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  • I'm new around here

    So my job has taken me from the UK to Frankfurt Germany
    away from my garage and all my tools I needed a new hobby
    My wife bought me some whittling tools and so I've started to have a go...

    First I got me some branches from a park about 60cm long and 4cm in diameter - they had been pruned I did not just savage the tree

    I was thinking they'd be green but they seem rather dry o e had flakes bark and was quite easy to strip and carve. The other had very tight and thin layered bark, was quite difficult to debark (leaving green bark still stuck in place and almost impossible to carve - the knife would prefer to skid along the surface than cut

    I have sharpened my knives but still the wood is pretty uncutable

    Initially this made me think about jacking whittling in but I persevered but now I'm thinking is this wood toxic!
    I was thinking about carving a small spoon but now worried it might kill the user :-(

    So, is there a way to identify the debarred wood or do I need to schlep back to the park and try to identify the tree?

    Is it likely to be toxic?

    How the hell do i whittle wood that does not want to be cut?

    (I'm guessing an axe and then perseverance - but is there some sort of "whittling saw" I could use at least to get it down to a basic shape?

    So many questions- its late here and so I'm blaming the coffee i had earlier making my.mind buzz:-)


  • #2
    Pictures of the wood or the tree might get you some help, but I'm probably useless since I have never been to Germany. There are various woods and vines that can be toxic or cause allergic reactions or difficulty breathing or rashes, so it might be real important to identify what you have. You may run into other issues if you are making a spoon. Typically the center part of a tree or limb contains the pith, which can dry at a different rate than the rest of the wood which can cause it to split. That happens more easily with some woods than others and the rule of thumb is to paint the ends to slow moisture loss and let dry approximately one year per inch of thickness. Some spoon carvers like green wood because it can be a bit easier to carve, but you can run the risk of the wood cracking as it drys. I usually carve bass wood or other dried wood because of this. You can toughly shape wood in a variety of ways, depending on the size of the wood and what you have available. An ax, coping saw, hand saw, scroll saw, band saw can all remove wood that is not necessary for carving. You can also use motorized tools like a Dremel with various bits or sanding drums to remove wood. Give us more information about what you are trying to carve and your tools. It is quite possible that your knives are still not sharp enough for carving as they are usually sharpened a bit different than regular knives. Or you could be trying to carve an extremely hard wood like hickory or something!
    'If it wasn't for caffeine, I wouldn't have any personality at all!"


    • #3
      Any chance those trees are near a street? Maybe you can go to Google street view or Google earth to get a look at them. I know you won't be able to get super close, but just a view of the bark and the leaf shape might help you if you go to a tree identifier website--usually associated with a university.

      I guessing at the least you're trying to carve an oak or a maple or similar "furniture hardwood" which will be difficult to carve with a knife. They're usually reserved for mallet and chisel/gouge or power carving.

      Since you're in Germany, do take advantage of the woodcarving culture there. Churches, cathedrals, mansions, etc. will be loaded with carved wood. Definitely a sight to behold if you get the chance to see the chisel marks up close.

      Bob L


      • #4
        Hi both
        privacy laws in Frankfurt kinda stomp on street view- I will need to go back there and try to remember the bark and match it to a tree - I never thought whittling would lead to sleuthing!

        In the meantime I attach some pictures of the wood

        And another of my whittling kit

        I know i need to learn how to better sharpen the blades but I just dont have the fancy dancy tools or space for them where I'm staying
        Attached Files


        • #5
          You don't need fancy tools and stuff to sharpen. Get several grits of sandpaper such as 400, 600, 1000, 1500, 2000. You can find the finer grits at automobile parts stores in the paint section. Cut some strips - maybe 5 cm wide and glue these to a flat piece of scrap board (I used shelving), with rubber cement (easy to replace later...). Get some honing compound in 0.5 micron grit: Flexcut Gold is available in Europe... Take a piece of cardboard from a cereal box (I prefer cheerios...) that is maybe 30 cm by 5 cm and glue to another flat scrap piece of wood, gray side up. Rub the compound on it like a crayon. Once you get a good edge on the blade (knife or gouge), all you need to use is the strop (cardboard with compound) to keep the blades carving sharp. Every 15-20 minutes of carving, do 15 strokes on each side (knife) on the strop, and go back to carving. After some experience, you'll feel when the blade needs to be stropped. The stropping compound will turn black as you use it. This is good, as the black is small particles of steel removed from the blades, so it shows the compound is working. Read the p_osts here: https://forum.woodcarvingillustrated...ogy-sharpening and you'll see a LOT of sharpening info.

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          • #6
            I was going to buy some sandpaper but just had to crack on with some actual whittling- I have been trying to keep the blades sharp but I was doing it freehand and the blades seemed to get to a certain sharpness and then less so. I will read up on the other link and try to improve

            As to the particularly hard/dense wood- I think i will just give up on it at least for now even when I do get a cut started the cuttings come off like powder nothing like shavings!

            If ever anyone needed to make a club this stuff would be perfect - hmm maybe I will fashion some small mallets from it 4cm diameter will make for the dinkiest mallet ever! )


            • #7
              So I finally got my behind into action and went to see where I picked up the wood looking around the only tree that seemed to have the kind of bark I had was what I think is a plain tree probably from one of the ones pictured

              I have found other wood elsewhere of a similar uncut ability so I'm guessing german plain trees are normally just a pain and I should avoid

              As to ky knife being blunt - yes definitely but yesterday I sharoened one patiently for an hour - mostly just stropping - and got it such that it would shave hair off my arm (seemingly a classic test) but it still would not carve it nicely

              I plan to get some 3m paper and better stropping kit then spend another few hours honing my honing skills

              Thanks all

              I struggled to post the pic so will try again soon


              • #8
                Bah new phone and unwittingly made a video not a photo

                Pretty sure they are plain trees


                • #9
                  So here is a picture of the now shorter stick, two mushrooms I carved from it
                  (my first presentable whittled objects) and the knives I used


                  • #10
                    If it's any help in identification, here are two references I have:

                    A possibly better wood for carving for you is the European Lime or Linden:
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                    • #11
                      I don't have any answers to your questions but I do want to say "hi" and "welcome".


                      It does look like your whittling kit includes some decent tools. Study up in the sub forum on tools and sharpening and get to work learning how to get a good edge. I don't think anything is more discouraging than a dull edge.
                      HonketyHank toot toot


                      • #12
                        I'm off for a walk tomorrow with intention of getting something easier to whittle

                        I'm definitely going to read up on the sharpening techniques and since all the shops around here are closed maybe order some stuff from Amazon

                        The swiss army knife I've had for years the other tool I bought from a local flea market hopefully it was a reasonable deal both ways

                        Thanks all


                        • #13
                          The trees referred to as Plane Tree in Europe are called Sycamore in the U.S. I have carved spoons from sycamore without any reactions, but they have been used mostly as decorative items rather than for cooking or eating. It is unlikely that toxic trees would be used in public parks, especially if toxic to touch.


                          • #14
                            Plane/Sycamore - which/what ever it is it is really hard to whittle - in comparison to green wood its like hacking at concrete :-)

                            I have a plan though... I don't have a lot of tools with me and I need to split some other wood - so I think I will try to make a 'splitter' out of it. I'm sure such a tool would have a posher name (maul?) but basically a wedge with a handle that I can hammer into the end of branch to split (baton?) it

                            Using it for this will remove any worry I might still have about the toxicity too

                            I'm hoping that I can use the saw in the Swiss Army knife to start the split in the target wood, place my new fangled 'maul' into the cut and then whack it with another lump of other wood to split.

                            So I need to make this wedge/maul and a mallet - I guess no-one said this whittling lark would be easy!

                            I've not made either yet - not entirely sure what "cutting angle" I want on the wedge thing - any suggestions appreciated

                            Due to the corona virus it looks like I will be forced to work from home, I currently live in a 6th floor apartment so I'm going to have to think of a quiet way to do all this - sigh the innovation required to do all this is tiring in its own right

                            Some days I wish I were back in the UK with my garage and all the power tools - but I guess that would be considered cheating