Stag-geringly good Whittler!
Most cutlery manufacturers agree that a split-back whittler is a challenging pattern. Sort of a statement as to the maker's skill. The blending of the two springs and the dividing spacer is the tricky bit. It's not as easy as one might think to gradually taper the spacer so that it is not a protruding sharp point and keep it flush and smooth with the springs, whether any of the blades are open or closed. The spacer should also not be cut too short, so a big gap is left where the spacer stops and the two springs smoothly come together.
Over the years the collection now includes this Whittler pattern from Case, Canal Street Cutlery, GEC, Queen and others. Rough Rider have actually done a very good job here. The main blade is robust, and the thick profile does well for rough carving, where you want to remove material quickly. The comparatively short length of the main blade is typical of the split-back whittler pattern. The philosophy is all to do with control whilst carving or whittling, where a shorter manageable blade is more useful for most situations.
Generally, a bigger handle and a smaller blade is the way to go. Fixed blade carving knives can be quite expensive. They offer many blade shapes, almost always a very small blade set into a fairly large ergonomic wooden handle. These are for use at home or in a studio, of course. Not for EDC.
But a pocket knife lets your hobby be portable. The smaller blades are for fine detailed work, and Rough Rider have kept to tradition by making the small blades with good flexibility, an advantage when it comes to precision cuts. The 3-1/2" closed length is the perfect size, ensuring minimal fatigue and maximum comfort for extended carving sessions.
Expect to strop frequently, maybe every 15 minutes or so, depending on the type of wood. Smooth flat single ply cardboard works fine. Use the inside of a cracker box panel or cereal box, etc, smeared with jeweller's rouge or fine buffing compound. Avoid bends or seams. This makes a cheap effective strop. Use a flat countertop, tabletop, even a book or catalog to support your strop. Go slow at first.
Your strop will darken quickly due to the carbon content of the steel, even the 440A stainless that RR uses. Don't throw your strop away just because it turns black! Use it until it starts to fuzz up and fall to bits. And then keep it for when your blade has been sharpened on a fine stone or steel (the function of a steel is to straighten or realign a rolled edge, or with a very fine touch, to reduce or almost eliminate a wire edge). After sharpening, a fine burr, or "wire edge" develops. If it is only a fine burr, it is time to leave off sharpening and use your old worn out strop to get rid of the wire edge. This is where cardboard is better than leather.
When it comes to getting rid of a wire edge, which you need to do - if not, your knife won't carve well and you will become discouraged - the wire edge will chew up a leather strop in no time. But cardboard loaded with fine abrasive, as mentioned above, will quickly get rid of the wire edge. Cardboard is cheap, and easily replaced. Once the blade is sharp, you should usually only have to re-sharpen it on a stone or ceramic stick etc if the edge becomes damaged. Otherwise, just strop.
Never force the blade or strain to make a cut. Otherwise you can easily cut something you don't want to! Let the keen edge do the work. Don't pull sideways to pry that last little bit of wood out of a tight corner. Good way to chip the blade, especially when they are thin, as they need to be to be effective.
When sharpening or stropping keep your wrist locked. Don't rotate your wrist. You are preserving the angle of that keen edge, not buttering toast.
Practice is the key, for carving; and maybe even more so for the beginner, sharpening and stropping. A blade that is not sharp enough is just frustrating, and really, more likely to slip.
Get some nice basswood for starters. Not balsa wood. Balsa is coarse-grained, splits easily and takes a comparatively poor finish. Basswood while lightweight is actually a hardwood that is used in cabinetry and sometimes even for high quality solid-body electric guitars. It can be carved beautifully from almost all angles, even across the grain, and takes a good finish.
Check online for carving and whittling tutorials or just get stuck in on a ball in a cage, a chain, love spoons, kitchen utensils, ornaments, and on and on. It's a fun hobby with a lot to offer, building skills and patience along the way.
If you want this pocket knife for general EDC use, it will do just fine, but for carving it is better to have your knife exclusively for that. Being UK friendly, the RR Whittler means you can enjoy your hobby outdoors or indoors, with sensible discretion.
Either way, this is a great little pocket knife built to a very good standard and at an excellent price. Enjoy!
HH, if this review is too long , if you want to cut and paste it to a blog, that's fine with me. Cheers!