Explore the Differences: Whittling vs Carving – Tools, Techniques, and More

What is the difference between carving and whittling

Once things start getting serious as a beginner whittler you will get to the point you ask yourself what is the difference between carving and whittling? Many hobbyists use the two terms interchangeably however the two terms are distinct.

The main difference between whittling and carving is the tools, and size of the project. In whittling, the artist limits themselves to knives as their main tools and will hold the project in their hands. Ironically in carving, pieces are bigger and therefore artists here have an assortment of tools and holding devices at their disposal.

However, There’s more to whittling and carving than that difference. for a better understanding, this article will explore in-depth the relationship between whittling vs carving.

What is the difference between carving and whittling

Whittling vs Carving The main differences
Credit: Brian Elseworth

Whittling the fun in carving!

Whittling is thought of as a craft with lesser rules than traditional wood carving. this is true as seen with how whittlers will finish their carvings. While there are clear ‘rules’ in carving of how to tackle finishing, for instance, whittling finish is all dependent on the whittler’s choice to finish or not. It is not to say that a carver does not enjoy such freedoms but he does so not in the context that a whittler does.

Whittling as a craft has just begun to get popularity recently. So, it is yet to develop rules that can be termed as ‘must follow.’ Carving already has such with how to prep surface how to finish what woods to use and when etc.

Whittling as part of wood carving forms

Wood carving is made up of different forms of styles and techniques. These styles include; Chip carving, relief carving, incised & letter carving, and carving in the round which includes subsets like whittling and chainsaw carving.

However, there is a counter-thesis to this ideology as some people believe that whittling was discovered before carving. Subscribers of this analogy say whittling developed more strict rules and more tools were designed along the way.

Whittling; the perfect craft for minimalists

Whittling unlike carving will employ the use of a limited toolset. Most whittlers who are considered ‘purists’ will only use a pocket knife to do all their whittling. For such a purist additional knives, hook knives or even safety gear is of little use.

This whittler will also use found materials like twigs. It is important to see from the perspective of this whittler. they see the process as the price and the final piece as icing on the cake.

The process is therefore a therapeutic learning process of connecting with our earlier selves of pre-historic times. If you plan to do this style of whittling patience is of the essence as it is very risky to whittle with no safety gear.

On the other hand, the carving is large! The tools are many from gouges, chisels, aprons and other safety gear, power tools, and holding devices. While not always, The carving process is not the price but the art piece is the ultimate price. Carver may enjoy the carving process but what gears him is the final piece.

Whittling vs carving: What to pick?

Whittling and carving are both crafts as we have discussed above. As a beginner, you may be wondering what craft will be right for you. The truth is Whittling is cheaper, to begin with.

Even for someone that would like to dive into carving, there is no loss in starting with whittling. Whittling is still carving and the creative process is the same. Learning to use limited tools is quick and easy and the satisfaction of using many tools coming from a limited selection is satisfying and worth it.

This is not to say one can not learn carving first and down the road pick up whittling. It is the same and the fun will still be the same with a little patience, consistency, and care for your safety.

In a nutshell

It’s clear there is a clear difference between carving and whittling. Hope this article has been resourceful in clearing; What is the difference between carving and whittling. If you’re planning on learning whittling find out how long it takes to learn the craft here


Chris Pye

Mary May

Hadwin Fisher

I'm basically a "Hobby Whittler." Everything I make is for Personal use, gifts for others, or other Items for charity auctions or other "Causes" i.e. "Local Hospital" Etc. Some health issues are interfering with me doing any large-scale projects in my workshop at this Present Time. That said I can't stay idle, whittling, and writing about whittling with my Friend ken Read keeps me sane and happy!

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