Kid’s and Carving                                                                     <back to Shop Talk articles list

I started carving with an old electricians knife when I was about 10 or 11 years old. To me it opened up a whole new world. I was excited to see what I could do - even if it was just wood chips.

I tell other parents that I started carving this young and I get the strangest looks. “Give a kid a knife? Are you insane?” No. I’m not insane. Kids like to learn when it is fun. They just need a good teacher that’s all.

Sometimes it’s a good Idea to look beyond your own experience and ask someone else what they think. So I asked Monte Draper who has been teaching woodcarving to kids and adults for many years. Monte regularly works with children to help them explore and learn about woodcarving.


Here are some tips that Monte has learned over the years while teaching kids to carve.

Monte How long have you been carving with kids?

I have been carving with the kids for fifteen years. It started with 4-5th graders in the elementary schools then it evolved into teaching at the Middle School for an exploritory class. Unfortunately, the HIV scare and 9/11 took way the use of sharp tools in the schools.

How old should a child be to start carving?

I feel a student should be in fifth grade, no younger. It seems they have more hand strength and seem to stay focused longer.

What about giving a kid a sharp knife? Is there a way to prevent cuts?

Knives are very sharp. I’ve purchase a lot of extra small carving gloves in my career. The gloves work great and keep the project clean. You can still puncture yourself but gloves take away the slice.

There are other materials that Kids can carve other than wood. What materials do you like for a beginner?

I have carved in soap and apples. The apples are really fun. They change as they age-transform.

Any advice on teaching a youngster to carve?

Never force a tool to make a cut. Think of cutting a loaf of bread, the knife will flatten the loaf as you put pressure on it but if you use your knife like a saw, moving it from the handle to the tip you’ll experience better success. That movement should be very slight but it does make a difference. Dull tools are dangerous in so many ways. Dull tools are the cause of the majority of cuts. Beginners have to be reminded wood carving knifes are sharper than those in your kitchen. I remind them everytime they pick up the knife. Also, seperate young boys. ( I can attest to this. There’s alot more messing around, and not alot of carving)

How has teaching kids changed over the years?

Paul, as you have witnessed the classes Charlene and I teach are either sand paper then paint or just paint. Because of the cost of insurance, festival organizers requested we do not use knives. It means more prep work on my end but to see the kids walking around showing people their projects makes it worth it. The toughest thing for me I want them to be perfect but my bride has pointed out “it is their project, let it go.” Great advice!

So....

   - Don’t start them too young
   - Supervise each carving session and keep them short
   - Teach the basic cuts on apples and soap before moving onto wood.
   - Keep your tools sharp and little hands protected!

Thank you Monte for the great tips!

You may recognize the name Draper. The Draper Detailer Knife that I sell is named after my friend Monte. Monte is a world class Photographer for our own Bemidji Pioneer and a lifelong wood carver.