Difference Between Bushcraft Knife Skills and Whittling

Discussion in 'General Bushcraft Discussion' started by Kevin McGee, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. Kevin McGee

    Kevin McGee Tracker

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    There is a tradition of knife skills within bushcraft that differs in some ways from traditional whittling. I wonder what others opinions are about this. Also, does anyone know about the history and origins of bushcraft-style knife use?

    Thanks guys
     
  2. WiskieTango

    WiskieTango Supporter Supporter

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    This is something I would also be interested in learning. Post now under observation....
     
  3. 45jack

    45jack Supporter Supporter

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    What do you define as "bushcraft-style knife use"?
     
  4. Kevin McGee

    Kevin McGee Tracker

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    The style that is taught within the bushcraft culture. It is taught by the bushcraft schools, in the bushcraft YouTube channels, etc.

    One difference is that we focus more on safety because an injury in the wilderness is far more dangerous than one acquired on the front porch, so we are less likely to use the whittling cuts where the knife moves towards the thumb or finger, for example.
     
  5. 45jack

    45jack Supporter Supporter

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    Things like locking the arm and moving the stick to make shavings for a fire.(?)
     
  6. kgd

    kgd Dr. Fishguts Bushclass I

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    I think carving styles are much more simplistic in bushcraft. As stated by the OP, great emphasis on safety. Whittling in bushcraft is more a utility-driven exercise than artistic and past time adventure. In the bushcraft that I practice, an ugly spoon and a pretty spoon are both just spoons as long as they can be used to shovel food into the talking oriface. The precision of notches are necessary for properly set traps but aside from that there is little aesthetic aspect to bushcraft whittling.

    Folks who fancy the artistic value of a carving project - like the pretty kuska's and so forth are more into carving and whittling for its aesthetic purpose. For all intensive purposes they aspire to higher skillsets and great artistic sensibilities. Spoons should look like spoons and kuska's should look like kuska's. The time put into an individual project likely far exceeds the utility gained by such an object. Created objects are also kept long term or given as gifts. I can say for a fact, that nobody in their right mind would ever want a KGD spoon. They would probably be happy with one made by Skog though.
     
  7. TaigaTreader

    TaigaTreader Scout

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    I think this forum's emphasis on mostly Scandinavian-style carving projects is based on a handful of incredibly skilled individuals that post here regularly that carve that kind of stuff. I wouldn't rule out any form of traditional whittling as 'not bushcraft'. Most of these projects seem to be about carving skill development so that when in the field and the need arises for complicated carving, they have the skill to do it confidently and expediently. Fundamental skills like trap and shelter construction are emphasized because of their practicality when in the woods. Trap lines have been run as a means to an end long before Europeans ever showed up in America, and shelter construction is necessary when on various outings, especially in unexpected weather. I think these are the reasons why you see emphasis on certain carving tasks, though the word 'bushcraft' would encompass carving and whittling in general an important element to an endless range of skillsets (hunting, fishing, skinning, cooking, navigation, herbology, etc) used while appreciating nature, and the stereotyped 'bushcraft knife' is designed as the ideal do-it-all companion for executing those skills. While a bushcraft knife should excel at carving and whittling, it should also excel at skinning and butchering game, harvesting plants, processing wood for firecraft, etc.
     
  8. BushTramp

    BushTramp Team Canada Bushclass I

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    Brilliant I say! Quite right
     
  9. bourbon&bisquits

    bourbon&bisquits Scout

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    a)history of using a knife in the woods---->stuff needed getting done--so it got done

    b)if things ever got to a point of having some free time --- then I imagine whittling and woodcarving began

    decorative vs absolutely necessary & immediately needed would be a fair line of demarcation.......blurred and bridged by crude personal touches on various everyday items

    https://whiteeaglestudios.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/whittling-or-woodcarving/
     
  10. Zornt

    Zornt Guide

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    There is a book called "The Book of Skloyd" (sp) that shows about caving etc. It was used by th Finns , I think, to teach wood carving andknife safety to children. I thnk it might be aailable as a down lad somewhere.
     
  11. bourbon&bisquits

    bourbon&bisquits Scout

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    YES---that's exactly how I was taught as a little one----given little 'jobs' carving little (throw away/kindling) doo-dads out of scrap & maybe a squirrel call or two (or twenty)


    thanks for the jog to the memory
     
  12. TrailAgent

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    I think "knife skills" are more culturally rooted than "bushcraft" versus non-bushcraft. It also depends greatly on the training and experience of the user, which is often based on cultural and environmental influences. I know people who "whittle" amazing works of art that don't have a name for their "style". There are "bushcrafters" that make spoons and then there are "bushcrafters" that only use their knives for basic camp tasks.
     
  13. stillman

    stillman Guide Bushclass I

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    I think recreational whittling and carving overlap with bushcraft knife use. Some things are different but many are the same.

    Whittle 50 chickens like the one in my avatar and you'll find that it's essentially feather stick and notching practice.
     
  14. GreyOne

    GreyOne Elder Lifetime Supporter

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    Much of the Sloyd training was used not only in Scandinavia but in much of Europe and the Eastern US, during the turn of the 19th / 20th century. We do have a few Sloyd books in our downloads, when that area gets fully recovered from the upgrade.


    Whittling was - still is to some extent- a major pastime among the old time ranchers and farmers here in the west. It might involve nothing more than making toothpicks from branches, to the skilled carving of boots, horses, people, and so forth. I grew up around that culture, watching the grown men squatting in the shade , whittling and spitting as they talked. Some had awesome skills, some did well not to cut themselves.
     
  15. statikpunk

    statikpunk Guide

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    the only real difference I have seen between the two, is that bushcraft style has some grips and holds designed to safely remove large chunks of wood at a time ( ie chest lever and knee brace hold) safely, where as whittling doesnt really get into that, but they are also not building shelters either :)

    and as for whittling not being as safe, I would disagree with that one, many whittling holds may "look" dangerous like whittling in a reverse grip back towards your thumb, but are actually quite safe because the thumb is on another plane from the blade, if your thumb is ever under your blade without a stop, then your doing it wrong :) Ray Mears has some excellent videos on whittling and wood craft that explains the various grips and how to do them safely.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
  16. TaigaTreader

    TaigaTreader Scout

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    Dala horses are mostly what we carved as kids, though I need to get back into it. Finding good thick stock hardwoods is a real difficulty
     
  17. mortblanc

    mortblanc Scout

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    The "Bushcraft styles" have been developed for people that no longer grow up with knives in their pockets. People that grow up with knives will usually demand a different type knife than the "Bushcrafters" desire. They will also want a different tool for each job rather than attempting to force the knife to be something it is not.

    The scandi grind that is so popular with buscraft circles was seldom seen in the North American woods untill receintly. One would have a medium size pocket knife and prehaps a 4"-6" belt knife, both with flat grinds.

    Whittling is not just "killing time". In the days before Walmart folks whittled their own handles for every tool on the farm. This was usually the job of the old men who could no longer do heavy farm work. Those old guys were sitting there doing more than carving horses and making piles of shavings.
     
  18. TaigaTreader

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    I don't know, you can walk into some of the old forester's bars in scandinavian towns in Wisconsin that have old axes and buck saws on the ceiling and see many scandinavian ground woods knives on display that were there during the colonial period (early-mid 1800's for WI). It's also the grind that's on every cheapo kitchen knife you find in department stores.
     
  19. 45jack

    45jack Supporter Supporter

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    Wille Sunqvist's book is all about safe "cuts" with knife or axe. But no reputable author would recommend unsafe cuts. :)
    maybe it's the difference between carving and whittling. Bushcrafters whittle and artists carve.
    Inline with what KGD said about utility versus beauty. I whittle some really ugly spoons, but I attribute that to two factors: 1. Limited skill. 2. I don't want them to look store bought.
     

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