Posted by: Michael Keller Woodcarving | December 17, 2011

A Tale of Two Whittling Knives

Anyone that knows me knows me as a carving tool freak.  It seems that I am always in search for something better.  For a long time, I have had my eyes on the Version II Oar Carver with the stag handle.  And, recently Flexcut introduced its Whittlin’ Jack.  I now own both and love them… but they are not quite perfect.

Flexcut Whittlin’ Jack

Out of the box, the Whittlin’ Jack is the sharpest knife I have ever experienced.  As a previous owner of the Carvin Jacks, I expected “sharp” but this new knife gives “sharp” a whole new meaning.  I have now used the knife on several small whittling projects and believe I can make some qualified comments.

My hands are a pretty average size large… at least, I wear size large gloves.  Flexcut has made this knife to fit a larger hand.  Of course, it will also fit a smaller hand.  I have found that most folding whittling knives are just too small for my hands and I have heard similar comments from other whittlers.  The well sized Carvin’ Jack has two blades; one large blade for “hogging” and a smaller detail blade.  Both are equally sharp.  I wonder if the large blade should be as sharp as it is.  After doing some serious cutting on hard wood, I experienced a slight (micro) chipping in the blade which had to be touched up with a ceramic file.  I doubt that the small blade will ever require anything more than stropping.

You might think that with two blades, the Whittlin’ Jack might be bulky but I find the knife to be comfortable in the pocket.  I like the idea of being able to fold the knife shut and throw it in my whittling kit without having to worry about protecting the edge.  I did notice that on the heel of each blade, the edge has been left squared off.  It may be the way I hold my knives but on two occasions, my hand crept too close to this squared of area and made a small cut in my index finger.  After that happening twice, I carefully ground the heel end of the blade to an angle and the issue went away.  You can see in the photo what I did.

Whittlin Jack with point taken off heel

Like all Flexcut products, they are breaking the mold as far as appearance goes with their machined, modern look.  Some folks don’t like that but it doesn’t bother others.  Initially, it bothered me until I used a friend’s Carving Jack and I was instantly converted.

Flexcut’s steel is dang hard and it is easily maintained (typically) with simple stropping.

I like this knife a lot and highly recommend it.  Its retail price is apparently $49.95 but right now several retailers are offering it at $39.95.  I think that is an excellent price for the knife.  I shopped around a bit and found the best price and shipping to come from Greg Dorrance Company.  I was not familiar with the firm but I have learned through experience that they ship same day for a flat price of $6.50.  They are in Massachusetts and I am in a small town in Central Washington State and I had the knife in two days.  So, great service from these guys at a reasonable price.

Oar Carver, Version II with Stag Handle

Many years ago, I bought the original Oar Carver, Version I and have enjoyed it very much.  It is one those many knives that are a bit too short but I can deal with it.  These knives came with a chipped plastic handle with an attempt to look like something else but plastic is plastic.  Version I has two large, well-shaped, blades.  A few years later, Oar introduced the Version II which was one large blade and one small blade.  Then, following that, the knives were offered with either wood or stage handles.

So, after drooling over this thing, I have finally stepped up to the plate and purchased the Version II with stag.  From an appearance standpoint, this knife is a real beauty (a real bragging piece).  It’s not cheap at $75.00 – $80.00.  But, it will be the knife that I carry in my pocket.

Oar Carver Version II w/ Stag handle

Regrettably, it is a bit short, like its predecessor but it works okay.  I would not consider its size to be a deal breaker.  The knife is made by Queen City Cutlery and it is a high quality carbon steel blade.  Like the Flexcut, it can easily be maintained with nothing more that stropping.

These knifes are offered with either the factory edge or a sharpened edge for a few dollars more.  I chose the sharp edge but I wished I had not.  I am pretty sure it was sharpened on a narrow belt… and not very carefully.   Of all people, I should have known better as no one can sharpen a knife better than me (yes, I am bragging but it is the truth).   So, I ended up squaring up and sharpening the  blades properly.  I am not sure it was the result of the initial sharpening or if it was an error in design, but the tip of the small blade has a slight up-swing to it. As a result, when the blade is closed, the tip of the blade protrudes up above brass liner/slot just enough to barely snag my hand when I am using the large blade.

I bought my knife from Statlander Carvings and again, I had the thing in two days from New York.  Shipping was $5.00, which is actual cost.  Fast, affordable service.

We have all experienced suppliers that use shipping as a profit center and that really bugs me.   Both Dorrance and Stadtlander provide top notch service and have reasonable shipping rates.

Neither of the above knives have locking blades but they both have a solid catch when open.  So, there you have it two great, albeit not quite perfect whittling knives.

Thanks for reading and a very Happy New Year to all.

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  1. Enjoyed your article on whittling knives.I agree wholeheartedly on the wisdom of selecting a high quality,hi/carbon steel @ 61/62 Rockwell.I make a small number for my students using ToolSteel,We find they keep a magnificent edge and are a joy to use.
    ” Happy Carving” Stan Bowers

  2. I really enjoy your blog.

    I noticed your “protruding blade” comment. I have had some knives start doing that through my aggressive sharpening tactics. You can usually suck the blade back into its pocket(?) by filing down the kick on the tang of the blade. However, the one on your Oar Carver shows little free play.

    TBH, I would not be too impressed with a new knife that has the problem you describe, especially at that price. I had to give up my lifetime favorite, hand-down Barlow, that lost its plastic scales and a blade, first ever knife when it started cutting up my pockets after years of use. There was no more filing room.

    • Thanks for your comments Bruce. I agree with all your points. I did remedy my problem in the exact way that you suggest… but I must admit, I was a bit nervous in doing so but it all worked out well.

      • Hi, again, Michael. I purchased the Oar Carver, similar to above but with matched blades. One of my prerequisites was a knife made in the USA. Well, at this time all pocket knives made here are made in Titusville, PA, and branded. It and a second single blade knife were from Tools for Working Wood.

        I strongly suggest a buyer physically inspect the tool before throwing down money, a very difficult prospect given very limited brick and mortar exposure anymore. The ‘factory’ has no quality control. My second knife is unusable–pliers are needed to open the blade. It locks so I may treat it as a fixed blade knife. I spent a lot of time polishing sharp edges and corners at the handling parts just to make them safe to hold.

        Both of these knives are powdered D2 steel (PM-D2). The powdered metal creates finer grain. I understand D2 is a die steel. It is a real chore to sharpen this steel, even with diamond plates. The metal wants to fold at the edge. But once done it will keep the edge a long time.

        I think a traditional carbon steel, W, or O, is going to be easier to maintain. So my next pocket knife will be an antique.

      • Oh dear. Sorry for your experience. One knife to keep your eyes open for at knife shows or in antique stores is an old JA Henckles Twin Brand. Make sure it has two little men on the logo. They have not made them for years and they are a fine knife. The new ones are of poor quality.

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