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  • It is too hard to whittle

    Hello, I am new to whittling. I just got some pieces to try and whittle a little fox. But when I saw the video of someone doing it, it was much easier. When I try to whittle, I can't take away as much material and it is significantly harder to make a stop cut. So I can't cut as easier in general. I couldn't figure out what the problem was, anyone have any ideas? The wood I'm whittling with is lindenwood.
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  • #2
    Do not believe all you see in a video. Whittling is often slow and tedious.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by pallin View Post
      Do not believe all you see in a video. Whittling is often slow and tedious.
      I am totally okay with it being slow and tedious. But I just wondered if I was cutting from a wrong angle or is it because of the direction of wood grain?

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      • #4
        DO,

        Welcome to the forum!

        You refer to the wood as linden wood usually called basswood or lime wood so find my self wondering about the providence of the wood? Also the growth rings on the blocks in the background appear to be about a 1/2”wide not typical of northern basswood. I have been told southern basswood is a different beast so again wondering?

        Looks like maybe what you have in your hand is a piece of heartwood which is not the same as the sapwood from the same tree. Heartwood is generally denser and harder then sapwood.

        Second your knife may not be as sharp as the one in the video.

        Third your knife may not be suitable for carving wood.

        Fourth the carver in the video maybe doing a slight slicing motion that you aren’t replicating.

        I guess what I’m saying is there can be lots of reasons so a little more information would help.

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        • #5
          Could be a variety of reasons. Hard wood, cut direction, knife condition/ sharpness. Hang in there. Do you have a local carving club in your area? You could get some hands on help there. Welcome to the forum.
          Carve On,
          Kadiddle

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          • #6
            Linden is the common name for Tilia platyphyllos (rare in the wild) across Britain and Europe. More than likely they have a hybrid with T. europaea.

            Basswood is the common name in North America for T. americana, more than likely a mix of several species (hardness differences?).

            What comes first to my mind is carving sharpness. The total included bevel angle should be about 12 degrees, certainly no more than 15*. 20* for gouges is OK, but often a small mallet takes the muscular effort out of it.
            Brian T

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            • #7
              Wood can vary a lot in hardness even in a single piece cut out of a tree. Often wood cut from the centre of the tree is denser and harder than wood cut from the outer part of the tree. So many variables come into play. using a slice type cut rather than a straight push type cut helps on tough stuff. And sharpen the knife every 5-10 minutes on a good strop.

              Main thing is to all of your tools as sharp as you can possibly get them and let the wood dictate how much you take off at a time. Just take what comes of easily. When you start to force it is when accidents are likely to occur. I don't think there is a carver alive that hasn't had a good nick or two to remind them of this. hehehehehe Hope this helps happy carving.

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              • #8
                Might spray with a 50/50 mixture of alcohol & water.
                . . .JoeB

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Nebraska View Post
                  DO,

                  Welcome to the forum!

                  You refer to the wood as linden wood usually called basswood or lime wood so find my self wondering about the providence of the wood? Also the growth rings on the blocks in the background appear to be about a 1/2”wide not typical of northern basswood. I have been told southern basswood is a different beast so again wondering?

                  Looks like maybe what you have in your hand is a piece of heartwood which is not the same as the sapwood from the same tree. Heartwood is generally denser and harder then sapwood.
                  Thank you for welcoming me. I can't tell for sure if it is northern or southern, but I can tell that it is probably not similar to basswood in America. Because this one comes from Europe, and it is most likely Tilia platyphillos. And maybe it is heartwood, I am not sure.

                  Originally posted by Kadiddle View Post
                  Could be a variety of reasons. Hard wood, cut direction, knife condition/ sharpness. Hang in there. Do you have a local carving club in your area? You could get some hands on help there. Welcome to the forum.
                  Carve On,
                  Kadiddle
                  Cutting from different angles, especially from corners feels softer so that might be it. As of knife condition, there are a number of factors. I am not a good sharpener, I don't have a good knife (will get a whittling knife as soon as possible though) and I don't believe it has good edge retention due to its steel quality. Unfortunately, there are no carving clubs in my area.

                  Originally posted by Brian T View Post
                  What comes first to my mind is carving sharpness. The total included bevel angle should be about 12 degrees, certainly no more than 15*. 20* for gouges is OK, but often a small mallet takes the muscular effort out of it.
                  It seems I am not able to angle the knife correctly when sharpening. Do you have any advices to get better at sharpening?

                  Originally posted by Glenn Jennings View Post
                  And sharpen the knife every 5-10 minutes on a good strop.

                  Main thing is to all of your tools as sharp as you can possibly get them and let the wood dictate how much you take off at a time. Just take what comes of easily. When you start to force it is when accidents are likely to occur. I don't think there is a carver alive that hasn't had a good nick or two to remind them of this. hehehehehe Hope this helps happy carving.
                  Will definitely do this. Thanks for the advice. And I agree, even though I am a beginner, I have a couple of nicks hahaha

                  Thanks everyone for your advices, much appreciated!

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                  • #10
                    One thing really bad thing about the carving videos...the people who made the video are very experienced in cutting the wood. Which takes time and learning curves....from beginner to experience. Their experience takes them to their favorite knife which also is very sharp which noted that ...they learned how to make it that way. And they have cut a fox about ten times before they made the video in order to look Good and not an idiot on video. It takes time and patience to learn to cut the wood...to sharpen your tools. So keep asking questions and pick the opinions you want to try. No such thing as instant success like the video. The very fact that your asking questions is major in learning how to do it. So keep on trying you will learn. If you are carving harder wood the stop cuts will just skim the surface which means repeated cuts in the same area plus small chips... that does not mean you can not carve it, as it takes longer to end results. It took me a very long time to learn to strop and sharpen my tools in the meantime I knew someday I would get it to where I wanted it but kept on trying to learn the basics of wood carving.
                    . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di

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                    • #11
                      What brand/style of knife are you using? As mentioned above, the blade may be too thick and/or not sharp enough. You may also be attempting to cut too thick a chip. Looking at your photo, if you are cutting from the left by your hand, down the curve, and ending on the flat area, your knife might be too wide to make the cut.

                      If you aren't sure what a slicing cut is, these photos should help. In these photos, my knife has a curved cutting edge; the straight edge is the back of the blade. The first photo is a paring cut where the blade is pulled toward the thumb, just like peeling or paring a vegetable. Notice the knife blade is at an angle to the wood. The second photo is the of the blade near the end of the cut. By clenching my right hand fingers, the blade is drawn towards the thumb as well as slicing the wood.

                      DSCF1639.jpg DSCF1641.jpg

                      In the third photo, I am making a push cut. My right thumb is on top of the blade near the handle, and my left thumb is pressing on my right thumbnail. In addition, you can see in the fourth photo that my left thumb is also pushing my right hand away from the wood block, making it into a slicing cut. The fifth photo is a variation of the push cut that I call a lever cut. In the lever cut, it starts out just like in the 3rd photo, but instead of the left thumb pushing the hand away from the block, the left thumb is held rigid and the right hand is rotated clockwise with the left thumb acting as a fulcrum; compare the right hand position is photos 4 and 5.

                      DSCF1643.jpg DSCF1644.jpg DSCF1645.jpg

                      The slicing cuts, especially when on a slight angle, will make it easier to cut. A carpenter's chisel is pressed (or pounded) straight into the wood. Carving knives should not be pressed straight into the wood. To make a stop cut, for example, do not hold your blade against the wood and press down. Instead, use just the tip of the blade and draw it across the area where you want the stop cut. Since you are using a much smaller area of the knife to slice into the wood, it will slice much easier. And don't try to do the stop cut as deep as you can on the first pass - make multiple passes with the tip to cut deeper.

                      I hope this helps.

                      Claude
                      Last edited by Claude; 01-09-2022, 05:14 PM.
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                      • #12
                        What is your inventory of sharpening supplies at the moment?
                        Is there a particular method, a technique, that you like to use?
                        I do only freehand sharpening, no mechanical methods or assists, so far.
                        There are many threads here in the WCI archives going back for years on sharpening techniques.
                        It would take many pages to reiterate those.

                        You do need grit sizes from 600 up to 1,500 (3 micron) and then some sort of a strop with honing compound. I used a protractor to draw the angles on card stock to stand up as I sharpen so I can approximate the needed bevel angles.

                        For a straight edged knife, lift the spine of the bade maybe 1/16" or 1 mm and pull strokes only.
                        Paint the last2-3 mm of the blades with black felt marker so you can see what you are doing.
                        Stand up (if you can.) Abrasives parallel to and at the very edge of the bench. Forearms tight to your sides. Sway in each stroke from your knees. Never sharpen from your elbows.

                        I could teach you in an hour in my shop but if you never practiced,
                        your edges would always be too dull.
                        Brian T

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                        • #13
                          Hi Dealofficer, I’m having the same problem so thanks for asking the question. I’m very new to whittling and woodwork in general but I’ve been following youtubers and reading all about the different types of cuts and so on. I have to say, stop cuts are tough to get deep enough when carvers like Doug Linker or Gene Messer make it seem as if they’re slicing through butter.

                          I’m not sure if it’s an issue with hand strength or something else but I’m struggling to get more than 2mm in. And I’m carving basswood!

                          I’ve sharpened (honing rod) and stropped my knives with compound but I’m just not getting it.

                          I even bought the newurban whittling set because the reviews were great on Amazon AU so I don’t know where to go from here. I’ll keep trying I guess. Good luck!

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                          • #14
                            babycarver Welcome to the forums. It's probably a combination of things: thinner knife blade, sharper blade, angle of blade against the wood, etc. Don't worry about getting a cut deep in one stroke. Make a stop cut, carve up to it, then redo the stop cut a little deeper, then carve up to it, etc. Taking smaller, thinner, chips will be easier when you are just starting out. The people like Doug and Gene have been doing this for many years. Show us photos of your work and ask for comments and criticism.

                            Claude
                            My FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ClaudesWoodCarving/
                            My Pinterest Page: https://www.pinterest.com/cfreaner/
                            My Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/claudeswoodcarving/
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