Simple split stick animal

June 17, 2019

Whittle yourself a woodland creature, with help from author Richard Irvine

Age Range: all ages

Duration: 1-2 hours

Location: anywhere

Time Of Day: any time

Season: any

Tags: knife, tool use, whittle, whittling, wood

Category: * what's new * tool use & traditional crafts

You will need:

  • a straight, knot-free bit of hazel, approximately 1 cm in diameter and about 12 cm long  (or other hardwood that is not too pithy)
  • a sharp knife


Make 2 shallow, v-shaped cuts in line with each other (parallel), about 4 cm from each end of the stick. These will be hinges for the legs.

If you cut too far through then the legs will just fall off.
If they are not deep enough then the stick will break rather than form a hinge.

small stick with 2 grooves cut out about 3 cm apart

Turn the stick 180 degrees and make another shallow v-shaped cut directly opposite one of those on the other side of the stick. Make a second shallower cut nearer the head end.

These 2 cuts will be the hinges for the neck and head.

2 grooves cut into stick 1 cm apart

Place the stick on its end and line the knife up across the pith between the v-cuts on either side.

knife cutting through top of small stick to split it in half

Gently tap the back of the knife to start a split. Lever the knife to open the split and grip the stick at the hinge to stop the split running further down through the body.

Bend the leg section out at the hinge and repeat at the other end of stick.

Carefully use the tip of the knife to carve a short or long tail, as desired, at the tail end.

small stick carved to point at one end

At the head-end, carve a very shallow cut on the flat inner section, exactly behind the shallow cut on the round side of the wood.

Use firm pressure with fingers and thumbs to bend the neck and head joints to form the desired shape.

You can also shape the head a bit here if you want.

Turn the animal on to its back and gently tap the back of the tip of the knife carefully to split out 2 legs.

Repeat this for the other set of legs and gently bend the legs apart without breaking the fibres that hold them to the body.

Finally, make 2 very controlled cuts just under the bark, towards the back of the head, to raise 2 flaps of wood which will be the ears.

stick animal with little ears

Decide what you have made!

I wanted to make a deer but I think this one has a touch of the Irish Wolfhound about him.