If you’ve never seen this fun little wood carving trick, you’re in for a treat. Using a single piece of soft wood, a sharp blade, and a series of precise, angled cuts, you can create a pair of “working” pliers with only ten cuts in a piece of wood. Obviously, they’re not for actual real-world use, but the hinge mechanism does work.
In this video from Woodcraft magazine, David Warther, son of world-renowned master carver Ernest “Mooney” Warther (who championed the technique), shows us how to carve the pliers out of a little chunk of basswood. In celebration of Mooney and his art, they allegedly give sets of these awesome novelty pliers to all of the children who visit the Warther Museum in Dover, OH.
David’s dad didn’t create the cutting technique. He said he was given a set of the pliers that had been carved by a hobo he met in his travels. He took them home, studied them, and eventually figured out how to carve a pair for himself. Carved wooden pliers eventually became Mooney’s calling card and he continued to carve them throughout his life.
As you might imagine, this old-school carving trick has become a popular online “hack.” Here’s an example of a more contemporary take on the project. Roman Ursu of the YouTube channel Roman Ursu HACK does a good job of explaining how the cuts and angles need to work to do this successfully.
It can be a little confusing, trying to keep straight which cuts go on which sides, at which angles, and how deep. This video should make it clear.
Watching these guys carve these, you can tell it takes some practice and (as Dave Warther jokes) a box of band-aids before you can get proficient at it. In his video, Dave recommends using a very short, very sharp blade. His dad even developed a special knife for carving the pliers, which Dave uses in the video.