Whittling – Teaching kids outdoor knife skills

Whittling and Knife Techniques - Teach Kids correct skills

So you’ve bought one of the many great pen knives available, and you want to show your kids something useful?

Time to teach yourself and them whittling, the craft of wood carving.  OK, so wood carving may be a bit of a stretch.  How about “making stuff from twigs with your knife”?

Teaching Kids Whittling

Whittling will introduce your children to knife skills, including how to sharpen knives… but expect a few cuts along the way.

Ideally your kids would have a short fixed blade knife or a locking folding knife, as folding pocket knives can close unexpectedly on fingers if people are not paying attention… but the UK knife law being what it is, a pen knife may be the only option (see our article on pen knives for details on knives and the law, and also some specially designed pen knives for kids).

You may want to start your kids off by simply getting them to strip bark off twigs in order to toast items over the fire.   Another starting option is to strip some bark and just get them to carve their name.

Where a pen knife does has advantages over fixed knives is with their other accessories – using the saw for cutting twigs or a file for finishing off rough edges for example.  The Victorinox Camper knife includes two blades and a saw.  The smaller blade is often best for whittling.

Victorinox 1.3613 Army Knife Camper Red. Medium/60 mm
Victorinox 1.3613 Army Knife Camper Red. Medium/60 mm
 110 customer reviews...

Victorinox Camper Swiss Army Knife (Red) 1361371 VICCAMP

A Victorinox Swiss Army Knife is a combination of solid hand tool and inventive creativity. A characteristic feature of the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife is its multi-functionality, which makes it indispensible for many of life's situations. All Victorinox Swiss Army Knives are made from first class stainless steel and are guaranteed against any defects in material and workmanship.

The Camper Swiss Army Knife has large and small blades, a corkscrew, a can opener with a small 3 mm screwdriver, a bottle opener with a 6 mm screwdriver and wire stripper, a reamer/punch tool, a keyring, tweezers, a toothpick and a woodsaw.

Colour: red.

Size: 91 mm /3.½in long.


Eligible For Free Postage
£18.00 £18.00
(as of 01/05/2017 - info)

If you get your kids trained enough they could even create you some wooden tent pegs to replace the metal ones they lost 😉

Seriously though, there are correct ways to hold a knife, and some common sense in where the knife will travel (especially if it slips), where fingers are, and sensible ways of securing wood.

There are some great techniques in the videos below.  Master them yourselves then pass on some common sense and the correct knife techniques onto your kids.

Whittling Books

Whittling Beginners Book

There are a couple of books available from Chris Lubkemann written for using your penknife on camp: Little Book of Whittling: Passing Time on the Trail, on the Porch, and Under the Stars and Whittling Twigs & Branches – 2nd Edition: Unique Birds, Flowers, Trees and More from Easy-to-Find Wood.

Little Book of Whittling: Passing Time on the Trail, on the Porch, and Under the Stars
Little Book of Whittling: Passing Time on the Trail, on the Porch, and Under the Stars
 188 customer reviews...
Intended for beginners as well as more advanced carvers looking for a relaxing way to spend their time, this instructional manual provides 20 projects, including knives, forks, birds, animals, trees, and flowers. It describes the proper whittling tools and materials, including what woods are best to carve, and how to start projects.
£9.95 £6.00
(as of 01/05/2017 - info)
Whittling Twigs and Branches: Unique Birds, Flowers, Trees and More from Easy-to-Find Wood
Whittling Twigs and Branches: Unique Birds, Flowers, Trees and More from Easy-to-Find Wood
 49 customer reviews...
Whittling Twigs and Branches With little more than a knife, a branch and a dose of concentration this book shows how to create unique keepsakes that are fun to make, make great gifts and are popular items for sale. Full description
Eligible For Free Postage
£9.99 £9.98
(as of 01/05/2017 - info)

The first book provides advice for beginners, from choosing a knife, sharpening (and reshaping the blade), and selecting the correct wood, he then provides step by step guides for making practical things such as a back scratcher or decorative items such as flowers.

The picture above is shows the first book, the “Little Book of Whittling“.  As you can see, it has photos illustrating each step.

The second book is a more recent edition, but is aimed at taking your new found skills into refined craftsmanship – ideal if you need more inspiration after the first book.

Whittling Videos

There’s lots of videos on You Tube. Here’s a few useful ones to begin with.

Safe Knife Techniques – You’ll want to bookmark this!

Lots of sensible and correct knife techniques in this video. Notice the reverse grip hold on the knife.

Simple Whittling Projects

Here’s some basic projects to get you started…

Creating your own tent peg

Creating your own tent peg or stake for a guideline is very simple and useful.

More knife techniques – plus Creating a Feather Stick for your fire

This video contains further knife techniques, and finishes off with creating a feather stick to help light your campfire.

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Gav Grayston
Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.
Gav Grayston


Family adventures, activities, camping, holidays,days out OS #GetOutSide champions 2017 #DofE brand ambassador @Craghoppers Partnership @campandcarvan @_elddis_
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