Wood Carving Merit Badge

wood carving merit badge guide

Wood Carving Merit Badge – Wood carving can be an enjoyable hobby and a lifetime activity. Making things with your hands can be very satisfying.

If you like the idea of whittling and think you would like to earn the Wood Carving merit badge, you should know that there is more to wood carving than being a fair-to-middling whittler.

What is the difference between wood carving and whittling? The two main distinctions are apparent in the dictionary definitions of the two terms.

To whittle, Webster’s dictionary says, is “to pare or cut off chips from the surface of (wood) with a knife.” But wood carving, it says, is “the art of fashioning or ornamenting objects of wood by cutting with a sharp implement.”

Thus, while whittling usually is limited to the use of a knife, wood carving is not, and wood carving is considered an art, while whittling is not.

As with any art, wood carving involves learning the basics of design and technique. Design is what you want to do; the technique is how you do it. Another consideration in wood carving is your choice of material.

The wood you plan to carve must be compatible with the design and suitable for the technique and tools you want to use. Once you learn the basics of design, technique, and material selection, you should become well-versed in wood-carving safety before starting a project.

At that point, you will be able to complete the Wood Carving merit badge requirements.

Wood Carving Merit Badge Requirements

wood carving merit badge
  1. Do the following:
    • Explain to your counselor the hazards you are most likely to encounter while wood carving, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, or lessen these hazards.
    • Show that you know first aid for injuries that could occur while wood carving, including minor cuts and scratches and splinters.
  2. Do the following:
    • Earn the Totin’ Chip recognition.
    • Discuss with your merit badge counselor your understanding of the Safety Checklist for Carving.
  3. Do the following:
    • Explain to your counselor, orally, or in writing, the care and use of five types of tools that you may use in a carving project.
    • Tell your counselor how to care for and use several types of sharpening devices, then demonstrate that you know how to use these devices.
  4. Using a piece of scrap wood or a project on which you are working, show your merit badge counselor that you know how to do the following:
    • Paring cut.
    • Basic cut and push cut.
    • “V” cut.
    • Stop cut or scoreline.
  5. Tell why different woods are used for different projects. Explain why you chose the type of wood you did for your projects in requirements 6 and 7.
  6. Plan your own or select a project from this merit badge pamphlet and complete a simple carving in the round.
  7. Complete a simple low-relief OR a chip carving project.

Tools Wood Carving

Before beginning to work with wood, you should know the basic types of tools and how to keep them in top condition, including how to keep knives sharp.

You also should pay special attention to creating a work area that will keep you safe and help you concentrate. The first step in learning about tools is picking a pocketknife that is right for you.

1. Pocketknives

pocket knife

There are many types of pocket knives. For carving, your best bet is the whittler’s knife, which has three blades.

The Scout whittler’s knife is a good beginner’s knife. The largest blade on the whittler’s knife is an all-purpose blade, sometimes called a master blade.

The blade with a flat carving edge is called a sheep-foot blade. This blade is sometimes used as a coping blade when cutting away the outside or profile, to remove wood that is not needed. Some carvers will use this blade for most of their project.

The third blade on this knife is a pen blade. Many people use this for carving details like eyes and other facial features. Be sure not to use a stockman’s knife. It looks similar to the whittler’s knife, but the blade is too flat to use as a pen blade.

pocket knives

2. Other Carving Tools

You probably will want to use more tools than a pocketknife to complete a wood-carving project, but don’t buy a set of carving tools with more than five tools. You probably will never use all of them.

You may want to start with a straight carving knife, any V-tool, and a straight gouge. You can buy more tools as you determine that you need them.

Also consider other tools you may use with your projects, such as rulers, pencils, clamps, vises, bench stops, and rubber mats. Experience will teach you how useful these items can be.

A carver also needs:

  • A wooden mallet
  • A flat wood file
  • Medium and fine sandpaper
  • Oil stones
  • Slips for sharpening chisels and fine tools

The mallet is used when more force is needed on the chisel and when this force can be applied by hand. The flat wood file is used to remove irregularities and departures from the correct outline on workpieces.

3. Arranging the Work Space

It’s very important that you use a steady table and chair and be sure you have a good light source so you can see what you are doing. The table or workbench should be away from distractions so you can concentrate.

Care of Tools

While you don’t need your own tools to earn this merit badge, you should have a general knowledge of caring for and sharpening the tools you use. Most knives must be sharpened before use, and doing a good job could take a couple of hours.

Check tools for dirt and rust on a regular basis. A pocketknife that you carry in your pocket may also pick up lint. Use a light coat of honing oil and let it set for a while. Then wipe off the excess oil before using.

Keep tools in the best possible condition by making sure they are dry. Wipe off fingerprint marks and moisture with a dry cloth. Apply a couple of drops of oil to the blades and joints of a knife.

Keep chisels, gouges, and other tools wrapped in a soft cloth so they do not damage each other while stored.

1. When is a Tool Sharp?

Before sharpening knives and tools, check first to see if they need sharpening. Stand facing the sun or any strong source of light, holding the knife or tool with the cutting edge upward. Hold the tool in front of your body at about chest height.

Any reflection from the light on the cutting edge of the tool will indicate a dull spot that requires sharpening.

The safest way to test the sharpness of an edge is to use it on a piece of wood that is similar to the wood in the project you will be carving. Practice some simple cuts
on a block of wood. This should tell you whether the knife needs to be sharpened.

Most knives do not come pre-sharpened for wood carving. Blades usually come with an all-purpose edge since the manufacturer does not know how you will use the knife.

Some knives may have a utility edge, which lasts longer, especially if you are using it on a rope or the bark of a tree limb. Both of these are hard on a very sharp knife.

2. The Carving Edge

Your knife will need a carving edge. Putting a carving edge or wire edge on a knife takes away some of the extra metal from the blade. This will make it thinner (and easier) for passing through your wood.

To achieve a carving edge on your knife, you will need a sharpening stone kit, which most discount stores and sporting goods stores sell.

Some sharpening stone kits come with a large stone and a small stone. The large stone is used to get the blade shaped the way you want it, in this case, a carving edge. Then it is time to use the smaller stone, which is the honing stone.

3. Sharpening Stones

It is important to learn how to use any sharpening stone the right way. There are a number of sharpening stones on the market:

Silicon carbide, or crystolon: Blue-black in color, available in coarse, medium, and fine grits. Also available in sheet abrasives. Used with oil.
Aluminum oxide, or India: Usually reddish-brown, but can be gray or white. Available in coarse, medium, and fine grits. Synthetic sapphires are aluminum oxide. Used with oil.
Arkansas, or novaculite: A natural stone (which can be almost pure silicon) ranging in color from white to black, and mined in Arkansas. The stone’s hardness does not depend on color. Available in coarse, medium, and fine grits. Most carvers use oil on this stone, but some prefer water.
Ouachita: Similar to Arkansas but coarser. Mined near the Ouachita River in Arkansas. Used with water.
Japanese water stones: Can be either natural or synthetic. Available in grits from coarse to very fine. The fine polishing stones, called sage, contain a polishing compound. Stones must be soaked in water five to 10 minutes before use.
Nagura: Synthetic stone from Japan. Nagura is rubbed in a circular motion over a wet stone to reduce the abrasive to a paste consistency, which saves time and encourages even wear on the stone.
Ceramic: Synthetic, from aluminum oxide. Used dry, but must be washed often with water, a dash pad, and a household cleaner. This new stone is highly praised by woodcarvers.
Diamond: Fine monocrystalline diamond particles are permanently fixed to a flat plastic base in a screen pattern. Water is used as a lubricating wash. This stone is cleaned with soap and water. You can use a diamond stone to flatten worn Arkansas and Japanese stones.
Sharpening Stones

4. Honing Oil

Using honing oil helps preserve the original quality of the stones by filling their surface pores and washing away metal particles during the sharpening process. Some wood-carvers use either oil or water on Arkansas and Ouachita stones.

Honing oil can be made using a mixture of half 30-weight oil and half kerosene. Do not use
an oil-impacted stone. These are for use with larger tools such as axes and carpenter’s chisels, not for fine wood-carving tools.

Also Read: Art Merit Badge

5. Care of Stones

New stones that are going to be used with oil should first be lightly oiled, wrapped in aluminum foil, and stored until the stone is completely saturated. Storage boxes are essential to keep the stones from drying and free from dust and dirt.

Stones can be resurfaced with a diamond stone or, if they are not too badly worn, by rubbing them over emery cloth or silicon carbide paper.

Carborundum powder spread on a piece of plate glass or cast iron also works well. Use water as a lubricating wash during this process.

Always use oil or water on the stone. Most stones require oil but always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Water or oil will prevent heat from building up in the blade you are sharpening.

If you get the blade too hot, it can take out some of the carbon and it will no longer keep a sharp edge. (This is why you should never put a carving knife in the dishwasher.)

After you have finished sharpening, clean the stone by lightly wiping off the excess oil. Do not use pressure, since the oil has picked up some of the metal filings. You don’t want to fill the pores on the surface of the stone.

Basic Cuts

In wood carving, there are five cuts that you are most likely to use:

  • Paring cut
  • Basic cut
  • Scoreline
  • Stop cut
  • V-cut

When practicing making these cuts, remember to keep your elbows on the table as much as possible. This keeps you from taking long, dangerous strokes. Take your time and make short shallow cuts.

1. Paring cut

Take very small cuts toward you. This enables you to get into spaces that another stroke cannot. (Note the thumb guard the Scout is wearing to protect himself.)

paring cut

2. Basic cut

This cut is also known as the push cut. This cut is away from you, taking small pieces of wood. By placing the opposite thumb on the back of the blade, you are creating a lever and making it easier to remove the wood from your project.

3. Scoreline

This cut gives you a line that you can cut back to, to make a clear line or feature.

4. Stop cut

This cut is used mostly with scoring a line. You will cut back to the line that you have scored. Most of the time, small pieces of wood will fall out. You can also use this cut
when using gouges.

5. V-cut

You can make a V-cut either with a knife or with a V-tool. To use a knife, you will make three cuts:

  • Hold the knife straight up and down and score a line.
  • Put the knife in a pencil grip at a similar angle you would use to write. A right-handed person, for example, would do this on the right of the first cut. Remove wood in a wedge shape down to the original cut.
  • When possible, turn the wood around to make a similar cut on the other side. Or, repeat the cut on the left side.

Using a V-tool involves fewer steps:

  • Make a little cut and stop at the place where you want the V-cut to end.
  • Guide the tool down to the cut stop, making the V-cut.

If you are interested in making Eagle Head you can visit this site.

I might be a Mechanical Engineer on the paper, but I was an Eagle Scout enthusiast since childhood.