes you are using it for. A lot of basswood from hobby stores and possibly woodworking stores may be harder than what is desirable for carving, as it may be southern basswood or old. Many carvers buy basswood from Heinecke and have it shipped. Wood carving knives come in a variety of shapes, lengths, and thickness for the blades. Thinner blades with a flat grind can slice easily through wood and are great for details and other work, but may be too delicate for other jobs. Helvie makes a variety of fixed bladed knives, but no folders. Most folding knives used for carving will need the blades re-shaped and sharpened with a flatter bevel for carving purposes. I own about 25 knives of different sizes and shapes, partly because I like them, and partly because different sizes and shapes work better in some situations. Sometimes you want a machete, sometimes you want something smaller. I suggest you get a Stanley 207 utility knife that has afixed blade. It is already razor sharp and you can do a lot of things with it (take a look at OutWest WoodCarvings). Lastly, it certainly does look easy when an experienced carver is using the knife. But don’t be discouraged! try and find a carving club in your area and they will be glad to give you some pointers and tips. You may even get to try some of their tools before buying your own.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View David Taylor's profile

David Taylor

326 posts in 1085 days

#2 posted 09-18-2015 01:59 AM

View ClaudeF's profile


657 posts in 1705 days

#3 posted 09-19-2015 12:21 AM

Mike’s advice is spot on!

Heinecke wood: I’ve bought from them for years.

Helvie knives: I have a couple of these and they are great. Comes carving sharp.

Flexcut Knives: I own several and use this one all the time. Comes carving sharp.

Bütz Detail Knife: I have one of these and use it for fine detail such as eyes and mouths. Does not come carving sharp and will take a bit of time it get it sharp.



View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1519 days

#4 posted 09-19-2015 02:54 AM

Welcome to Lumberjocks, Josh. Fresh souls are our favorite kind .. muahahaha . . .

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