Best Carving Knives Reviewed & Rated
Woodworkers, carpenters, handymen and even extreme hobbyists understand that for one to carve a perfect masterpiece from any piece of wood, they need a perfect carving knife, and nothing less. The quality of your work is determined to a great extent by the quality of carving knife you choose to use. You need a knife that is both lightweight and compact for effective maneuverability and flexibility and yet with a pocket-friendly price tag. There is no point going for a costly option packed with premium features only to use it once every other month on softwood. Using the right one on the right piece of wood is a lot more productive and bound to give you a rare sense of contentment with your work.
Considering that the market is full of different brands offering you all sorts of carving knives, most of which are from brands you’re likely to have never heard of, it is prudent to conduct in-depth research to familiarize yourself with the available types. Most importantly, you need to understand why you need a knife and for which purpose. Once that is settled, you will have to take a few factors into consideration, such as brand name, efficiency, type, durability and the like. Lucky for you, we have dutifully put together a list of ten carving knives that should meet any enthusiastic carver’s needs. These knives are practical, lightweight, compact, comfortable and very solidly built. Unless you’re an experienced carver, keep reading because you’ll find this entry quite informative.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Morakniv 120
- Opinel No. 8
- Flexcut Jack
Criteria for Choosing the Best Carving Knives
As you will be dealing with carving knives, most of which are razor sharp and capable of retaining their edge for quite some time, common sense would dictate that you take every necessary measure to keep yourself and those around you safe. On a similar note, a sharp and comfortable knife will be very instrumental in your endeavor to transform any piece of wood into a masterpiece. Sharp and comfortable knives significantly reduce the effort you use in carving, which in turn eliminates or greatly reduces the chances of making a mistake. Make a point of buying from reputable brands as their products always undergo vigorous quality check before being released into the market. Furthermore, go for a product with a high build quality. At least this way you are certain the blades are less likely to come lose or get stuck. Also, always use the right kind of knife for the right type of wood. However, the most important precautionary measure you can take is wearing protective gear while using one. Eye protecting google, gloves, fitting clothing like aprons and appropriate shoes are a staple.
Carving is a demanding and laborious process and sometimes necessitates the application of a great amount of effort, especially during the initial stages when roughing a piece of wood. Also, there are some tough and quite dense types of woods that can quickly blunt a knife within a few minutes of carving. As a result, it is important that your preferred knife is adequately robust to take on some of the toughest types of wood without chipping. As professional carvers can attest, blades frequently get stuck in wood and should it lack the requisite strength, it can easily break as you try to force it out, which could cause you serious harm. Blades are primarily made from two materials, high-carbon steel and stainless steel, with each having its fair share of strengths and weaknesses. For instance, while high-carbon is ultra-strong and lightweight, it is prone to corrosion and rust. As a result, a carving knife made from high-carbon will require frequent cleaning and oiling so it maintains an optimal carving condition.
Using sharp blades is not only safer but also easier as you have to make far fewer strokes to make the cut you want. As was the case with durability, high-carbon steel, the material from which some knives are made, is not only easy to sharpen, but retains its sharpness for longer compared to stainless steel. With this in mind, you may want to pay a little extra attention to the blade your preferred knife is made of, as well as the quality of the edge. Just to reiterate, while high-carbon steel is not easy to sharpen and maintain, it nonetheless retains its sharpness for longer and is consequently easier to use. A good blade should be narrow from one end to the other to make it possible for you to effortless undertake more delicate and intricate carvings and should extend for a maximum of 15 millimeters.
Design of the Handle
They have handles that come is a wide variety of designs, all intended to make the knife comfortable and easy to handle for a prolonged period. Handles featuring an ergonomic design are especially quite comfortable, allowing you to use one more efficiently and for longer without suffering any fatigue or developing blisters all over your hand. The knives featured on our list have handles made from different types of materials such as Oiled Birch Wood, hardwood, RosePakka, among others. The intention is, however, to ensure your hand fits perfectly and that you maintain a firm grip throughout the carving process and to minimize the onset of fatigue.
Your last but equally important consideration should be the tang of the knife, specifically whether it has a partial or full tang or no tang at all. Most handles of these knives come with a tang, which is the manner in which the knife attaches to the handle. Carving knives with a full tang are a lot safer and come with a quality assurance. A knife with a full tang comes with a unique design, in which the steel material extends through the entire length of handle thereby significantly decreasing the likelihood of the steel loosening and falling off, as is the case with most partial tang carving knives.
10 Best Carving Knives
1. Morakniv 120
While the whole Morakniv 120 is just fascinating in its design and delivery, its most outstanding feature is the handle. The Morakniv brand deliberately made the Morakniv 120 knife considerably oversized to give you more control on the grip, and it doesn't even stop here. Because the handle is entirely in birched wood, it gives you the feeling that it is a natural continuation of your hand, allowing you to work more naturally and expertly and with exact precision. The design of the knife also makes it possible for you to customize the handle so it fits firmly and adequately into your hands. Therefore, irrespective of the size of your hand, you can make changes so you achieve a perfect fit.
The Morakniv brand continues to exude confidence that the Woodcarving 120 will not only meet your expectations but also exceed them, which explains their decision to offer you a limited lifetime warranty with every purchase of their knife. Consequently, you are sure to be using the carving for your whole life without requiring a replacement.
Quite an impressive out-of-the-box sharpness with longer edge retention
Ergonomically designed handle for easy and comfortable use
Lightweight and compact design for flexibility, manoeuvrability, and portability
Easy to maintain
Provides perfect handling
Blade rusts without proper maintenance
Thin point requiring cautious use
2. Opinel No. 8
The Opinel No 8 is also quite a versatile tool capable of carving through all types of wood. The knife makes carving an unbelievably easy and safe endeavour, especially with the installation of Virobloc ring locking system. The main purpose of the Virobloc ring locking system is to prevent the blade from closing while it is opened, and conversely, keeping it closed so it doesn’t open.
It features a high quality and robust construction to provide you with the best carving experience with all types of wood. The handle, for instance, is made purely out of hardwood that is renowned for its ability to withstand the harshest carving conditions, which in turn makes it durable for extended intensive use. The lightweight design of the woodcarving knife increases manoeuvrability, making it possible to curve at your preferred angle. In spite of its superior carving abilities, the knife is more prominently recognized for its historicity and aesthetic appeal. As a matter of fact, Opinel knives have frequently been featured in lists of 100 beautiful products around the world. The model design of the Opinel No. 8 knife mentioned above significantly increases the ease of handling and ease-of-use, making the knife the best investment when it comes to carving wood.
Has a compact and lightweight design
Features an all-carbon constructed blade for durability
Virobloc ring locking system
High quality and robust construction
Ergonomically constructed handle encourages continuous use
Exceptional carving performance
A little costly
Prone to corrosion
3. Flexcut Whittling Jack
Furthermore, the knife has a total length of 4-inches from one end to another when closed, making it sufficiently compact to comfortably carry around with you either in the pockets or a backpack without taking up too much storage space. The design of the knife also makes it aesthetically appealing, leading to the creation of a veneer inlay in addition to the slight bow construction makes holding the knife comfortable, especially when you have to carve a significant amount of time. Coupled with its lightness at just 0.188 pounds, you will be comfortable carrying it around with a lot of ease.
On a negative side note, though this should not be considered a deal breaker, you may experience a little difficulty with the Flexcut Whittling Jack Wood Knife when attempting to open the blade from the handle because of the shallowness of the nail nicks. Other than this trivial drawback, the knife is a wonder to work with and is ideal for light-duty to medium-duty carving applications. It is lightweight and compact and will not take up too much space in your pockets or backpack. It also has two blades, one perfect for roughing while the other is ideal for detailing.
Perfect handle for prolonged wood carving
Longer sharpness and edge retention for clean and efficient cuts
Lightweight and compact design, weighing just 3 ounces
Blades don’t lock perfectly
Shallowness of nail nicks complicates opening the blades
4. Morakniv 164
It comes with a single-edged blade constructed entirely out of high-carbon steel, which is renowned for being ultra-strong and lasting for several years of intense usage. Unfortunately, unlike stainless steel, which is preferred over high-carbon steel by other brands due to its high resistance both rust and corrosion resistant, high carbon steel cannot be used in different weather conditions without worrying about the prevailing conditions having a negative impact on its structural integrity.
Additionally, in contrast to stainless steel, high-carbon steel is capable of maintaining its sharp edge for a considerably longer period, thereby reducing the frequency of re-sharpening. The high-carbon steel from which the handles of the carving are made are much stronger and able to provide you with longer, superior performance if they are properly maintained. Consequently, they will certainly maintain their integrity irrespective of the intensity of the curving progress they are subjected to.
The extension of the knife’s tang throughout its length works great by reinforcing the blade and maximizing its strength, and in the process, making it perfect both for roughing and detailing different types of woods. The blade has a length of 2-inches, which is pretty standard, with a diameter of 1/2-inches and weighs just 59 grams. These specifically make this knife a lightweight and compact model, appropriate for storing in compact spaces for increased portability. The fact that the Morakniv 164 is curved makes it especially ideal for carving small spoons and bowls.
It has a few weaknesses that you need to be aware of so you're able to make an informed choice. First, the unique curving of its blade can pose a bit of a challenge to novices and inexperienced Do-It-Yourselfers when it comes to keeping the blade sharp. Its question mark sharp is also likely to make it difficult when working on delicate and complex carves which may force you to spend a little more time on your project. Lastly, considering that high-carbon is not resistant to corrosion and rust, this woodcarving knife will need considerably frequent polishing and maintenance to maintain its sharp edge.
Lightweight and compact design allowing for extensive, effortless use
Exceptionally stable carving performance
Exceptionally sharp and ready to carve
Ideal for carving spoon
Prone to corrosion
Requires frequent stropping to maintain sharpness
5. Morakniv 106
Other than the blade of the Morakniv 106, the handle similarly features top-notch construction using premium-quality resources. Like the Morakniv 120, this knife has a handle made from Oiled Birch wood, making it possible for you quickly and effortlessly customize it in accordance with their needs. The factory pre-set grip should, however, be able to suit the average hand without requiring any modifications. Nevertheless, the ergonomic fashioning of the handle is aimed at ensuring a proper and firmer fit on a broad range of hands, which is achieved by slightly oversizing it to give different users improved handling over the blade.
The Morakniv 106 knife is ideal for use by enthusiastic Do-It-Yourselfers and novices since its slightly large size makes adequate room for large and accurate cuts. The out-of-the-box sharpness of the knife accords the aforementioned groups the option of decreasing the need of exaggerating their cuts and in the process lessen the likelihood of injuring themselves.
As is the case with most Mora products, it comes with a limited lifetime warranty. However, with proper use and thorough maintenance, you may never use the warranty cover at all.
Compact and lightweight
Comes with an out-of-the-box sharpness for effortless carving
Ideal for learning how to carve wood
Durable and robust handle made from Oiled Birch Wood
Prone to rusting and corrosion thereby necessitating proper care and maintenance
6. The Mora Companion MG
It sports an ergonomically designed handle made from hard rubber to increase your holding grip and make the knife comfortable to use for a protracted amount of time on demanding projects. The ergonomic design furthermore ensures optimal precision cutting. The knife comes with a blade measuring 4.1-inches and made from high-carbon steel for an extended shelf-life and the ability to withstand the toughness of different types of woods. Consequently, you have a knife capable of taking on the toughest hardwoods without suffering any substantial deformations, but which will nonetheless require honing after every half an hour as you carve wood. Furthermore, in spite of its impressive edge resistance, we highly recommend honing the knife after every 20 minutes so as to get the most out it, and more importantly, to maintain the general health of the knife which goes a long way in minimizing the danger of chipping and injuries occasioned by using dull knives.
The blade has a 3/4 tang along its length allowing you to make exact and precise cuts with as few strokes as possible in addition to increasing the reliability of the knife. In spite of having a partial tang, you don’t have to worry about the blade coming loose even after intensive use.
Like most products made from carbon steel, this knife will definitely rust if not properly looked after. Keeping it in a moist setting for extended periods of time is most likely to trigger rusting, meaning that having a proper storage system goes a long way in keeping the knife safe from the damaging consequences of rust and corrosion. Another effective way of preventing rusting is by forcing a patina.
In conclusion, it offers you exceptional workability and an ease of use vital for roughing and making delicate curves. The tool comes with a very functional 4.1-Inch carbon steel blade with 3/4 tang for a highly reliable performance that is ideal for a multitude of carving application given that it is one tough and hard material. The knife sports a useful Scandinavian grind angled at 22-degree that considerably eases the whole carving process. Coupled with the comfortable handle, you have a tool that will never disappoint, no matter the situation.
Lightweight and compact design for easy manoeuvrability and portability
Cost-effective yet packed full of useful features
Razor sharp blade for efficient and smooth cutting
Offers an ease of use for accommodating novices
Robust construction for extended shelf-life
Easy to use
Requires thorough maintenance to maintain optimal carving condition
Application of excessive force could break blade
7. Flexcut Tri-Jack Pro
All the three blades are made from high-carbon steel, providing for exceptional carving on just about any type of wood. The out-of-the-box razor sharp will only need occasional sharpening, seeing as high-carbon steel is very apt at retaining its edge for long even with prolonged and intense use. One of the highlights of the Flexcut Tri-Jack Pro knives is that they come with a blade locking mechanism, making them a lot safer than most knives to use, so you can work peacefully without worrying about coming to some kind of harm. Another significant difference between this knife and most is that the handle is designed into a Pistol Grip, which ensures your grip is not only firm but also very comfortable, allowing you to work for long periods of time without ever experiencing any significant fatigue or developing blisters on the hands. Additionally, because the handle is made from aerospace-grade aluminium, which is a lightweight and ultra-strong material, the Flexcut Tri-Jack Pro knife has the manoeuvrability and versatility of other smaller pocket knives and occupies quite a small amount of storage space either in your pockets or backpack.
To summarize, it is made by professional woodworkers to be used by serious hobbyists, and other professional woodworkers. The knife comes with a razor sharp edge allowing carvers to have optimal control. Also, because all the blades are precision-machined, they can maintain their cutting edge for longer. With a weight of 5.1 ounce and a length of 4-1/4-inches when folded, you will have no problems at all going from place to place with this knife.
Razor sharp blades for effortless and quick carving
Lightweight and compact for easy portability and manoeuvrability
Has three blades for roughing, detailing, and cutting for exceptional versatility
Has blade locking system to ensure your safety
Comes with Pistol Grip to increase comfortability and encourage prolonged use
Difficult to open and close
8. Flexcut Carvin’ Jack
As is the case with all other Flexcut products, this carving knife sports an ergonomically designed handle to ensure a perfect fit on your hands and to make it comfortable to use with ease and manoeuvre effortlessly. Plus, the Flexcut brand provides you with two choices, right-handed and left-handed versions. The knife is unique is several ways and is the only knife with six blades. The versatility of the woodcarving knife makes it possible for you to undertake any carving project and see to its successful completion within the shortest time possible. Its portability gives the opportunity to carve wood at any place of your choice and at your preferred time. With this option, you don’t need a work bench or additional tools as the Carvin’ Jack is a complete kit allowing you to carve any piece of wood into a masterpiece.
It comes with a few accessories to make your carving an enjoyable and hassle-free experience. Included with the knife is a sheath-like pouch, a slip strop, and polishing compound to enable you to sharpen it at your own convenience, ensuring they are always at top carving condition. Plus, the Flexcut offers you a lifetime warranty limited to the repair and replacement of factory defective parts only.
A complete kit with six razor sharp and durable blades
Perfect locking of blades on opening or closing
Small and lightweight with a length of just 4-1/2-Inch for easy carrying and use
A very cost-effective carving knife
Difficulty opening some blades
9. Joy Enterprises - Fury Nobility Raindrop
The Fury Nobility Raindrop Razor Edge comes with a considerably smaller handle made from RosePakka hardwood and finished with stainless pins for a longer shelf-life. Plus, because of its lightweight and compact design, your hands fit perfectly firmly on the grip making it easy to handle for extended periods of time. Its small stature also means that it is quite portable, as it will fit perfectly comfortably in your pockets, allowing you to take it from one place to another with relative ease. It is similarly sufficiently large to be flexible for a multitude of carving tasks. The design and overall construction of the woodcarving knife means it is ideal for a wide range of carving projects such as working on the edges of wooden poles, in which it delivers a smooth and straightforward carving.
There are some drawbacks holding back the otherwise top model woodcarving knife that are worth bringing to your attention. In consideration of its lightweight and compact design, managing the Fury Nobility Raindrop Razor Edge could be a little problematic. The wood knife's rivets are little too smooth, there is no locking feature, and more worryingly, the blade loses its sharpness more rapidly, forcing you to re-sharpen more frequently.
This is an awesome choice for woodworkers looking for the sweet spot between quality performance and value for money. It is therefore highly recommended it to intermediate woodworkers and novices for their everyday carving activities. They, however, need to seek professional help in getting the knife sharp.
An aesthetically appealing woodcarving knife
Stainless steel blade that is perfect for carving woods with ease and comfort
Lightweight and compact design
Ideal for a wide range of carving projects
Lack of a locking mechanism
Quick loss of carving sharpness necessitating frequent re-sharpening
10. Flexcut Whittling Knife
It comes with its fair share of drawbacks, the most notable of which is the handle. The handle of this woodcarving knife is made from Ash, which is renowned for being lightweight but coarse. As such, it might not support continuous use, especially when you are undertaking demanding woodcarving projects. On another note, the woodcarving knife is fitted with a partial tang blade, which will definitely necessitate frequent strokes to get the curving you desire. Should the blade come loose in the middle of carving, all you have to do is epoxy it back into position. Other than these few drawbacks, which are, in our opinion, non-deal breakers, the knife will most certainly provide you with exceptional performance, and with proper care, will last more than a lifetime. It a realistically and reasonably priced woodcarving knife with more upsides than downsides and would make for a great carving experience.
Long-lasting quality high carbon steel
Ergonomic design for comfortability and ease of use
One of the sharpest factory-installed blades
Comes with very versatile blades
Cost-efficient woodcarving knife
Blades comes loose when under use
Poorly constructed handle not ideal for prolonged use
Q: How do I ensure my carving knives maintain their sharpness?
A: There are several ways of maintaining the carving edge and sharpness of your Flexcut knives, the easiest of which is to use a stropping compound. So that your project doesn’t suffer any quality setbacks, it is highly advised you sharpen the knife every half an hour. This is easiest and most hassle-free way of ensuring your knives maintain an optimal carving condition.
Q: Is high-carbon steel prone to corrosion and rust?
A: Keeping any type of steel in a moist setting for a long time naturally predisposes it to rust. Which is why they require frequent and thorough cleaning after any carving project. An additional measure you can take to protect your knives from rusting is by keeping them in a cool, dry environment. Corrosion, on the other hand, can be avoided by forcing a patina.
Q: What do manufacturers mean by a tang?
A: In very simple words, a tang is the length of the blade that extends into the handle. It can either have a full or partial tang. While a partial tang means the blade reaches between half and three-quarter of the length of the handle, a full tang continues all the way. After undertaking strenuous and more demanding projects with a partial tang carving knife, there is a high likelihood of its blade loosening or falling off, which exposes you to grave danger.
The success or failure of your carving project greatly depends on the effectiveness, flexibility and build quality of your knife. While your chosen knife will only play a partial role, it is nonetheless instrumental in influencing the final results in either direction. As a price-conscious carver out to get his or her money’s worth, it is imperative that you choose wisely and that your choice is guided by other important factors beyond the brand name. One thing we can guarantee you is that all the options featured on our list are the best there is. They are quite handy, feature a lightweight and compact design and offer an impressive out-of-the-box sharpness that requires just an occasional stropping or sharpening.