What are the best whittling knives available right now? In the following buying guide, we’ll answer that question by offering in-depth reviews of the top whittling knives currently on the market and a detailed analysis of what goes into the making of the ideal whittling knife for every type of woodworking.
Let’s start this article off with our top pick for 2021.
In a Hurry? Here’s the Test Winner
Morakniv Wood Carving 120 Knife
Why is it the best?
- Very comfortable oiled birchwood handle
- Can handle both roughing and detail work
- The super-sharp blade cuts through wood like butter
The 4 Best Whittling Knives
With that in mind, let’s now take a closer look at our top picks.
Let’s dive into the specifics and review each knife individually. You can use the list below to jump and review specific models or you can read along and go through all the information.
1. Best Overall: Morakniv Wood Carving 120 Morakniv Wood Carving 120 Knife
Morakniv’s wood carving 120 knife is a great choice for beginners and delivers the best bang for your buck you’ll find anywhere. Let’s take a closer look at this slick knife.
Many features make the Morakniv wood carving knife unique. One of the most important ones is the 2.4-inch blade.
This company chose to use laminated steel for the blade, giving it great edge hardness while being easy to re-sharpen.
- The oiled birchwood handle is very comfortable
- The super-sharp blade cuts through wood like butter
- Can handle both roughing and detail work
- Laminated steel blade resists rust & reduces maintenance
- Limited lifetime warranty
- The sheath is too large and doesn’t seat the knife properly
- Will need to buy a slip strop or a sharpening stone separately to keep the blade honed
A clear laminate coat covers the steel knife blade, preventing rust on all the metal except the exposed edge. The blade is 2.4 inches long, making it a good size for both roughing and detail carving work.
Oiled birchwood is used for the handle, giving it a silky smooth, and ergonomic feel. They did a good job of putting the finishing touches to the handle, making them one of those things you don’t notice because of how well they’re done.
There’s also a hard plastic sheath included with this high-quality knife. It’s oversized and meant to protect various types of knives so that Mora would only have to worry about making one kind of case. You can read my opinion on it below (hint: not good).
This is the perfect knife for those who are looking to get serious about whittling. Whether you’ve just started whittling or are a seasoned veteran looking for your next knife, this tool has so much to offer.
The blade comes razor-sharp out of the box and is no joke. This knife treats wood like butter, just melting away slivers of wood almost effortlessly.
Choosing oiled hardwood for the handle is a great decision on Mora’s part. There’s nothing worse than having a rough, oddly shaped handle that strains your hands after only short periods of use.
This hardwood handle is very comfortable and ambidextrous, making it a good one-size-fits-all solution for whittling knives. Being moderately sized at 1.3 inches around the thickest point, it can be used by people of any hand size.
One of the things I despise about this product has nothing to do with the actual knife itself. The sheathes Morakniv ships with these whittling knives are terrible.
I’m guessing the manufacturer wanted to cut production costs by making a one-size-fits-all sheath instead of molding sheaths for each knife size. So, I can understand why they chose to include it, but it’s still a disappointment, especially when they could’ve knocked this one out of the park.
The knife doesn’t fit in the sheath at all. I mean, it fits, but not in the way it should.
You’ll never really know if the knife is seated in there all the way. I saw one guy who cut himself on the very first day because the knife fell out of its sheath and sliced a giant gouge in his pinky!
Bottom line: LOVE the knife, HATE the sheath. You can decide for yourself, but I think it’s only good for storing the knife away for long periods.
- Product length: 9” (230 mm)
- Blade length: 2.4” (60 mm)
- Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty
- Material: Wood carving knife with a durable laminated steel blade
To find out more about this product, please visit the respective Amazon link.
2. Runner Up: Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack With 1-½” Detail Knife and 2” Roughing Knife’ Jack
One of my favorite whittling pocket knives is Flexcut’s Whittlin’ Jack. It’s a lightweight and portable pair of fixed-blade whittling knives that fold away easily.
If you’re looking for a folding whittling knife you can easily carry for on-the-go whittling, then you should consider this unit.
The Whittlin’ Jack has plenty to offer in terms of cutting power and versatility.
- Comes with two different blades offering great versatility
- Has everything you need to start whittling
- Super sharp hard carbon steel blades
- Made in the USA
- Lightweight and fits into pockets with ease
- Square edge on the backside of the blade can be uncomfortable
- Will need to buy a sharpening unit separately to keep the blade honed
With both a 2-inch roughing knife and a 1.5-inch detail blade, you’re set to take on any whittling project.
Carbon steel is used for the blades, giving them a super sharp cutting edge that won’t dull halfway through your project. On the back of each blade is a square edge that you can push or pull against for more precise cuts.
There isn’t any locking mechanism for the blades, but they do come stiff, being both hard to open and hard to close.
For the handle, the manufacturer chose to use a walnut inlay inside of the aluminum side plates and steel frame. Choosing these materials was a good move, as they keep the knife very light with only 4.6 ounces of overall weight. When closed, this knife is 4 inches long.
You’ll find a deeply grained and rough feel to the wooden inlay, providing a somewhat grippy texture without being uncomfortable. There’s also a small finger cutout in the blade plus a rounded back to the knife, giving it a good ergonomic feel.
This is a great pocket whittling knife that can accompany you wherever you go. Weighing only 4.6 ounces and coming with 4 inches of overall length when closed, you’ll have no issues carrying it in your pocket.
With the two blades you’re given, you can carve a countless number of figures and work on as many projects. It’s a highly versatile knife for whittling.
Having a set of a roughing knife to quickly shape out silhouettes and a detail knife for more intricate cuts and carving is very convenient. Instead of trying to work on your project with a bulky blade, you can exercise fine precision and get the exact cut you want with this product.
The blades sit very deep in the handle, making them somewhat difficult to pull out, especially since the folding mechanism comes quite stiff. Also, once you work to get one of the blades out, it won’t lock into place.
While this isn’t the biggest issue as the blades come stiff anyways, it would’ve been a nice peace-of-mind thing to have the blades locked. Just be careful not to accidentally close your finger in, as these blades are super sharp!
Once you get the blade out, however, you can effortlessly carve and whittle away at woods like basswood, hickory, oak, maple, or practically any other. Flexcut promises razor-sharp blades and they deliver on it.
Keep in mind that the blades will dull with time, which is why you’ll need a slip strop to hone them.
The manufacturer includes one with their Carvin’ Jack knife, but they chose not to ship one with this little folding knife.
If you plan on using it more than a few times, I suggest picking up one of Flexcut’s slip strops.
After about a minute of stropping your blade will once again have a super sharp edge that carves through wood like butter.
Overall, I think this is an excellent pocket whittling knife. It’s lightweight, easy to carry, extremely sharp, and a great deal. Pick up a slip strop with this knife and you’ll enjoy whittling anywhere you go.
- Product length: 4”
- Blade length: 1.5” detail knife, 2” roughing knife
- Warranty: N/A
- Material: Razor-sharp hard carbon steel blade
For more details, please check the respective Amazon link.
3. Alternative #1: Morakniv Wood Carving Junior Knife
Teaching your child or grandchild to whittle is much easier with the Morakniv Wood Carving Junior Knife.
It’s a spin-off from the design I wrote about above, but with a few key features that make it a great choice for teaching whittling.
Give your little ones a few templates and some guidance about the basics of whittling and watch them go from whittling sticks and twigs to working on all kinds of soaps and wood like an old-timer in no time with this knife!
- Finger guard prevents your fingers from slipping forward onto the blade
- Super sharp carbon steel blade carves through wood like butter
- Comfortable handle made of oiled birchwood
- Laminate coating on the blade prevents rust and reduces maintenance
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Plastic sheath doesn’t seat the knife well
- Will need to buy a sharpening stone separately to keep the blade honed
Let’s take a closer look.
The manufacturer modified their classic 120 knife and made a beginner-friendly whittling knife.
The feature that sets this knife apart from the pack is the finger guard.
When you’re teaching younger kids to whittle, the last thing you’d want is for their hand to slip forward onto the blade, causing them to cut themselves.
Having the finger guard prevents that and makes this knife much safer for children.
The oiled birchwood makes the handle smooth and easy on the hands. Not too large to be unwieldy and uncomfortable, and not too small to be difficult to control. It’s a great size for any child’s hands.
The manufacturer includes a hard plastic sheath like the one they package with their original carving knife. It’s the same situation here as well — the knife doesn’t fit quite right. However, for a free sheath, it gets the job done just fine.
Let me say that I love the finger guard. I think it’s a fantastic idea and a great feature that makes introducing children to whittling much less stressful. If you teach them to cut at small pieces of softwood until they’re ready for more advanced carving, they shouldn’t have any safety issues using this knife.
If you know anything about knives, you’ll know that a dull blade is a dangerous blade. Dull blades are more likely to get caught and slip uncontrollably, leading them to cause harm since a dull blade can still cut you.
This knife glides through wood like butter. It’s also very controllable and easy to perform long strokes with. It’s much safer, effective, and comfortable than using an old dull Victorinox Swiss Army Knife.
This knife can perform both roughing and fine detail work, meaning your children/grandchildren won’t outgrow it if they work to develop their whittling skills. It’s well suited for teaching beginners without limiting how far they can push themselves to learn.
The oiled hardwood handle is smooth and perfectly sized for children of any age. They’ll have more fun carving as they won’t experience hand strain and pain as opposed to with oddly shaped pocket knife handles. Should be lots of fun!
Now for the sheath. I think the sheath is more dangerous than the knife itself!
If you read my review of the regular Morakniv carving knife, you’ll know that a guy cut himself when the sheath didn’t seat the knife properly and fell out on him.
This is due to the design and mindset the Swedish knife manufacturer had when designing these hard plastic sheaths. They’re supposed to be a one-size-fits-all solution so they can manufacture en masse for many knife models.
While the knife fits in the sheath and seats okay, it just doesn’t work as well as a properly sized and fitted sheath would.
My recommendation when using this sheath is to make sure the knife is secured in it before picking it up. Also, don’t hold it upside down or sideways so that it can’t fall out on you.
To keep the fun going with this knife, I advise you to buy a sharpening stone and polishing compound.
These serve to keep the knife honed and razor-sharp, keeping it cutting smoothly and preventing any hand strain or accidents caused by a dull blade.
Flexcut makes a good slip strop and gold polishing compound combo that should last you thousands of sharpenings.
Overall, I love the Morakniv Wood Carving Junior Knife.
I think it’s the perfect knife for teaching children the basics of whittling. Give them plenty of supplies like wood blocks and a wood carving book or some whittling project ideas and they’ll be busy for a while.
The finger guard is great for protecting kids’ fingers from slipping forward onto the blade without needing them to wear cumbersome gloves that may affect their fine cutting skills.
Having a super sharp blade is a bonus too, as it prevents the dangers and accidents that come along with a dull-bladed knife.
This knife won’t prevent a child learning to whittle from reaching their true potential either. It can hold its own and allow them to learn and try as many different techniques as they care to learn!
I’m not too happy about the sheath, but that’s more of an afterthought when the knife is the real meat and potatoes you’re buying.
- Product length: 6.75”
- Blade length: 3”
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Material: Thin carbon steel blade + oiled hardwood handle
To find out more about this woodworking tool, please visit the respective Amazon link.
4. Alternative #2: Flexcut Right-Handed Carvin’ Jack Folding Multi-Tool
If you’re looking to add an extra level of detail to your whittling projects, check out the Flexcut Carvin’ Jack.
It’s got everything you need to whittle and carve away at wood all in one tool.
Plus, it comes with a slip strop and gold polishing compound, giving you everything you need to use and maintain this knife for years to come.
- All-in-one solution for whittling and wood carving
- Tools lock open for better safety
- Every tool comes extremely sharp and ready for use
- Each blade is made from high-carbon content steel
- Comfortable to use for long periods
- Lightweight and easy to take anywhere you go
- Includes a leather sheath, a slip strop, and polishing compound
- Also comes in a left-handed version for left-handed whittlers/woodcarvers
- Hard to open/deploy the tools
- Wooden handle could use a better finish
There are a lot of features to cover with this knife. Just looking at the six tools, it’s easy to tell there’s a lot to this product.
Starting with the list of tools, this is what the Carvin’ Jack offers:
- Carving knife
- Hook knife
- V scorp
- Gouge scorp
- Straight gouge
That’s quite the selection!
There’s not much more you would ever need for nearly any whittling project. Each tool comes super sharp out of the box and ready for use. Plus, you can sharpen each tool on the included slip strop.
Getting the tools out of the handle can be a bit difficult since they’re tightly packed in there. Once you get them unfolded, they lock securely into place and can only be released via a lever on the handle.
Keeping the tools packed in tight is a necessity to keep this knife small and portable. When all the tools are closed, its overall length is only 4.25 inches. It’s also very lightweight considering it has six carving tools inside, weighing only 7 ounces.
The wooden inlay comes with a nice finish, but it could be better. Not uncomfortable, but not silky smooth either.
Speaking of comfort, the handle has a rounded inside with space for your fingers to rest while you’re cutting at a piece of wood.
The manufacturer includes a great leather sheath for you to store this knife in. The knife fits neatly inside, making it a great option for tossing in your car or storing the knife for long periods.
The company also includes a slip strop and gold polishing compound with this knife, making it a great all-in-one package that supplies you with everything you need to carve for years to come.
Flexcut really outdid themselves when making this multi-tool.
Having six different tools for whittling and carving in one pocket knife is a blessing.
When I first saw this set, I was skeptical of how good of a tool it could be. Could it stand up to whittling and chip carving knife sets where each tool is separate?
It turns out it can. Each of the tools is made of carbon steel, coming super sharp and ready to use straight out of the box.
You’ll have no issue working on more advanced wood carving projects with these tools carving into hardwood like butter.
You’ll have a great variety of tools in the palm of your hand. Any kind of roughing or whittling can be done with the precise carving knife.
Carving, gouging, pinstriping, and detailing are all taken care of with this set of carving tools that includes a straight gouge, a chisel, a V scorp, a gouge scorp, and a hook knife.
Yes, that’s right, a hook knife too! I know many whittlers who love carving spoons day-in and day-out, so there really is something here for everyone.
Depending on how much you know, you could carve out bears, fish, chains, intricate animals, or anything else you can find tips, tutorials, or instructions for!
Each tool can be quite difficult to get out as they’re jammed in there tightly. They’ll break in overtime with use though. Once you get a tool out, it securely locks in the open position until you release it with the locking lever on the backside of the handle.
You won’t have to deal with any hand strain or pain using the Jack.
The elegantly shaped handle has a rounded back as well as a rounded inside with finger reliefs for your fingers to rest in while carving. This knife has a good ergonomic feel and is clearly designed with the user’s comfort in mind.
The leather sheath that comes with this tool is of excellent quality and holds the knife very nicely. It’s great for both short-term and long-term storage.
Even more exciting than the sheath is the included slip strop.
A slip strop is the final component needed to make this a complete whittling and carving knife package. It really brings the product together by including everything you’ll need to keep each tool sharp for hundreds of projects to come.
Maybe in five years or so, you’ll need to buy another stick of gold polishing compound, but otherwise, you’re set for life.
Overall, I believe the Carvin’ Jack is one of the best whittling and carving knives on the market right now.
I like how the manufacturer makes this a complete all-in-one whittling and wood carving package that requires nothing else to keep you whittling for years and years to come.
Flexcut did an outstanding job of offering tremendous value and durability to their customers by packing so many quality tools into one package.
- Product length: 4.25” closed
- Blade length: Multiple lengths
- Warranty: N/A
- Material: High-carbon content steel blade + leather pouch
Honorable Mention: BeaverCraft C2 6.5-Inch Whittling Knife
The BeaverCraft C2 6.5-Inch Whittling Knife is a general-purpose wood carving tool, but it’s also suitable for green woodworking and fine wood cutting.
The blade of this knife is made of high-carbon steel and comes both sharpened and polished. The BeaverCraft C2 Cutting Knife’s blade is so sharp that you can use it to cut softwood. This is precisely why BeaverCraft warns its customers to be extra careful with this tool.
The BeaverCraft C2 Bench Knife features a durable and comfortable handle made of oak and processed with natural linseed oil.
- Great for delicate chip carving
- Features a hardened high-carbon steel blade and an ergonomically designed handle to prevent hand fatigue
- Can be used by both amateurs and professionals
- Comes with free e-books
- The blade is quite thick
- Regrinding the blade down to the right angle usually takes a lot of time
- Product length: 8.27”
- Blade length: 6.5”
- Warranty: N/A
- Material: High-carbon steel
Table of Contents
Before You Buy A Knife
You can use any old knife for your woodworking projects.
But should you?
Whittling knives are sharper, more precise, and more comfortable to use for extended periods.
If you care about whittling and want to be the best whittler you can be, you need a good whittling knife.
You simply can’t carve intricate designs with a dull, cheap knife. Upgrading your whittling knife is one of the easiest and smartest ways to take your whittling skills to the next level.
That’s why I’ve done the legwork for you and chosen the top whittling knives for a variety of needs.
From the flat-out best whittling knives to the best budget whittling knives for the money-minded hobbyist, there’s something for everyone here.
If you’re short on time, I made this helpful comparison table as a quick-reference guide for most people’s needs.
Before you choose a knife for your whittling projects, you first need to identify what you need in a whittling knife.
Is it important to be able to fit your knife in your pocket? Is a good bushcraft knife okay for whittling or are there better options? Do you need a blade as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel?
Or do you just want the best quality knife that you can afford? I’ll touch on a few aspects you should consider when choosing a whittling knife.
Whittling Knives FAQ
What Size Whittling Knife Should You Choose?
Size is an important factor when choosing a whittling knife.
I prefer a small-bladed knife that’s easy to get into small nooks and crannies for intricate carving.
You may prefer a good medium-sized knife that can double as both an everyday carry knife and a wood carving knife.
I know a few people who love whittling and just use a great compact and precise folding knife like the Ontario RAT-1.
It’s up to you to determine your needs, but I wouldn’t recommend getting a knife with a blade longer than maybe 4.5 inches.
Any larger and it starts becoming unwieldy and harder to make intricate cuts.
What Kind of Steel Should You Choose for Your Whittling Knife?
Steel types are an important aspect to consider when choosing your whittling knife.
There are two main types of steel that you’ll need to decide between.
Carbon steel and stainless steel. Carbon steel has the advantage of being easier to sharpen than stainless steel while holding a sharp edge longer than stainless steel can.
If that’s the case, then why doesn’t everyone use carbon steel for all their knives? Rust. Carbon steel is prone to rust.
Stainless steel, on the other hand, has great rust resistance. While the cheap stainless steels can’t compete with good carbon steel, there’s plenty of alloy blends that allow the best of both worlds. For whittling, I’d recommend you choose a carbon steel knife.
They’re easier to sharpen and hold their edges for longer periods. As long as you take care of your tools and keep them clean, you shouldn’t encounter any issues with rust and corrosion.
What Kind of Special Features Should Your Whittling Knife Have?
One final idea I want you to ponder when choosing your whittling knife is any kind of special features you may want.
If you don’t have any in mind, here are a few examples I’ve seen. One unique design I saw was that of the Morakniv Wood Carving Junior.
It’s got a helpful finger guard that prevents your fingers from slipping forward onto the blade.
Additionally, the handle is a bit smaller so that children can use this knife as a great introduction to whittling.
The key takeaway from this knife is features that offer child safety and protection are always welcome. Another great example of useful features to consider is Flexcut’s Jack, or the Whittlin’ and Carvin’ one in particular. Both knives have more than the standard whittling blade.
The Whittlin’ Jack has a set of two blades, one of which is a general roughing knife, and the other is a smaller detail knife.
If you’re after a bit more precision for more intricate designs, it’s worth checking out Flexcut’s Carvin’ Jack. It goes beyond just whittling and detailing knives, but carving tools too.
There are multiple woodcarving tools, making it a great all-in-one pocket whittling and wood carving knife.