Carving Wooden Pliers

Look here, an object of some magic and satisfaction:

This is a functional pair of pliers made from a single piece of wood, using only 10 cuts.

I have wood carver David Warther to thank for this creation. I studied his video to learn how to make these pliers. It took me a few viewings to get it, but before long I could visualize its construction in my mind.

David Warther shows how to carve his famous pliers. They give a pair away to all the visiting children to the Warther Museum.


When I first saw this video, I was stunned — I had to make my own right away. Now unlike David, I didn’t have any nice, straight-grained, basswood lying around, so I had to settle for a piece of square poplar dowel. Apparently my wood was quite a bit harder than David’s. And what’s worse, my dowel wasn’t sawn parallel with the grain, but rather at 45-degrees, which means it wouldn’t split naturally in the proper ways. So I think I made things harder on myself by not starting with the right material.

And as you can see, here is the poor result from my first attempt:

David cuts with grace and speed and finesse using just the right cutting tool for the job. I on the other hand hacked away at mine with a coping saw and box-cutter. I knew my approach was misguided, but I had to press on. I made a second attempt.

This produced a better result, yet still imperfect. At least it didn’t shatter. The problem now was that the inner-piece broke apart right at the thin point.

So, what could I do? At this point my curiosity was satisfied, I had demonstrated the 3d geometry of David’s pliers to myself. I was happy with a theoretically successful result. So I decided to further compromise perfection and just glue the broken piece back together.

For the glue operation, I assembled the pliers, placed a tiny shim of wood right over the narrow part where the glue joint was to be formed and applied pressure by placing a heavy weight on top of the shim. And voila, good enough.

So, in the end I cheated to make my wooden pliers. Maybe David Warther would be disappointed, I accept that possibility. Fate willing, one day I will return to this plier making technique with more suitable tools and materials, and may then achieve perfection.