You very seldom see a whittler these days. Seems our lives are just too busy. I remember when I was a child, I loved to watch my grandfather or my uncle pick up a stick of wood, whip out their pocketknife and begin turning that stick into something special. Many of my favorite toys were animals and people that were previously nothing but a discarded wooden stick.
Now that I'm older (and with a grandchild of my own on the way), I've dug out my pocketknife also. Picking up sticks or blocks of wood from my husband's workshop, I'm slowly teaching myself how to whittle. My goal is simple, to make my grandchild toys that are special in their simplicity and unique from the mass market toys that every other child has.
But first, I started with a heart. I thought it would be simple. NOT! Who knew, that cutting away a small amount of wood would be such a challenge? Certainly, not me. But I persevered and a day later, I handed my husband a two inch heart engraved with our initials. (Speaking of which, remember when kids used to carve their initials in trees - stating their undying love in a heart? Now it seems they do it mostly with spray paint on bridges and overpasses. Sigh.)
After that first whittling, I decided it was time to invest in a better knife. I took a day or two to read through the many different carving and whittling websites to attempt to figure out what I really needed. I found out, I just needed a better knife than the one I had as my blade was really too thick to accomplish much. So off to eBay I went.
After searching through every category I could find on woodworking, I finally found a set of knives that I knew I could not live without. The set, made by Warren Cutlery, included nine blades with interchangeable handles. As an added bonus, there were also six wood carving chisels included. I put my snipe bid in and waited.
I was one happy camper when I discovered I had won the auction for less than half of what I was willing to pay. And that made the total of my set about one fourth of what it would have cost me retail. So, for around twenty bucks, I was ready. All I could do now was wait and hope the seller was a fast shipper.
He was indeed. My new tools arrived three days later and I have to say I did good. My second attempt at a heart took me less than three hours from start to finish. What a difference a good tool makes.
I wish there was a whittling or carving club near me. But alas, since we live way out in the boonies far from any city that isn't an option. So to learn my craft, I'm relying on books. (Back to eBay once more.)
And I'm having fun. I actually whittled out a piece today that truly resembles the little dog I had in mind when I started. My better half built me a lap desk, to catch the shavings, so I can sit on the couch in the evening and whittle while he watches television.
For someone who could never draw anything, I'm finding that I can truly make something out of a little block of wood or a stick I find laying in the yard. That's kinda cool.
The best part is that my new hobby is a cheap hobby. Unlike my husband's woodworking where tools can cost in the thousand dollar range, I can pick up replacement blades for my handles for less than five bucks each. The handles I expect will last me for the rest of my life and everything stores in a little cedar box that I can plop in my purse any time we are on the road to go visiting or whatever.
I don't know if picking up whittling was my answer to a mid-life crisis of some sort or another or not. I do know that it is a wonderful stress reliever and it allows me to create. And that's a good thing.
Hopefully by the time by soon to be grandchild is old enough to play with my creations, he or she will be able to recognize each one without Grandma having to tell them it's a dog, cat or whatever.