Wood carving is one of the most trending topics in the woodworking world. It is one of the most fulfilling and easiest skills you can learn.
There’re lots of wood carving projects you can try out as a beginner or pro player. Whitling a stick is one of them.
You can whittle walking sticks as a business or dress up like your favorite movie character for Halloween. Let’s see, How to whittle a stick?
To whittle a stick, you need a hardwood stick such as Maple, Birch, Walnut, or many others. First, peel off the outer and green bark by cutting it evenly with a sharp knife. Then let the stick dry and decay. Next scrape the inner bark and smoothen the surface. Finally, stain and finish the stick.
Simple as that!
But there’re lot more things you need to know when whitling a stick.
In this article, we’ll walk through the step-by-step process of how to whittle a stick without making any mistakes, and what materials you need to use with all the tips and techniques.
Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.
Let’s jump in!
Whittle stick no. 2 pic.twitter.com/NTDyfKuYkY— Matt LaMothe (@MattLaMothe2) August 3, 2013
What Makes A Good Whittling Stick?
You can you any wood you like to make a good whittling stick.
Your whittling knife needs to be well sharpened, and you should finish the whittled stick well before using it to protect against weather elements.
Usually, hardwoods make a good whittling stick due to their excellent durability. Softwoods are super easy to whittle due to their softness and working with softwoods is super easy.
Here’re some of the best hardwoods you can use to make a good whittling stick,
Here’re some of the best softwoods you can use for whittling sticks,
Your whittling knife should be well-sharpened before whittling a stick to get the curves and shapes you want.
Otherwise, your tools may get blunt during the process.
As a summary, here’re what makes a good whittling stick,
- Choosing a good undamaged wood for whittling
- Choosing wood with no knots
- Well-sharpened axe and knife to cut and carve the wood
- Make slow thin cuts during whittling
- Quality wood stain to enhance the appearance whitling stick
- Quality wood sealer to keep the whittling stick protected
A few days ago I sent my mom a 3-month training plan I found to prep for a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike (we’re doing it in April).— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) January 1, 2022
Today she felled a branch & used tips from the Boy Scouts site to whittle the bark, smooth the surface & make herself a hiking stick. The cutest. 🥰 pic.twitter.com/6DBDFBlbWx
Tips To Select Good Wood For Whittling Stick
- Select fresh wood with outer and green bark. Dried woods are difficult to carve.
- Select woods with no knots, damage, or insect attacks. Damaged woods are low in strength.
- Always try to cut wood from a fallen branch. Better not to cut branches from a tree.
- Select a thick and long enough branch larger than the size of the stick you’d like to carve.
- Select a branch at least your height
Let’s have a look at the supplies you’ll need to collect when whittling a stick.
Lent my son my pocket knife to whittle a stick. He thinks this stick would make a good spear. The education continues… pic.twitter.com/3RMZXkTNP1— James Gill (@jagill) September 23, 2018
Walking Stick Carving Tools
- Sharp carving knife or pocketknife
- Axe or machete knife
- Thick and long wood branch
- 80 – 100 grit sandpaper
- Drywall spackle or old ice skate
- Pen or marker
- Wood stain
- Wood sealer
How To Whittle A Stick
1. Prepare The Stick
Select a stick from any wood you want. Better if you select a fallen branch since cutting a branch from a living tree is not good for an environmentally friendly wood carver.
Cut a branch or stick thick and tall as your height or more. Make sure to cut a stick or branch that’s larger than the stick that you’re going to whittle.
Use a well-sharpened axe or machete knife to cut the branch. The branch should be thick and fresh with outer and green bark.
Better if it doesn’t have any knots or has a very minimum number of knots because working with knots is so difficult and they’ll reduce the dimensional stability of the stick.
In later stages, we will remove all three barks and get the best area of the wood for whittling the stick.
After cutting the branch or stick, slide the axe or machete along one direction of the branch to remove knots and twigs.
When I’m whittling a stick, I’d always go for hardwood since they are durable in terms of making walking sticks and the stick should have a thickness of at least 1 inch.
Thin branches and sticks will break easily since we have to sand and remove several outer layers on the branch in later stages.
Dosbarth🦔enjoyed an afternoon learning a new skill , whittling. They learnt how to safely whittle a hazel stick, making sure they were a safe distance from each other. They produced some wonderful wands that they were very proud. #OL pic.twitter.com/r4lt8kv31B— Hendre Infants (@HendreInfants) November 30, 2018
2. Remove The Outer Bark And Green Bark
Now it’s time to identify the barks of the stick you selected.
Mainly three different types of barks can be seen in a fresh branch. They are,
- Outer bark – brown
- Green bark – green in color (surprising right!)
- Inner bark – turns yellowish orange when decays
First, you need to remove the outer bark using a sharp carving knife or a pocket knife.
Peel the outer bark off carefully but make even cuts. Always focus on the knife direction to make smooth cuts without harming your fingers.
Make even cuts along one direction of the stick by sliding the carving knife along the bark. Make sure to keep the knife away from your lap and body when cutting.
Cut away from your body to reduce the chance of an injury.
Don’t worry if you couldn’t make 100% even cuts along the stick. Just make sure to peel away and whittle all the brown color outer bark and green color inner bark layers from the wood.
If you catch a knot during the whittling process, cut the bark back and forth from the left and right sides to make it nice and smooth. This is why we usually skip knotty woods when carving.
Plus, make sure not to remove the inner bark layer in this step since we’ll remove that in the future after letting the wood dry sometimes. We do a smooth step in the later stage.
It’s so relaxing to go on a hike and then for no reason other than to slow down…. stop and whittle a stick. @ESEEKnives #outdoors #hike #whittle #blueridgemountains #relax pic.twitter.com/RJwQip8TxJ— Appmountains (@appmountains) November 7, 2022
3. Finishing The Whittling Process
Keep whittling the rest of the stick to remove all the outer bark and green bark layers. Whittling the middles areas of the stick is so much easier than the whittling top, bottom and edges.
Better not to focus a lot on smoothening in this step since we’ll smooth the whole wood in a later step.
Once you’re done with whittling now your wood only has inner bark on it.
Next quarantine project. Get my country boy on n whittle this stick into a true walkin stick in honor of Smarf pic.twitter.com/a1wkqvOklU— roᥫh𐤠ꤵbeau (@caamoire) March 30, 2020
4. Let The Stick Dry And Decay
Letting the step dry and decay is an optional step before peeling off the inner bark layer.
But identifying the inner bark layer can be extremely difficult since the color of the inner bark and the wood inside are mostly all a same.
Therefore, we’ll take the stick inside the house and let it dry overnight.
When the stick is drying and decaying overnight, the inner bark layer will eventually turn into a yellowish-orange color which makes it separate from the inner color of the wood.
The reason for the color transition of the inner bark is the presence of microscopic green algae known as Chlorophyta. They release orange color yeast on wood which makes the inner bark looks orange.
That’s how you know the difference between the inner bark and the wood inside.
Drying and decaying help to make the color difference and make the inner bark removal process easy in the next step.
9) Whittle a stick: Using a peeler to remove bark from a stick can be a satisfying activity in its own right, but why not make something useful? A dibber for planting seeds, a tent peg to put up a shelter or a pointed stick perfect for toasting marshmallows! pic.twitter.com/tGlPWYKatP— Sam (@SamLEAF_Ed) February 21, 2022
5. Remove The Inner Bark and Smoothen the Stick
It’s time to remove the orange color inner bark from the stick. Take the drywall spackle or ice skate and scrape the inner bark from the stick.
Or you can lightly sand the wood in one direction until the inner bark peels off. Or use the back side of your carving knife.
Place the stick in a bucket or garbage can collect all the inner bark dust that remove from the wood.
Make sure to wear a face mask during this step to avoid getting breaking issues due to the dust.
Slide the wood stick and take your drywall spackle or ice skate back or sandpaper back and forth until the inner bark is removed from the wood surface. You have to do this until all the orange components get removed from the wood.
Knots are also should smoothen out until it gets smooth with no orange stuff.
Finally light sand the whole stick with little pressure to smoothen the surface and remove any bumps and randomness.
Now your stick is free of orange inner bark.
Took my girls (nearly 5 & 7 years old ) to @CoopParadise & taught them how to whittle a stick #30DaysWild #dadventure #rewilding #dayonedone pic.twitter.com/PIH5xlHwFY— Dadventure Club (@dadventureclub) June 1, 2017
6. Round And Shape the Edges
Now it’s time to shape it to look more attractive. Round the edges by scuffing with a fine-grit sandpaper.
The ends and curves of the stick need to be diagonal and round with no sharp edges. This gives some comfort when handling the stick.
Now the whittling part of the stick is done and it’s time for the decoration.
7. Woodburning Or decoration
You can make some pyrography designs or make any woodburning art on the stick to make it beautiful.
This is how you can increase the value of the stick you made.
You can use a wood burner or soldering iron to make some designs on a walking stick.
I asked my grandpa if he had anything cool like a walking stick for a wizard costume (he’s a pro wood carver) and he had this sitting IN HIS WOODSHOP already like Ollivander’s wand shop. He said he picked it up from a historical “Curly Willow” and was going to carve them pic.twitter.com/VVObUXEvOl— Ian aka Een aka EEEEEEEEEEN (@thelorechief) October 11, 2022
8. Stain The Wood
Staining the stick, you whittled it important to enhance the natural color of the wood or to change the color of your stick to something more beautiful.
Make sure the clean the stick properly before staining since pyrography may have left some residue on the wood.
Yes, you can stain over pyrography. It helps to get a polished look.
Use light color stains to distinguish the fine details in the wood-burning art.
Better if you stain with a gel stain since gel stain doesn’t penetrate deep into the wood like regular ones and protects the wood properly with no yellowing over time.
Apply 2 maximum coats of stain since applying more coats leads to wood stain mistakes and you’ll probably end up with a blotchy or tacky surface.
Make sure to let the stain coats dry well between coats for at least 2 – 3 hours. Drying and curing help wood stains to spread evenly and give a good, nice appearance to the wood.
Always do wood burning first and then go for the staining part. Never do the staining part first and then go for the wood burning since wood stain contains volatile chemicals that catch fire quickly.
First time trying to wood carve a celtic knot on a walking stick.— The Alpha Pack (@tapway_uk) September 24, 2017
Not easy at all but, I will finish it.#thealphapack #tapway #tapfarm pic.twitter.com/QugZhu6aXj
9. Apply Wood Finish
After applying the final coat of stain, let it dry ad cure properly.
Then apply a waterproofing sealer or any other protective sealer over the stick to protect the wood from weather elements.
You can do this by applying a finisher with a clean paintbrush or spraying.
When the whittled stick gets exposed to the outside world, moisture tries to go inside the wood.
Even though wood stain provides some sort of protection to the wood, that’s not enough to stop high moisture content under harsh weather conditions.
Therefore, apply a proper wood finishing product over the stick like varnish, lacquer, or any other waterproofing product.
It will protect the wood from moisture, water damage, rotting, decaying, UV light, and insect attacks.
Wood finish increases the lifetime of the stick you made by making a protective layer over the wood.
Make sure to do all the staining and finishing steps outside or in a well-ventilated area since having good air circulation is a must for fast and efficient drying.
Plus, having good air circulation helps to remove chemical fumes quickly from the working area to protect us from the skin, eye irritations, and breathing issues.
Progress update: my stick of wood has a more rounded end and I made quite a mess on the floor. Luckily no injuries yet! I get the feeling it will get harder when I try to carve something specific! pic.twitter.com/KYbq4CCRqC— Mia Pledger (@ItsMiasTweets) January 28, 2019
That’s it, folks! This is how you whittle a stick using proper wood carving techniques.
Let’s answer some frequently asked questions regarding, how to whittle a stick.
What Is A Good Diameter For Walking Stick?
¾” is a good diameter for a walking stick. When you’re cutting a branch to whittle a walking stick, makes sure it has more than ¾” diameter.
When you’re peeling off the outer bark, green bark, and inner bark the diameter of the stick gets reduced. So always select branches with a thick diameter of around 1”.
Black walnut walking stick i made for my mom. Sanded up to 800 grit, stained slightly, and rubbed with mineral oil. Initial on top. I think its ready. This stick is 3/4 inch in diameter and supports the hanging weight of 150 lbs. my mom is way lighter than me, and hikes a lot. 🙂 pic.twitter.com/wODXpjELI3— Alexander Kennedy (@pepperonipuke2) August 6, 2021
What Height Should Walking Stick Be At?
The walking stick should be at your height. Therefore, when you’re cutting a branch, always select one that is slightly taller than you.
When you’re peeling off some layers, and sanding and shaping the edges, some length of the stick gets removed and the final diameter should be close to your height.
Some people suggest walking sticks should be around 6 to 8 inches which is higher than your elbow.
Just take the height you prefer. But always make sure to keep some amount as allowance since they’ll get removed when whittling and shaping the stick.
How To Protect The Bottom Of My Walking Stick?
To protect the bottom end of your walking stick finish it with epoxy or any other good finisher and then apply ferrules to protect the edge of the stick from friction and wear.
The bottom of your stick gets damaged easily since it is the place that touches the ground and needs to have good impact resistance to tolerate outside impacts.
Or you can apply a rubber tip to protect the bottom of your walking stick.
Made a handle/grip for my walking stick. Picked up some epoxy to mount a nice chunk of quartz on top pic.twitter.com/hPCFzB8B0y— Fox ΘΔ🪶 (@Dangerfox) June 4, 2020
What To Use To Carve On Wood With A Dremel?
There’re several types of Dremel accessories you can use to carve wood. They are,
- High-speed cutter 4.8 mm
- High-speed cutter 7.8 mm
- Engraving cutter 2.4 mm
- Tungsten carbide cutter ball tip 3.2 mm
Dremel is a great power tool to carve small objects and it’s great for someone who starts to work on wood carving.
The only issue with Dremel is its loudness and you’ll have to maintain it properly with regular use to make it a bit silent.
It’d go much faster if I used the Dremel to carve it but I won’t. I want to get used to using the carving tools 😆😌 pic.twitter.com/HwXXmnom2c— Scott’s a demon 😈 (@Sc0ttWinchester) April 1, 2020
Did I cover all you wanted to know about: How To Whittle A Stick?
In this article, we deeply discussed, how to whittle a stick using proper wood carving techniques and what kind of wood is best for whittling a stick with ease, and many other facts.
You can whittle a stick using any wood. First cut a fresh branch with no knots and peel off the outer bark and green bark using the carving knife. Then let the stick dry and decay and remove the inner bark and smooth the stick with light sanding. Finally, shape the edges and finish the stick with stain and sealer with some designs.
Furthermore, I’ve answered some frequently asked questions as well.
Hope you have gained good knowledge about how to whittle a stick correctly without messing up.
Try to whittle a stick by yourself and experience how interesting wood carving is.