Carving the Whittle Pup

Wood selection

I carved the figure shown above from a piece of an apricot limb, and that's the kind of wood I'm going to use in this tutorial. The piece I've selected is shown in the picture at the left. You can use any wood you choose. You want to start with a piece that's two inches tall and a little over an inch in diameter with the bark on. Don't worry too much about the thickness, although I would suggest for this first time that you not select a piece that's less than an inch thick, as it becomes difficult to work with pieces that small.

If you don't have a convenient stick from a tree, you can use a wooden dowel. The major home improvement stores sell dowels in varying thicknesses. I would suggest a one inch white wood dowel. Don't get an oak dowel unless you're comfortable working with oak. It's a very hard wood to carve with hand tools. I'll carve pretty much anything, but I haven't tried to turn an oak dowel into a Whittle Pup.

I particularly like the fruit woods: pear, peach, apricot, apple, cherry, etc. for my Whittle Pups. I also rather like sycamore. But I've carved these dogs from dozens of different woods, including mesquite, walnut, fig, Paulownia (Royal Empress), maple, sumac, poplar, lyptus, elm, and a few "mystery sticks" that I picked up along the way.

It doesn't much matter if the wood is green (i.e. freshly cut) or if it's been drying outside for may years. Green wood will carve easier, but it might crack as it dries over time. I have a few Whittle Pups that cracked. I call it character.

You might get a few pieces of different wood and test them out by making some experimental cuts to gauge their hardness. Remember, though: it's possible to carve even very hard woods if you have a sharp knife, take your time, and make very small cuts. Patience and persistence will pay off. But for your first Whittle Pup, I suggest something you're comfortable carving.

This piece of wood and the piece I selected for the figure in the image above have little twig stubs on the bottom that I incorporated as the dog's tail. This isn't absolutely necessary, but it does add a nice touch to your carving. Don't worry about it if your piece of wood doesn't have a built-in tail like this. Later in the tutorial I'll show how to relief-carve a tail if you don't have one built in.