Journey into whittling

To whittle: Carve (wood) into an object by repeatedly cutting small slices from it.

Every year, my family would drive south to my grand-parents’ holiday home in the Jura mountains. There was no television, no cell phone reception, and only one radio station in the house. So my sister and me would be outdoors most of the time, hiking with the rest of my family or playing with the children of the village along the many fields and mountain paths. Some years, my grand parents would join us and my grand father would take me with him when he went prospecting for wood. He would tell me about the different kind of woods and what he would do with them in his studio back home. I’ve largely forgotten what he taught me but I remember the awe I always felt at his ability to turn pieces of a tree into something else.

Back home I would sometimes be allowed in his studio but only under strict order not to touch anything and wear plastic glasses. There were many sharps tools, whirling blades whizzing away at wood like butter and sending dust flying through the room before settling in a thick carpet on the floor. I was never allowed to help in spite of wanting to. It was just too dangerous. I eventually got bored with standing in the studio, doing nothing but watch my grand father. It was not as fun as exploring every corners of the old stable and joining my uncle in his tractors for a round in the field where I would be able to drive.

Years passed, I grew up and my grand father grew older. Wooden gifts stopped decorating our houses and I forgot about wood carving until a year ago when trees began to nag at me once more. I purchased a tree identification book and spent many hours perusing its pages in front of London trees. I’ve bought a membership to Kew Gardens and meandered endlessly among its trees, learning about species from home and abroad. I began to remember my grand-father and his wood carving studio, and felt an itch grow. But his kind of carving had required space and many tools, both things I didn’t have and am unlikely to get for a long time. So I pushed the idea aside as another hobby to try later in life. But then I discovered whittling.

I found blogs where people made things out of wood from a simple knife. This, I felt, was more attainable. So last month, I went to Amazon and used up a voucher for a whittling knife. I didn’t know anything about it but people had written good reviews. I found a source of free wood, watched a couple of YouTube videos and began to carve.

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8 thoughts on “Journey into whittling

  1. There is, in my opinion, something very cathartic about working with my hands, especially since my day job requires a lot of mental and digital work. The biggest hurdle for me was to accept that most of what I make isn’t going to turn out perfect, since I’m still learning. I’ve come to accept that an attractive and serviceable bookcase that I’ve built by hand is much more satisfying than a perfectly constructed one that I purchase. It’s the process that is worthwhile, at least for me.

    Also, I just realized that your new hobby is quite portable; I imagine it will travel well with you on your journeys!

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    • True. Working with your hands is very cathartic, especially when your day job doesn’t include much manual work. Plus it’s so satisfying to be able to say ‘I made that’.

      Absolutely 🙂 That’s one of the reason I started whittling before going to Portugal. If it hadn’t been so portable, I probably would have waited until my return to start 🙂

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