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Monday 4 May 2015

Carving a wooden kiltpin with a celtic design using a knife: part two

So.... I had carved a kiltpin that I thought was very beautiful.

carved wooden kiltpin with inset stone

After it had been completed, my kilt arrived in the post. I put the kilt on, attached the pin and...

It didn't quite work with the kilt outfit! The golden yellow colours of the kiltpin clashed with the colours of the kilt more than expected and the pin felt slightly too heavy hanging on the cloth. The round shape also felt a little odd and I realised that a longer, narrower shape was more suitable.  The carving would make a stunning brooch, especially for a plaid, however it was not going to be my kiltpin. It was time to carve another one.

I decided to use the laburnum wood that was used in making the handle and sheath of the sgian dubh again, so that the two pieces would be linked and would look good worn together.

sgian dubh

What to carve on it? One design that stood out was originally from the Book of Kells. It was reproduced in Courtney Davis' book 'Celtic and Old Norse Designs', published by Dover Publications.

The design could be easily adapted to work on the kiltpin. Although it looks a lot like a classic celtic knotwork pattern, in fact it isn't a single knot. If you look carefully, the two dragons run through an infinity symbol.

The kiltpin is 6cm (2⅜") long from top to bottom.

carved wooden kiltpin

It was entirely carved using my trusty old number 10 Opinel lock knife, with which I originally taught myself whittling over twenty years ago, and was then lightly sanded with some sandpaper to finish it off.

opinel knife

The only parts that weren't produced with the knife are the tiny drilled holes into which silver wire or hand-carved dowels of reclaimed ebony and found plum timber were inserted to make the eyes, nostrils and neck patterns. The laburnum was first shaped whilst sitting on the Centenary bench that I made a few years ago and which is now installed in Leigh Woods.

The kiltpin was polished using beeswax polish at the end, which really brought out the grain patterns and colours. It has a bought brooch pin glued to it and then fixed on with brass rivets (made by cutting down two brass pins). The carved recess means that the pin doesn't hang too far off the surface of the cloth and roll from side to side.


  1. Nice bit of work. I was looking at doing something for a kiltpin myself when I get the chance.

  2. Thanks Craig, I must admit that it's nice having a kilt pin that means a bit more than a standard bought one. I hope all goes well with your project too, when you have the opportunity to start on it.