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Whittling Course

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Honeysuckle Cottage
The Green
Great Bourton
OX17 1QH

Course Length: One Day

Price: £85.00
Prices include VAT

5 star rating, 15 reviewers.

Gift vouchers available

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Course Start Dates
Course dates are flexible; please get in touch for the next available date.


Learn from a professional spoon carver the basic knife skills necessary to safely engage in the traditional leisure activity of whittling. This traditional hobby requires only a single sharp knife and readily available wood.

The course is held in Martin’s workshop at Honeysuckle Cottage; a former nail maker’s cottage the oldest part dating back to about 1640.

Despite being run in a relaxed manner, the course still emphasizes the teaching of safe and efficient skills.

You will start by learning how to use a straight carving knife safely and effectively before making a range of small projects using the skills learned. During the course knife and wood selection will be discussed and students will be taught the essential skill of knife sharpening.

Summary of Skills Taught

• Knife carving techniques.
• Knife selection.
• Wood; its selection, storage and properties.
• Knife sharpening.

Private tuition is also available.


9am until 4.30pm.

Tutor Background

Martin Damen is a traditional green woodworker. He started traditional woodworking, or greenwood working, 14 years ago while at university as a mature student in Aberystwyth. Initially, he focused on making rustic furniture and field items such as cleft ash hurdles. Although Martin still turns items on a traditional foot-powered pole lathe, since about 2004 he has specialised in hand-carving spoons, bowls and platters.

There are two characteristics that apply to all the work that he produces: firstly, he follows traditional practice in using wood that that has been locally sourced, most from within 5 miles of the workshop; secondly, only traditional tools and skills are used. Typically a small number of tools are required and emphasis is placed on their effective use and an appreciation of the material being worked.

While Martin’s approach is not suitable for modern mass production, each item is unique. His aim is to produce something that is functional and a pleasure to look at, handle and use every day. In doing so, Martin endeavours to use the natural characteristics and features of the wood.

Keen to promote the appreciation and practice of traditional crafts, Martin gives regular demonstrations, including at Art in Action.

What's included in the price?

• Tuition covering:
o Knife carving techniques.
o Knife selection.
o Knife sharpening.
o Wood; its selection, storage and properties.
o Making a number of projects.
• All tools and wood provided.
• Wood to take home.
• Course notes.
• Homemade lunch.
• Tea, coffee and biscuits.

Want to review this course?

I attended Martin's Spoon carving course on the weekend of the 18/19 March '17.

This course is highly recommended, whether you are a complete novice or have some experience. Martin is an excellent tutor, with a calm and patient style. The workshop is a very tranquil space with stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
The course covers, Health and Safety, tool selection care and use, sharpening,wood types to use and those to avoid,and finishing.
The teaching starts with basic knife cuts on Hazel sticks, moving on to axe work and the making of the first project, a butter spreader. The second day is devoted to making a spoon, which introduces the crook knife.

I came away happy to work on my own, in safety, with Knife and Axe and more importantly enthusiasm.

An excellent set of course notes is provided.

Finally, the lunches are excellent!

Thank you Martin.



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This is a great introduction to knife work. Martin covers all the safety aspects of the key cuts and you have a chance to practice them. We then moved on to little projects to consolidate our knowledge. Throughout the day Martin carefully monitors your work and will stop you if you are unsafe, getting you back on track. He also makes a mean boiled fruit cake. I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone interested in woodwork.


Many thanks to Martin for a wonderful day teaching us the art of whittling, his patience and demonstrating the techniques with a knife were the key to our first effort results of 3 items. All issues of safety were well covered. Lovely lunch. I have found a new hobby. Strongly recommend the course.


Had a fantastic day learning and producing some fun articles on Martin's course. My father and my two sons all thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very hard to fault any part of Martin's course, approach or friendliness. If you have an interest in this and want to learn the basics including correct techniques - so important to safely handling the very sharp knives involved - then I really can't recommend this course enough. We made a butter knife, fork and a fully working whistle over the day. The course included a nice lunch including getting in some gluten free options which was appreciated. Thanks Martin - a great day.


Me and my wife went for a course at Martins beautiful house. Specially the kitchen is a special place which breathes history. A warm welcome by a friendly man. Lots of stories by a man who knows his skills. Not only his whittling, but also his cooking is great. Got me interested in something I never thought about. We really enjoyed our stay at Martins course, and we warmly recommend this course to anyone who likes working with his hands and is interested in crafts.
Ed and Jolanda.
Rotterdam, Holland.


I spent the whole day with my 12-year-old grandson at Martin's workshop and enjoyed it very much. My grandson said all the way home that he had a wonderful time (and I think he would really like to come again). Martin was very clear in his explanations and gently showed Justin how to work and what not to do (eg leave his knife without a cover) which was really helpful. The soup at lunch was delicious too.


Great course, really enjoyable day!


Really enjoyed the course I found it interesting and enjoyable from start to finish. Martins relaxed and welcoming attitude sets you at ease from the moment you arrive. After going over the basics you are soon engrossed in whittling your own little project and the time flies by. Martin explains everything in detail and is happy to go over anything you can't quite get the hang off, which in my case was much appreciated. With only four people on the course it all adds up to a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.


I booked this day course well in advance as it is understandably very popular. Martins friendly yet professional approach was perfect. The small class size meant you had his full attention. All the relevant skills and safety aspects are explained and then each stage put into practice I felt confident to continue in this very pleasant hobby or pastime on my own. The location is charming lunch very tasty in a lovely relaxed atmosphere Highly recommend. Thanks Martin


What a lovely day. The course is very hands on and practical from the start and everything it promised to be. If I have learnt a fraction of Martin's skill and knowledge it was well worth it. Being a small group is ideal, very relaxed and friendly. The cup of tea on arrival was just what was needed and the homemade lunch is another of Martin's talents. I now have knife and book and am setting up my sharpening kit so will shortly be ready to safely go. An excellant course which I thoroughly recommend . 27.09.15


Martin is a welcoming and thoughtful host for a fab day of relaxing whittling! Everything is taken care of and Martin shares his experience and knowledge with enthusiasm and humour, learned so much and really looking forward to trying out the techniques and projects ourselves.
Many thanks Martin from Pat and Di, 23.08.15


Definitely worth going on this course. Very enjoyable and I learnt a lot of useful info about different knives, techniques and sharpening.

Martin's an excellent teacher, clearly knows his stuff and happy to answer any questions you've got.

The homemade lunch was great and Martin was kind enough to check if there was anything I didn't eat beforehand.

All in all, a great day and highly recommended.

Tip: if you do wear a jumper, make sure it's not one that absorbs wood chips!


Recently attended this course on the 24th may. A great day and a lot of fun. It was my first experience in whittling and I will be sure to be continuing it as a cherished hobby. Martin was great at explaining everything and because of the small group I felt comfortable enough to ask him to repeat information I didn't fully understand. I am a vegan so martin was great to accommodate me by providing a delicious home made soup and bread. I would Highly recommend this course to anyone looking to gain all the knowledge you need to go off and confidently start whittling yourself.


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