Whether you’re new to Scouting or seasoned, it’s no secret that Scouts love wood carving! If you attend any camp, you’ll see more than one Scout carving wood. Not only is it popular, it just happens to be a merit badge as well.

You, as a leader, need to be prepared to teach wood carving. In this article, you’ll learn about carving wood safely, types of wood, best practices, basic cuts, and more.

Totin’ Chip

Before your Scouts can begin wood carving, they must earn their Totin’ Chip. The Totin’ Chip is a certification that grants Scouts the right to carry and use wood tools such as knives, axes, saws, etc.

Safety!

Safety is an important part of the Scouting experience. So, when it comes to wood carving, remember safety first and enforce it. In addition to the Totin’ Chip, here are some helpful safety tips for wood carving with Scouts:

  1. Get Trained – Before you even begin, you should be familiar with wood carving yourself. When you know the material and the proper techniques first, then you’re teaching them correctly from the start.
  2. Use a Correct/Sharp Knife – Believe it or not, you’re Scouts are less likely to cut themselves when their knives are sharp. Sharp knives require less pressure on the wood which means less incidents. Also, encourage your Scouts to use the correct knife. There is a difference between a whittling knife and a carving knife. *Note: Carving knives are NOT sold at Scout camps due to their inability to close.
  3. Use Medical Tape or Gloves – You can always tape your Scouts’ thumbs with medical tape or use gloves on the hand that’s holding the wood.
  4. Don’t Rush – When planning a wood carving project with your Scouts, you need to allot an appropriate amount of time. Carving wood is a slow process. Avoid rushing your Scouts to avoid injury. The wood carving project may turn into a multiple night event.

Wood Choice

There are two basic categories of wood: hard and soft. Deciding which one you want your Scouts to use depends on their skill level. Soft would is your best choice for your first time Scouts. When your Scouts advance in their carving skills, you can move onto harder wood. The following woods are popular soft choices:

Basswood: Basswood is soft and excellent for beginners. It can be found at most craft/hobby stores.

 

Pine: Pine is also a soft wood but has a bit of a coarser grain. Still considered a beginner wood. 

 

Butternut: Butternut is still a beginner wood but a bit more difficult to carve. As your Scouts get better, you may want to upgrade them to Butternut before they begin on a hard wood.

Sharpening Knives

As mentioned before, a sharp knife is a safe knife. It’s very good practice to keep your Scouts’ knives sharp throughout their projects. You can use either a hand-held or an automatic sharpener. Both should come with a set of instructions on how to use them. Buck Knives has thorough instructions on how to sharpen knives.

Know the Basic Cuts

Wood carving isn’t just taking a knife to a piece of wood and hacking away. There are different, unique types of cuts to use while carving that will give you a different outcome depending on what you are looking for. Below are four basic cuts for beginners:

  • Paring Cut: With sharp end of the knife facing you, make small cuts by rotating just your wrists. This cut is mostly used for details.
  • Push or Basic Cut: With sharp end of the knife facing away from you, make small cuts by pushing with your thumb.
  • Trace Line: Taking the tip of the knife and tracing a detail line.
  • Stop Cut: Pushing the knife into your trace line.

Project Ideas

Now, that you have the basics of wood carving down, it’s time to think of carving project ideas. Again, depending on your Scouts’ skill levels, this will determine what projects you will start with. The easiest three projects for beginners are: wizard, canoe, and dolphin.

Remember, it will take patience and practice before your Scouts will get consistently good. Continue to encourage them to do their best. Be there to guide them through each cut and decision. Enforce safety and the importance of properly caring for the knives. When you are confident and prepared to teach them, they will be confident in their work.

Do you have any positive experiences wood carving with your Scouts? We want to hear!

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