What Is Carving Wood With A Knife Called?

If you enjoy creating your own DIY art and spending time crafting for gifting and decor, chances are you have come across the skill of wood carving. Practiced wood carvers, also called whittlers, can often create intricate carvings in wood, but the skill can be easily acquired with regular practice.

If you have wondered what carving wood with a knife is called, or have been interested in how to whittle, this is a great introductory article for you to look over. Below I’ll briefly define this craft, what it is used for, and how you can get started with your own whittling projects!

The Difference Between Carving and Whittling

Wood carving is the art of carving wood into shapes, designs, and patterns. It is an art form that many people enjoy as a way to pass the time, and create professional-looking products. So what is whittling, exactly compared to carving? Whittling is a form of carving, but is a bit more simplified and is often practiced more as a hobby.

Whittling is defined by carving shapes out of wood using a knife of some sort. It differs a bit from the broader definition of wood carving because carving includes the use of more tools are included in the overall process. The use of chisels, gouges, and mallets are used alongside various knives when you carve.

This Historical Significance of Wood Carving

Woodworking has most likely been around as long as man has walked the earth. Carvings for both practical applications, as well as pleasure, have been found dating back tens of thousands of years, and have only grown in complexity and use through the years.

man's hand carving the wood

As an art, carvings have been showcased as religious purposes, as well as to help personalize weaponry and other tools. Today, the craft is still used in practical decor, artistic expression, and collectible items- to name a few.

What You Need to Carve

Wood carving and whittling is an affordable craft, and to get started all you really need is a useful softwood, pocket knife, and a good idea to get started. However, you will definitely want to learn the differences between the best wood for whittling, various techniques, and helpful tools you can take advantage of. You can always find a good whittling kit for beginners as well if you are interested.

It’s also important to note, you may want to use gloves if you are new to this to help protect your hands!


Pocket knives or whittling knives that have a larger, gripable handle, are useful for carving wood. Small chisels, mallets, and gouges are nice to have on hand for more complex works. There are great patterns you can find for free online, as well as books for beginners you can take advantage of.

Wood carving tools close up


The type of wood you whittle is also important to consider. Softwoods from evergreen sources or soft hardwoods are preferred. Basswood and balsa wood are some of the most popular for carving and whittling projects. If you are wondering where to buy these options, start first with local crafting stores if you are not familiar with the materials so you can better understand what each is. Online sources can also be helpful.

Why People Whittle

Whittling has been around as long as people found the need to keep their hands busy. Taking out a pocket knife and carving up a small piece of wood is a pastime that can be done just about anywhere, and the practice is a soothing, calming technique for those in need of something to do.

It helps pass the time, allows a creative outlet without having to gather supplies or spend any money, and allows the artist to relax and allow a piece of wood to take shape. This is a great way to help refocus yourself and also calm your mind as a means of therapy.

Wood Carving Examples and Ideas

To help inspire your new craft, I’ve included a few examples of wood carving techniques and examples. These are cool results that can be created just from a simple block of wood!

1. Artistic Utensils

Bespoke Handcarved Spoon~Whittled Natural Wooden Spoon

Carving your own eating utensils for use, or just art is a great practice. These are familiar shapes for everyone and easy enough to use as a good start to the art. They also take on fun shapes and designs depending on the wood you choose to use. More information on the best wood for spoon carving here.



2. Children’s Toys

woman's hand holding dinosaur wood toy
Image Source: instructables.com

Toy and figure whittling is probably the most popular carving pastime there is. So many things can be created from a block of wood for children, and this great set of instructions is perfect to get you started for a collection of your very own.

3. Holiday Decor

Two wooden handmade reindeer for christmas decoration with natural materials. Also with golden stars on the wooden background.

Whittle your own holiday decor that showcases your own style and fits into your decorations year-round. Figure carving takes on a personalized touch due to your own style and the block of wood you are using. Many of these may be worth showcasing at any time of year!

4. Personalized Pen

Wooden Ink Pen Made
Image Source: instructables.com

Follow these awesome instructions to personalize awesome looking pens that will make everyone in your office envious! These also make incredibly personalized gifts that are both budget-friendly, and highly thoughtful.

5. Game Day

Carved Viking Chess Piece
Image Source: instructables.com

Carved chess sets are collectible worldwide, and it is easy to whittle your own personal pieces with a little patience. This guide provides you instructions to begin carving your own Viking inspired pieces, and help you see where to get started.


If carving wood holds an interest for you, now is the time to learn about whittling your own pieces for play, collection, and gifting. When learning how to whittle, you want to protect your hands and use a good, sharp knife. With practice, you will quickly begin to get comfortable with smaller details and may even decide to expand into more technical wood carving!

We’d love to answer any questions you may have and would love to see all your carving crafts! As always, please share!

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