Update: since writing the post below my ideas on carving safety have changed. I no longer believe it’s a good idea to use a thimble, or any type of extra protection while carving. They can encourage unsafe carving practices. If you use unsafe techniques this thimble won’t protect you. You’ll carve straight through it, one day. I’m keeping this tutorial, though, because you may find another use for the thimble. I’ve used it in leatherworking, for example. 

If you’re carving wood with a sloyd knife, many techniques require that you carve towards the thumb of the hand holding the knife. If you’re not careful it’s really easy to accidentally skip out of the wood and into your thumb. That is why I often use a simple leather or suede thimble to protect my thumb. Here’s a little tutorial so that you can make one of these yourself, using only very basic tools.

This (clumsily made) drawing shows the two bits of leather you’ll need. I used some scraps of (I think) buffalo leather, but you can pretty much use anything.


Leather carving Thimble

The sizes don’t really matter that much. Those indicated above worked for my thumb, and can be used as a rough guideline.


Step 1: cut two bits of leather.


Step 2: put the two bits on top of each other, skin sides facing each other, and cut off the corners.


Step 3: using a lacing/stitching chisel (or an awl, doesn’t really matter), punch a couple of holes along the sides. Keeping the two bits of leather on top of each other helps to line up the holes.


Step 4: stitch the two bits of leather together using strong thread, skin sides facing each other. I recommend saddle stitching, which is done with two needles. With a needle on each end of the thread, you basically do two running stitches from opposing sides, making a tiny flat knot inside each hole. If this explanation doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. I’ll write a more detailed post on saddle stitching soon.


Step 4.5: turn the thing inside out. It should start looking like a thimble by now.


Step 5: there should be two holes in the middle of the smaller piece of leather. You can put a small stitch in these, pulling them together to make the thimble a bit tighter around the thumb.


Like that.



Step 6: attach a piece of elastic (from an old pair of boxer shorts for example) to the thimble. Start with the pair of holes closest to the middle, and work your way out. Attach one side first, and then the other.



And that’s it. Leather carving thimble done!

Until now, I mainly used a hatchet, puukko and some spoon knives for carving. I often felt like I was using a cannon to kill a mosquito while using the hatchet, and like I was using a spoon to dig my way through a mountain while using the knives. In short: I missed something in between the hatchet and the knives. A tool that can chop, but with precision. That can waste wood quickly, but not too quickly. A tool that could still be used to carve without it becoming tiresome. As it turns out, this new Leuku I made is such a tool.

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Why would you buy finishes for wood? Really, they are expensive, and often contain all kinds of (petro-)chemicals of which you’re not aware when reading the label. The law requires labels of food and drinks to tell us what goes in there, because we consume those things. There is no such requirement for finishes, even though much of that stuff ends up in our systems too. In the past, I’ve posted about making your own paint, waterproofing wax and furniture wax. I’ve been experimenting with making my own food safe finish for spoons, cutting boards and bowls as well. I used a mixture of walnut oil, orange oil and beeswax for a while. I liked it: it was easy to apply and it smelled good. The walnut oil hydrated the wood and gave it a lovely sheen, the orange oil acted as a solvent and helped the wax to penetrate into the wood and dry quickly and the beeswax made it water repellent. It was easy to buff out nice and shiny and there was little need to reapply the wax over time. I thought I could do better though.

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This is my second knife. I didn’t really take pictures of the making process. A lot of it’s the same as with my first knife. Some of it’s new, but I just forgot to take pictures… The knife is based on a Polar Whittler 80 blank, which I ordered from Nordell Knives. I paid about E12,50 for it. The handle is made out of some kind of mystery wood. It’s from a tree that stood in my parent’s neighbour’s yard. It was actually more of a large shrub then a tree. It had no leaves to identify it by (winter) and a smooth bark. I can generally identify most trees, but I have no idea what this was. The wood has a lovely grain, especially quartersawn (or cleft) and it’s quite hard. The pommel and ferrule are made of buffalo horn. The tang goes all the way through the handle, and is riveted to brass cap at the end. The tang is also glued in the handle with the cutler’s resin I used for the first knife. The handle is finished with hand rubbed shellac.

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 I’ve been working with wood, fabric and leather for a while now. Though I love working with these materials, I sometimes feel limited in the options I have when making things. As soon as I need hardware for something, I have to buy it. I have dabbled a bit in metalworking in the past, making knives (from blade blanks) and some hardware for guitars, but I always felt very limited. I just lacked the skills to really make something from metal. So I decided to take a class in silversmithing. The form of the class was very free, based on individual guidance while working within a group. I was able to choose what I’d work on myself.

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