Teaching Boys to Love the Work of Their Hands


Crash goes outside right around the same time everyday. Oh, I don't mean by the clock on the wall... I mean the clock in his head. The one that says: I gotta go. I gotta breathe. I gotta make something happen.

He walks through the woods until he finds some wood to work with and then for the next hour or so he saws, chips, whittles, and carves his way to peace of mind. "Do you think that whittling could be my hobby someday?" No. I think whittling IS your hobby right now, son.

We always want to categorize everything, don't we? No one has called it a "hobby" yet so it lacks legitimacy. But the fact remains that this thing that he does refreshes him and brings forth beauty.

When he first started practicing in earnest a half year or so ago (12 years old), he nearly sliced his fingers off. The next morning, with his hand stitched up hand immobilized in gauze and tape, he paged happily through a favorite knife catalog and mentally expanded his wish list. 

It was that night that I ordered him a pair of kevlar gloves and a set of real tools. His birthday was approaching, so I added a few more items and made a few calls. As soon as his hand was healed, he began again with better equipment, more appropriate to the skills he was clearly set on developing.

I don't know much about his work. He is fast becoming the most experienced in our household. But I happily share our resources with you just in case you have a youngster who has a penchant for wandering the woods at a certain time each day.

I'm going to start off with the MUST have of the wordworking pre-teen. I ought to know. And I have the ER bill to prove it...

Protective Gloves

I'm not thrilled with the exposed fingers here (after seeing what a sharp knife can do to flesh. I could post those pics but I'll spare you) but I like how fitted they are and the flexibility they offer. A kid is going to want to be comfortable in his work gloves and be able to handle his tools or he won't wear them. Crash's kevlar gloves are protective but a little floppy and he tends to set them aside when I'm not looking. 

After gloves, your boy needs some know-how, and a good comprehensive book is a great thing for tucking into his rucksack. I love this photo because it was not staged. I simply took my ipad out to where he was working and clicked away. You can see his whittling book, sandpaper, twigs he was practicing on, and several small finished projects such as a whistle, spoon, a costume pipe, and various knives.

Below are various tools that he had set out that day. The carving set in the black case was received for his birthday. The light handled carving tools were from a less expensive kit that had been used for soap carving and are starting to wiggle in their bases. On the lower left is a trusty old Swiss Army knife that is sporting a little corrective duct tape.

A sturdy tactical bag is very useful for storing and toting gear and carving supplies. Here are some similar bags but you can look for different styles by searching bug out bag, rucksack, or tactical bag.

This is my birthday canoe and I love it. It was made by the hands of my boy.

As his knowledge and experience have expanded, he has identified various tools that will make his efforts easier and more successful. I will list those below. But first, a link to the beautiful painting (top of post) of the boy carving Blessed Mother. It is called His Madonna (Rosenthal) and reminds me so much of my son... his age and his appearance when he works... and hopefully, his love of Our Lady. We bought it for him for his name day and he has picked out the perfect spot on his bedroom wall.

(Almost all of these links are affiliate links and I will receive a small percentage when you purchase through my links. If you buy, please use them! :) But please know that I would offer this same list to you even if I got nothing.)


The Little Book of Whittling
Complete Book of Woodcarving: Everything You Need to Know to Master the Craft
Old Time Whittling
Other Whittling and Carving books. There are a lot out there!


Hand carving tools are the simplest options for beginners but it didn't take long for my preteen to start asking for better tools for bigger projects (and smaller projects). You know your kids best and what they can handle. These are just basic recommendations based on what we have.

Carving Tool Set (lots of options here. Look around until you find your price point. As they get into the craft, they will discover specific needs and tool preferences but a basic set gets the ball rolling.)
Wood Burning Kit
Basic pocket knife
Dremel Rotary Tool (drilling, sanding, carving... so many functions with the right bits)
Flex Shaft Attachment for Dremel (this was recommended in Crash's woodworking book and is now on his Christmas wish list)
Carving Bits for Dremel


Kevlar Gloves
Eye Protection


Knife Sharpener
His Madonna painting (by Rosenthal) We purchased this 8 x 10 in a frame from Catholic to the Max but it can also be purchased as a poster or print in various sizes from other sources.
Tactical Bag
Basic Tools

My boys agree that this list should give a pretty solid start to any beginner. It really is a great hobby for a youngster with a lot of energy and creativity to let out. And a far cry better than digital devices. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for what happens when you combine kids and knives. (By the way, I would have loved to learn this craft even as a girl.) You know your kids best! For example, it's probably a bad idea to buy sharp implements for kids who regularly use objects to hurt others. Common sense. I am a cautious person by nature and don't love giving sharp implements to my children. However, I recognize the need for growing boys to be permitted a measure of risk and responsibility. And my boy is doing just fine. Actually, he's thriving. Thanks be to God.

Posted on December 3, 2014 and filed under Family Life, homeschooling, parenting.