Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Tutorials


The WHITTLE FOLK ART  certificate serves also as an educational tool for classes that the WOOD BEE CARVER  teaches.  Whittle-Carving  is carving only with a knife as an exercise in one of the most common forms of Folk Art.  The certificate states the Motto of the WOOD BEE CARVER  as “Would be carvers would be carvers if they would carve wood.”   Next comes the  WOOD BEE CARVER’S Rules  of one line lessons that are extremely important to the practice of Whittle-Carving.  The first four deal with the importance of “slicing with the cutting edge” as being the most efficient cut with a knife (as it is with any carving tool). The other sayings on the certificate hold significant meaning worth thinking about, but for this posting the central theme is that of learning to “slice with the cutting edge,”  as often as possible.

Consider that one wants to slice a loaf of bread.  Laying the knife across the top of the loaf and pushing straight down will cut the bread eventually but before doing so the wedge cut of the blade will squash the bread before it cuts.  If on the other hand one would lay the knife across the top of the bread and slice with the cutting edge, the bread will be slice-cut rather than squashed.  The same holds true for carving wood with a knife.  Pushing the knife blade straight in with a wedge cut will squash the wood fibers before the edge cuts through the fibers.  A lot of  force is required to do a wedge cut.  Slicing the cutting edge through the wood results in separating the fibers with the minuscule cutting teeth of the knife blade (much like  teeth on a hand saw) resulting in a clean cut with less force in guiding the knife through the cut.

Another example is in cutting a juicy steak.  A slicing cut with a knife is more efficient than trying to force the edge of the fork down through the meat.  A paper cut is the result the edge of paper “slicing” across one’s skin.  The guillotine with its skewed blade sliced as it slide down the tract of the frame of the guillotine. 


Skewing the knife blade while pushing it forward or pulling it backwards through wood creates the slicing cut.  In the photograph on the left above the slicing cut began at the tip end of the blade and as it was sliced forward (pushed)  following the cutting edge at a skewed angle a sliver of wood is separated from the  block of wood.  In the photograph on the right above the slicing cut began at the heel end of the blade being pulled through the wood at a skewed angle in a slicing action following the cutting edge towards the tip resulting in a sliver of wood being separated from the block of wood.  Both photographs are intended to illustrate how the slicing action of allowing the cutting edge to slice through the wood will result in a clean and slick cut without broken fibers or tell tale fuzzies or cloudy surface on the carved wood.

Learning to slice with every cut takes some practice to overcome the less efficient wedge and forced cuts a carver may have picked up from previous carving experience.  Practice with a block of basswood by making whittling cuts randomly into the wood consciously moving the cutting edge in a slicing action as if one is slicing bread either in the pushing or pulling stroke.  Try long cuts, shorter cuts, three cut triangle chips or notch cuts of two angled cuts meeting at the bottom of the first cut with each cut mentally saying “slice the bread, slice the bread,”  and soon the slicing action will become second nature.

BEE a Cut Above by always “slicing with the cutting edge.”

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2011 at 3:27 pm and is filed under Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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