As a scoutmaster, I have lots of free time on campouts. The scouts cook their meals, run their games and activities, and I usually watch rather than participate, especially in any competitive events. This means I've got a couple hours each day free to whittle - and I love whittling. I usually find a hopeful stick and just carve designs on it, resulting in a fun, but useless, token of the campout. Scouts enjoy seeing what I make and will often say something like, "Gee, I wish I could make something like that." Often, some will get inspired to try on their own.
It's sometimes too challenging for a young scout to start woodcarving this way. Turning a stick into art with no guidelines is too much to grasp, imagine, and create when just beginning. Just choosing a piece of good wood can be a challenge - not too hard, not rotten, not splintery. A better way is to start scouts out using good wood, a good knife, and a good idea. Prepared woodcarving projects are a huge assistance in making that first attempt a success and building the desire to continue on.
Starting with a woodcarving project blank gives the scout parameters in which to work. He can still be creative, but knows what the finished product should look like in general. A project also creates a useful item, such as a neckerchief slide, whistle, or even fishing lure, rather than a pretty stick. I've never seen any two projects turn out the same, so each item turns out unique.
Of course, a great way to get scouts interested in woodcarving and whittling is to have an adult offer to lead them through the Woodcarving merit badge to start them on their way. For this merit badge, scouts need to learn basic woodcarving cuts and create two projects. Every scout has a knife and loves to use it. Offering this merit badge early in a scout's career teaches him proper use and safety so he can expand his skills throughout his time in scouting. Anyone with an interest in whittling and woodcarving can be a counselor for this badge - it isn't very difficult or complex.
The best supplier of woodcarving kits is Whittler Bob - the supplier for BSA camps across the country. His neckerchief slide kits are made from northern basswood which is an excellent, firm, fine-grained, light wood perfect for these projects. Each kit is stamped with the general features to guide scouts, but uncarved so they can carve their own path through the project. The kits are very inexpensive and categorized by difficulty so beginner and experienced carvers can all be challenged and successful. Each scout can select the specific kit he wants and you can order the lot of them all at once.
It's important that scouts have appropriate tools for woodcarving. Whittler Bob has complete beginner woodcarver kits that include a knife, sharpener, practice wood, three kits, and instructions - a perfect way to start a scout carving! It's everything needed to complete the woodcarving merit badge projects.
If you are considering being a counselor for the woodcarving merit badge, think about getting Bob's carving book. It contains good information about choosing wood, tool safety, sharpening, cutting, and finishing. There are color pictures and stp-by-step instructions for dozens of projects. It is a great addition to your troop library for all scouts to use in their continued woodcarving adventures.
Woodcarving is a great winter-time activity for troop meetings, patrol meetings, or just a couple scouts and a counselor. How cool would it be for the whole 'Eagles' patrol to have their own patrol neckerchief slide? Or, have each scout carve his own whistle? Or, start a tradition of making simple canoe, paddle, arrowhead, or tomahawk slides to present to each new scout that joins the troop?
Being able to say "I did it myself" is a big part of scouting and whittling lets scouts create something that will last a very long time.
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