If you are just starting to carve, you can’t beat a knife and a piece of pine or basswood. The great convenience of the pocketknife or clasp knife is that you can take it with you and set up shop whenever you’re so inclined. A knife with a fixed handle is safer for cutting (the blade won’t snap shut on your finger) but a nuisance to carry; its edge must be protected against all things hard or soft.
Here’s more on how to choose carving knives, from blades to knife handles. Do you go for a fixed blade or a pocket knife? Find out.
Qualities of a good carving knife
Its handle is bigger and more comfortable, but you need a sheath to carry it. The knife should be of good quality and have a carbon-steel blade rather than stainless. It will rust if you don’t keep it lightly oiled, but it will also hold an edge longer, which is important unless you long to carry a hone and a lap with you as well.
As to blade shape and size, you’ll find that you seldom need a blade longer than IV2 in (4 cm); a longer blade will bend, and your hand is too far back to control it. A knife with one long blade with a sharp point (saber or B-clip) and a smaller one with a stubbier tip (pen) is the basic answer. It can have three blades but shouldn’t have more than that, or the knife becomes too clumsy.
My favorite carving knife
I usually carry two knives—one with a pen, spear, and B-clip, the other with a pen and B-clip. The three-bladed knife is larger and has wider blades to take heavier cuts; the small blade handles the delicate and hard-to-get-at spots and shallow concavities. The small blade is more likely to break and harder to control, as well as slower, but the big blades get in their way occasionally.
The carver’s pocketknife
The most universal tool is the knife, particularly the pocketknife, because it is so portable and adaptable. A good one can cut a wide variety of materials, certainly those mentioned in this book.
Because man is so inventive, he has developed an extraordinary number of variations on the knife, each with its special purpose and advantages. You can buy any blade and handle shape, even blades with blank handles you can carve to fit your hand.
What pocket knife should you go for
But it is better to start with a good pocketknife, with a maximum of two or three carbon steel blades (stainless won’t hold an edge) and no belt clips, can openers, or corkscrews to chafe your palm. Because the knife will change position in your hand for various cuts, it should have an essentially smooth and uniform handle, comfortable to grip.
Blades should include at least one with a saber point. Usually, the big one is known as a B-clip. The other one or two should be a pen, spear, or equivalent. Be sure blades open and close easily, yet do not wobble, and do open out straight and firmly.
Summary: how to choose a carving knife
Ancient man carved the materials he had with whatever tools he could devise. His incentives were undoubted to appease the gods or worship them, to make a tool easier to hold, and to make an image for himself or his children.
Wood was abundant in most areas and could be cut by stone, so the stone knife and chisel found early use, followed by the ax and the adze when someone discovered how to make and bind on a handle. The point is that ancient man got along with relatively few tools. So can you, until you know what you need.