Updated: Jun 7, 2020
As I continue on my journey to seek out workshops – wood was the next material to come to mind (after metal, cloth, paper. What else is there?). I found a wood whittling intro workshop at The Green Wood Guild in London.
I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect for the workshop. The last time I handled wood was during Design & Technology class more than a decade ago, and I think we made some sort of a box, and I mainly remembered filing / sandpapering & varnishing the wood…
I got a friend to join me at the workshop just in case other participants were pros (some came with their own whittling set!). The class had ~10 or fewer people seated in a semi-circle around the instructor. We were given a safety briefing (including how to remove the the sheath of the whittling knife, which can be surprisingly dangerous for people sitting beside you :p)
Swedish whittling knife from Mora. Give the sheath a twist before pulling it out to minimize the risk of killing someone sitting beside you
We were given a fresh piece of wood template to work with (chopped and prepared earlier in the day – there are longer workshops that let you work with an axe do this). Along the way, the instructor also taught us various techniques to carve the spatula – who would have known there were so many ways to hold a knife? Some were better at shaving off large pieces of wood, while others were better for control of curves / tiny corners.
Fresh piece of wood for our whittling exercise
After ~ 2 hours of hacking skilfully carving the piece of wood, I ended up with something that looks somewhat like a spatula:
Final product: the cuts aren’t really smooth / straight, but hey, that’s what makes it look authentic & hand-made, right?
Details of the workshop
Duration: 2 hours Price: GBP35 (~SGD60) – this the wood and use of whittling knife, and some cookies + coffee/tea
Level of “fun”: 3/5
Anything that involves a knife is always fun exciting. Seeing a template piece of wood being shaved down into something of a recognizable shape is very therapeutic, especially when one makes nice smooth cuts across the entire piece of wood (vs half cuts that get stuck / caught in the middle, if you get what I mean). Some whittling techniques (way of holding and using the knife) are more fun than others, and I ended up using a few that I was more comfortable with.
Level of difficulty: 4.5/5
This was by far the most challenging workshop I’ve been to – unlike other workshops where a tool supports you (e.g. welder, sewing machine), whittling knives don’t really provide support to the same extend. Whittling requires you to combine & strike a balance between both strength and control when handling the knife. Layer that on top of the many possible techniques that are used to effectively carve the various parts of the spatula, this was one mean challenge, especially with just 2 hours to learn, absorb, and apply. It was also quite tiring – my friend had some chest aches the next day :p Nevertheless, the challenge and the possibility of honing your skill and craft over time makes whittling an attractive activity – apparently each item you make gets better. Plus wood is just such a beautiful material, I would love to get better at working with it ❤
From left: example spatula, my spatula, friend’s spatula – lots of room for improvement