The Swiss Army knife was made out of necessity (the first models included just a blade, a can opener and a reamer, plus a screwdriver for assembling the Swiss army’s rifles), but its lasting power proves its unwavering utility.
When master woodcarver Chris Lubkemann received a Swiss Army knife as a gift, he quickly discovered the many objects he could whittle using only this handheld tool. From that point on, he was smitten and never looked back. “I thought, ‘This thing really works!’” says Lubkemann. “For the last 25 years, I’ve only used a Swiss Army knife in my whittling.”
In his book Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Whittling Book, Gift Edition: Fun, Easy-to-Make Projects with Your Swiss Army Knife (Fox Chapel, 2017), Lubkemann offers many easy-to-follow carving projects. Here’s an example of a few of them.
The knife is a great project to start with; it will get you familiar with your pocket knife and the basic cutting strokes. Naturally, the size of the knife will depend on the piece of wood you start with. Half of a little round toothpick will make for a perfect bowie knife for Polly Pocket! (Don’t throw away the other half! It can turn into a flower, complete with petals, stem and leaves.) While a knife carved from wood will certainly not serve for all uses that a steel knife does, it still can be very useful, especially as a letter opener. And it definitely can be carved and finished in such a way that it becomes a beautiful piece of art.
The majority of Lubkemann’s whittled critters are roosters of all shapes and sizes. He’s often asked, “Why so many roosters?” There are several simple and practical reasons. The rooster is perhaps the only bird that walks around with its tail up. Roosters are also popular worldwide, and it seems folks everywhere appreciate them. Finally, when you carve a rooster, you will learn most of the basic cuts and techniques that will be used in other projects. Once you have the rooster-carving technique down, it’s not that hard to switch over to herons, roadrunners and a whole pile of other critters and projects.
3. Table art
Have you ever stumbled across a chunk of found wood that was screaming to be plunked down in the middle of a coffee table? In your searches for nifty pieces of wood, you might find something that is just plain cool all by itself. In that case, you can clean it up and let it speak for itself! Simply clean up the wood using water and a scrub brush until all of the dirt is removed. Cut the branches until you’ve shaped the tangle in a way that is pleasing to you. Sand the sawn faces of the branches. Finish as desired.
Twigs and branches exist in all kinds of sizes, colours, barks, textures and grain patterns. By cutting various slices from different species of wood, or even different sizes of the same species, you can make a good variety of natural wooden beads. Simply string them together to come up with a very attractive and unique necklace.
The basic idea of a coaster is to provide a flat, stable surface for a glass, cup or mug that will protect the table surface from heat or liquid damage (or both). These coasters are extremely simple to make and will fulfill their intended purpose, but at the same time, they’re a bit out of the ordinary—they’re original pieces of useful decoration. Different species of wood will produce a broad variety of cross-grain patterns and colours. These will especially stand out when the sliced pieces of wood are well sanded.
For more projects, check out Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Whittling Book, Gift Edition: Fun, Easy-to-Make Projects with Your Swiss Army Knife by Chris Lubkemann (Fox Chapel, 2017) or visit whittlingwithchris.com.
The Harrowsmith Team
Harrowsmith is the farm-to-condo go-to for living sustainably and simply. Our mission is to offer a down-to-earth Canadian perspective on topics of gardening, home and design, travel and culture, food, health, wellness and the environment.