HOW TO CARVE A WOODEN KNIFE

A step-by-step tutorial.

STEP 1 : SET UP

1. Lightly draw a line down the center of your knife blank, being mindful to follow the grainline.  This line will help you match up your design with the grainline of the wood, making it easier to carve.

2. Repeat on the opposite side of the blank.

3.  Draw a line down the center top of your knife blank.  This line will help you carve symmetrically when shaping the handle and blade. 

4. Repeat for the bottom. 

STEP 2 : TRANSFER DESIGN

1. SIDE A: Draw a freehand design or use a design template and trace the profile of your knife.  Make sure you position it so that the grainline is running straight through your knife design (end to end). 

2. SIDE B: Flip your knife blank over and freehand or trace the opposite side profile of your knife template.  Position the template so that the knife tips match up on both the A & B sides of the blank, this will ensure that you can carve the knife symmetrically.   

3. TOP: Next draw the top profile of your knife.  Again, make sure to position the design on the blank so that the top profile tip of the knife lines up with the side profile tip. 

4. BOTTOM: Last, draw the bottom profile of your knife. Make sure to match up the bottom profile tip with the side profile tip.

STEP 3 : CARVING THE PROFILE

Before you begin carving, a trick to making sure you carve "with the grain" of the wood is to pencil in cut direction arrows around your design. You want to always carve in a downward direction through the grain.  Always start your carve high and end low to carve "with the grain".  

With a freshly sharpened/stropped carving knife, you will now begin shaping the knife by carving the outer profile. As you carve, you have to constantly rotate the knife to adjust your grip, carving direction and technique to make sure you are carving "with the grain".

Important: While carving, if your knife digs into the wood abruptly, or you are getting splintering through your carve, chances are you are carving "against the grain". Stop before you accidentally tear out wood. To find the grain again, remove your knife, rotate your knife block and try your cut from the opposite direction.

STEP 4 : SHAPING THE SIDES

Before you begin carving, observe the grainline and mark in your cut direction arrows with a pencil. Start the carve high, end low. 

You will now begin to reduce the overall thickness of the knife by using your top profile design markings as a guide.  

STEP 5 : CARVING THE BLADE

Now that you have shaped the overall outer profile and the thickest dimensions of the knife, it is now time to start shaping the blade and handle.  

1. Begin by shaping the bottom of the handle and the bolster section leading to the blade. 

2. Next, carve down both sides of the blade in a downward "across the grain" direction.  You are trying to get these two sides to meet symmetrically at a very fine edge, no thicker than the pencil line of your bottom template design. 

Carve as close as you can to create a fine edge.  Stop if you think you might over-carve the area.  You can always refine (even sharpen) this edge line  by shaping it down with sandpaper later.   

3. FINE TUNE.

Once the main shape has been carved, look at your knife from a variety of angles — from the top/down, from the sides, and down the length — to ensure that you have symmetry (if that is what your design requires!).

Next, check to see that you have not left any large, bumps, rough spots or divots in the wood. Using your carving knife now to work those areas smooth will significantly reduce the amount of sanding required later. 

STEP 6 : SANDING

Your kit includes 2 different grits of sandpaper.  150 grit (coarse grit) & 220 grit (fine grit)

SANDING PROCESS

  • 150 Grit. Beginning with the coarsest sandpaper in your kit, you will use this to sand the entire surface of the knife, to smooth out any imperfections. You are aiming to achieve a smooth surface free of any divots, craters or bumps.
  • 220 Grit. This is the finer grit sand paper in your kit and you will use this one to sand the entire piece down to attain a more refined and beautiful texture and finish. This finer grit sandpaper will remove any sanding scratches you may have left with the coarser grit paper and will prepare the knife with a better surface for applying the protective oil coating.
  • Once sanding is complete, use a clean lint free rag or a finely bristled brush (toothbrushes work great!) and remove all sanding dust from the knife.  

SANDING NOTES

Always wash your hands before you start sanding your project.
The oils/dirt from your skin will stain areas of your spoon causing a blotchy/dirty look to your finished piece.

Sand "with the grain". This ensures that sanding marks won't cut across the wood grain, leaving annoying scratch lines.

Let the sandpaper do the work, not you. Pressing too hard while sanding may leave scratches and will tire your muscles out very quickly. Steady pressure is the most efficient and effective.

Only sand as much as needed.
Once you have achieved the desired surface finish, STOP SANDING! Over-sanding will burnish (polish) the wood resulting in blotchy absorption of your finishing oil.

STEP 7 : PROTECTIVE OIL/BEESWAX COATING

If your wooden knife is to be used with food and washed on a regular basis, it's a good idea to protect the wood from drying out with a coating of oil or beeswax compound.

APPLYING A PROTECTIVE COATING

  • Using a clean lint-free rag, apply a thick coat of the oil/beeswax compound to your knife. Work it into the wood in the direction of the grain.
  • Set your knife aside and let the coating soak in for several hours.
  • Once the oil has soaked in, take your rag, wipe off any of the excess coating. The wood may be very thirsty the first time you oil it. If your knife has absorbed all of the oil then give it a second coat. Do a third coat if necessary. The more oil absorbed by the wood fibers, the more durable your knife will become.

STEP 8 : WASH & CARE

  • Wash your knife with a mild dish detergent and warm water. Wooden utensils are not dishwasher safe! The high heat will dry the wood out, ageing the wood faster and increasing the risk of splitting or cracking.
  • Once washed, towel dry the knife thoroughly, then let it sit out to airdry before putting it away.
  • If your knife picks up food stains, apply a teaspoon of baking soda and enough lemon juice to cover the stained area. Use a cloth to scrub the stain out.
  • Soak wooden knives in vinegar to remove food odors. Place the spoon in a solution of equal parts water and vinegar and let it soak for up to a half hour.  Rinse thoroughly with hot water and towel dry immediately.
  • Lightly sand and oil your wooden knives when they start to look dry, or every 1-3 months.