A Child’s Guide to Whittling in The Woodland.

You may remember a couple of years ago I reviewed The Little Book of Whittling, given to our family as a gift. In the article I quoted Richard Irvine, who is a respected UK forest school and outdoor learning practitioner.

Richard has now written his own book on children’s whittling, called Forest Craft, and we’ve been lucky enough to review a copy. Well? This book rocks!

Image of double page spread of book showing phioto of miniature wooden carved furniture and whittling knife

Outdoor Enrichment

Getting outdoors and into nature is what Kids of the Wild is all about, and anything that enhances our enjoyment whilst being outside is always high on my happiness-o’meter!

Carving and whittling may not be your first thought when visiting woodland, but they offer the chance to simply sit and be in nature, among trees and wildlife, making the most of our surroundings and natural materials.

Image of child in outdoor gear sitting on log in woods whittling with a knife

Forest Craft by Richard Irvine

Richard’s 20-year experience in outdoor learning and Forest School has resulted in the production of a fun, clear and informative guide to all aspects of whittling and carving in the woods (or the garden if you have the right greenwood and materials).

Newly published this month, January 2019, I’d recommend Forest Craft to be on every outdoor family’s list, whether to buy now or to put in as a Christmas request.

Image of book titled Forest Craft by Richard Irvine displayed on ivy with whittling knife on top

Not just families either. The book’s 20 projects offer plenty of new ideas and expertise to forest school leaders and outdoor educators, even those with lots of experience working with children and greenwood, containing innovative ideas of Richard’s own creation as well as tried and tested carving projects passed down the generations.

Can Children Whittle with Knives?

If you’re not sure what age to start your children learning knife and whittling skills have a read of my article on forest school for wild kids for inspiration.

Forest school is something I strongly believe all schools should offer and if yours doesn’t, lots of forest school leaders provide weekend and holiday clubs as well as pre-school and home education sessions. Give it a try, you won’t regret it and your pre-schoolers could be whittling with peelers and knives before you know it!

Forest Craft describes 20 inspirational whittling ideas including: –

  • wooden instruments
  • jewellery
  • woodland weapons and spud guns
  • some of the projects can even be painted

What wild kids would turn their noses up at this?!

The book itself is a good size with cover flaps for page marking and is printed on thick FSC paper (excellent eco-credentials) with a soft matte finish.

For Beginners

The idea is to start with the first project and work through each one in order, learning new skills and techniques as you go.

The techniques section gives simple step-by-step instructions for carving and drilling and you learn how to safely sharpen a knife too.

Image of double page spread of book showing numbered phioto instructions for carved whittling project

Useful photographs in the step-by-step instructions

For Forest School Teachers and Craftspeople

Richard includes some of his own, brand new, whittling ideas as well as traditional items, some with a novel slant. This is Richard’s own photo of some of his mushrooms.

Image of group-of-wooden-carved-miniature-mushrooms

Courtesy Richard Irvine

He starts the book with descriptions of the tools and equipment needed, and safety considerations. There is also information on which wood works best for which project and how to identify eight useful tree species, all with wonderful photos and illustrations.

Favourite Projects

Of the twenty in the book Caroline and I were immediately drawn to a couple of the creations.

Caroline’s favourite is the magic Elder wand – not THE elder wand (we’re big Harry Potter fans here, why not try our delicious butter beer recipe to drink while wand-making?), it’s a wand you carve to your own design and can actually insert a magical core into! Genius.

Image of page from book showing instructions for carving a wooden wand from elder wood

I love the toadstools and Christmas trees and I’m really keen to try the feather sticks (good for fire lighter kindling if you can bear to part with them) and Gypsy Flowers which were traditionally made and sold by gypsies and travellers. Great in a dried flower display.

Image of double page spread of book showing painted wooden mushrooms with red caps and white spots

We both love the stick people (a ‘wood doodle’ as Richard describes them) which, with a little amendment, I’m sure could be given a more Viking/Northumberland vibe for north-east forest schools!

What Your Kids Will Love

I think children will love this book. They’ll derive great inspiration from the photos and guides, and pester parents to buy them knives (sorry folks!) as well as wanting parental help with the projects they’d like to try (just remembering that it’s not a guide the kids can use independently of adults)

Image of two wooden carvings in shape of face with Norman helmet on head

Adult Supervision Required

While the cover states it’s a ‘child’s guide’, all the projects require adult supervision. Richard makes it clear early in the book that ‘all tools mentioned in this book should be used under close adult adult supervision.’

Pros and Cons

There’s one minor downside for me – the lack of information about trees to avoid using, such as potentially poisonous Yew and Laurel for example (maybe something for the second edition?!)

Other than that?

Forest Craft is blooming awesome and definitely going on my list of outdoor books for National Book Day!

It’s time to get out into the woods with your family and learn new skills to help connect with nature in the quietness.

Buy The Book

For more information about Richard’s work take a look at his website, or click on the image below to find Forest Craft

at Amazon, from The Guild of Master Craftsman Publishers. Add it to your wish list now!

Forest Craft Book

For more outdoor book reviews and gear for kids take a look at Kids of the Wild’s reviews section, and for more ideas to get outdoors into nature read my posts on indoor nature activities, in the garden, and wild outdoors.

NB Kids of the Wild received a copy of this book for the purposes of review. All views and observations are my own (and Caroline’s, aged 9).