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Question for my "GO To" group of carvers!

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  • Question for my "GO To" group of carvers!

    I live by myself in the Florida Panhandle now, and began teaching beginners to whittle. I provide the knives for them to use in the class. These knives are made by an ol' friend and are excellent and inexpensive ($12). Several of the students have asked to purchase these knives. I would rather keep the knives for other students to learn with, as I don't think I can obtain any more. I think it is critical that a beginner start with a good knife. Here's my question - Would it be best to purchase one of the less expensive pocket knives and then have their blade(s) modified and sharpened? If so, what is a good and inexpensive pocket knife that could be modified and sharpened? Any idea of the costs for the knife, and then the costs to modify/sharpen. Of course there is always the old Bench Knife too.

    Didn't mean to get that much of a question! Thanks for your consideration.


  • #2
    I also teach beginner classes. I provide 3 tools as part of the class cost: Ramelson gouge & v-tool, and a Murphy knife... all in an effort to keep the costs down. Bad part... all need sharpening before class time. I've found the Murphy knife to be a very good choice for inexpensive knives. I buy them directly from the factory. Call for price, as I believe they'll do better than MSRP listed.

    I for one would never use a pocket knife in a class environment. I've found the handles are too short and some blades don't lock open.... but that's just me.
    Old carvers never die... they just whittle away.


    • #3
      I’ve made knives for beginning carvers and myself using Warren Cutlery blades at $5 each and making a two piece pinned handle. The blades need polished and final sharpening but maybe it could be a class project.

      PS I agree with Dave not only would I not have a student use a folder I won’t carve with a non lock-back folder.
      Last edited by Nebraska; 02-13-2020, 08:20 AM.
      Living in a pile of chips.


      • #4
        I have provided both fixed blade utility knives and helvie economy detail knives for students. The helvies are about $27 and the utility knives range from $7-$12, but you can change the blades to sharpen them.
        'If it wasn't for caffeine, I wouldn't have any personality at all!"


        • #5
          Good idea Mike. It has been so long since I used a utility knife to carve completely forgot about them.
          Living in a pile of chips.


          • #6
            Rough Rider Barlow makes an inexpensive folder, can be had for $15 or so on eBay, not sure what modification would cost. Barlow has a pretty good size handle compared to most 'whittlers'.

            Old Forge makes a bench knife, $13 at with a curved high carbon blade. Actually looks interesting enough that I might buy one. Just found the same available as a set at SMKW- knife, detail knife and a chisel? Also for $13, not sure what shipping would be. Have to try them to see how well they hold an edge. Search for Whittlin Fun knife to see them.

            Edit- reviews on Amazon are not very favorable on the Old Forge
            Last edited by Buffalo Bif; 02-13-2020, 09:29 AM.
            Buffalo Bif


            • #7
              Let the students work with good knives so they learn what works and what doesn't, sharpening included.

              Nebraska Ed is on the right track = assemble the parts and have the students build knives.
              That's the PacNW First Nations educational experience for their young carvers.
              I enjoy carving with the knives and adzes that I've put together.
              I can remember building them all.

              I'm buying worn down Hall brand farrier's hoof trimming knives from the local farrier.
              $5 each for a lifetime of hard carving steel. I'd feel guilty if they were free.
              So far, I've revised the bevels to 12 degrees from 25 and I've given them away.
              Another advantage is that the Hall handles are easily good enough for wood carving.
              The majority of farriers seem to be right-handed. The left-handed knife is rare but available.
              Brian T


              • #8
                Tom... The way I understand what you'er saying is that you are providing an introduction to carving, not necessarily a beginners package. I concur in that it would probably be better if you controlled the class knives so as to ensure future availability to other students. It makes no sense to give away knives whose replacement are going to cause you extra work and grief to students who may or may not decide that they want to get into carving on a long term basis. If I was in your shoes I'd provide my knives for class work and then require or suggest (pending their plans for continuance) an inexpensive beginners package that they could order on their own.


                • #9
                  You got it correct Eddy-Smiles! I have excellent knives for the class to use during instruction. The class is all beginners and all are retired except one couple. I usually sell the knives I let them use, but they are really good homemade knives, and I am not sure I can replace them.


                  • #10
                    You all provided great information. I had thought about a pocket knife, but after looking at a couple of the responses. maybe that's not the best choice. Thank you all! Off to carve on the front porch. Tom H


                    • #11
                      I would also suggest a fixed blade carving knife instead of a folding pocket knife - most folding pocket knives have handles that are not comfortable in the hand - either from being too small, or having protrusions such as the back of another blade. Our carving club has a fairly large set of tools that was left to us by a deceased member. We let new carvers use these during class time, but not take them home... I have a handout I give them that lists several knife sellers and their internet links so students who desire their own knives/gouges have some suggestions for places to shop. Using the club tools also lets the new carvers figure out what the handle shape of the knives is a best fit for their individual hands. Most don't take more than a few minutes to decide that "this one is not good" and "I really like this one".

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                      • #12
                        Thanks Claude, great ideas! I'll be recommending the fixed blade knives for the students.


                        • #13
                          After carefully considering all of your comments and answers, it's not amazing that all answers and comments are "spot on". It's not that I did not know these answers, but one needs to be reminded by folks that are admired and trusted for their experience. I made contact with my friend who made the knives that I use in the classes. Although he has slowed way down, my friend had at least eight of his knives that he will send to me, in time for my class. Now I can provide a good knife for a reasonable price ($14) to the class members who seem to be "turned on" by their first wood carving experience. Thank you for your combined wisdom and experience.