Review: The Little Book of Whittling

OK, so this will be a review of ‘The Little Book of Whittling’ by Chris Lubkemann (Fox Chapel Publishing ISBN 9781565232747).

This 97 page book is just a tad larger than A5 in size and has colour illustrations throughout. It will fit just nicely in a pack if you’re out for the day.

The book is subtitled ‘Passing time on the trail, on the porch, and under the stars’ and that sums up the appeal of this great book – it is redolent of times past, of a solitary afternoon in the woods, of simple and uncomplicated fun.

Inside you will find several projects – from carving animal heads to that great staple of bushcrafters everywhere: carving a spoon! But it is much more than that. The book starts with how to care for your knife and how to properly sharpen it. It then goes on to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of different woods. Even more, interspersed througout the text are boxed entries on such things as ‘Methods of Starting a Fire Without A Match’, ‘Common Types of Tracks’, ‘Trail Snacks’, and many more.

There are eighteen projects in total. Each is clearly introduced, with step-by-step colour photographs, as well as a ‘Materials’ section. It is hard to see how Lubkemann could have made it any clearer. Each is written in a simple and straightforward manner – not so much ‘instructions’ as an informal chat. That’s the great appeal of this book; you feel like you’re being talked through it all by a kindly friend than just simple cold instructions. The writer’s idiosyncracies and character run throughout the whole book and just taking it out of your bag and flicking through it is enough to soothe the soul.

However, if this book was just a book of whittling projects that would be enough. But it is more. Because what it is also doing is teaching you knife control. By doing these projects you will learn a number of useful knife cuts and how to handle your knife with precision and control.

I’ve had a go at some of them myself. I went out for a ride on my bike – ham salad sarnies and bottle of water in my bag, with The Little Book of Whittling and a small penknife:

(There’s a story behind this knife. I’ve had it about 20 years or so now. My dad was a prison officer and one day he saw an inmate acting furtively. He thought he saw a knife. He challenged the inmate about it, who denied he had a knife. ‘Right,’ said my dad, ‘you have a choice – either you can stop being a prat and give the knife to me and that will be an end to it; or else I will call help and your cell will be checked, we’ll find the knife and, if you’re lucky, you’ll lose your next parole hearing and any privileges you have; or, if you’re unlucky, you’ll have this incident entered on your records, be put in solitary, and have your sentence lengthened. What do you want to do?’

The inmate handed over the knife. And my dad gave it to me.)

I spent the afternoon sat on some logs beneath one of my favourite sit-trees and did two of the projects – a song bird and  a leaping fish. You can judge if they were any good.

After I was done I thought I’d leave them where they were for someone else to discover and wonder at what they were doing there.

The Little Book of Whittling can be ordered from any high street book shop, or online at Amazon. To my mind it should be every part of the bushcrafter’s library as much as Ray’s ‘Essential Bushcraft’.



  1. August 18, 2012 at 2:43 am

    I just bumped into and enjoyed your review of THE LITTLE BOOK OF WHITTLING. Glad you enjoyed trying some of the projects. I had all kinds of fun writing the book and thoroughly appreciate all the good contributions and work by the folks at Fox Chapel Publishing. They’re a great bunch to work with. If you get a chance, check out the sequel to THE LITTLE BOOK OF WHITTLING. It’s entitled BIG BOOK OF WHITTLE FUN, and has 31 projects. It just came out in the spring of 2012.

  2. ukbushcrafters said,

    August 18, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Thanks for taking the time to drop by our blog, Chris, and for leaving a comment.
    I have a couple of your whittling books and can’t praise and recommend them highly enough.
    I will add a link to your website in our links section (the ‘Blogroll’ on the left).

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