Carving for cash – so you can buy more preps

by Keith,

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

I am forever amazed when folks say they have no idea how to make an appreciable amount of money “on the side” or “under the table”. Really? I’ve found it easy to do. Granted a quite a few source will say “you have to have this or buy that”, a considerable amount of extra cash I make requires a small pocket knife and scrap wood.

Years ago as I sat on a river bank lamenting the fish not biting, I picked up a small piece of wood. Using an old pocket knife, I carved a small frog shaped fishing lure. I spent a couple of hours working on my lure, never thinking I would do more with it. When the time came to pack and leave I tossed the wood in my tackle box.

A few days later I was playing with my very young twins outside. One of them spied a tree frog on a stalk. We caught the frog in a glass jar and watched it for a while before releasing it. During its captivity, I took several pics with my cell phone camera so they could show their grandparents later.

The idea of painting my hand carved lure crept into my mind, I had many bottles of model paint left from assembling model planes……. I dug the storage box out of the closet and found that the paint for the most part had stored well. I added a bit of weight to the body so the frog would float about two inches under the surface. The legs were spoons and trebles recovered from junk plastic lures. The finishing coat was polyurethane to keep the lure water resistant.

Loading my puddle duck in the truck, I went to my favorite fishing area, after paddling into shallower waters, I cast the lure near a blown over tree. A second cast and a third, then the water erupted! I had hooked a something strong. Fighting the fish for about fifteen minutes, I worked it into the puddle ducks side to net my catch. I had a seven-pound bass! Drifting and working the bank I caught nine more during the next hour!

During this time I was using a second rod with commercial lures, I had one hit. I was jazzed! My new homemade lure worked! The next day I was fishing with a friend on his pontoon boat. I skunked him! He insisted I sell him the frog lure for the cash he had in his pocket. Later in the week, he placed in a tournament using my frog!

I used the cash to buy an inexpensive carving tool set and made many more lures after that. The wood has always been reclaimed wood picked up on the rivers. Paint and sealers are leftovers that people are throwing away before I get it.

Since then I have expanded my carving to included spoons, bowls, walking sticks and tool handles. Yes. I could go buy new modern stuff, I do not enjoy those things. I have found that carving or whittling as some call it alleviates my continual headaches, my blood pressure has dropped significantly, overall my health has improved. I realized some time ago that I don’t have the time to fill the demand for my work.

The investment is low, a good pocket knife with 3-4 blades, a whetstone, and some scrap wood. Before long you could be turning out unique carvings!

With the same investment of tools, I started working on spoons. There was an actual need for this. I was on a prolong camping trip, the box with my flatware was lost, or not packed. Dinner was a can of raviolis and no way to eat them. I cut a bit of maple, rough it out with a hatchet then finished the spoon with a knife. I think it took me about twenty minutes for an utilitarian spoon that lasted nearly ten years of constant use. I made about a 100 spoons a year for selling and trading, besides the ones I make for my personal use.

Walking sticks are great, although there are quite a few folks doing them. All I really do is look for saplings with good or interesting grain patterns. Osage Orange is my favorite wood for sticks. From time to time, a sapling will have bands of grooves where a vine grew around it.

Once you have some cash built up look at getting bowl gouges. Adding hand carved bowls to your wares will significantly add to your income. The time spent doing a medium to large bowl is better spent than sitting in front of a tv!

I really don’t require a lot in material things, so the money I made selling or trading my wood wares was saved. Eventually, I settled down on a scrap of land, expanded to small bowls, cups, mugs, anything really that caught my interest. I acquired through trade a small bandsaw, wood and metal lathes, and other tools. Of course, each tool needed refurbishing and some of them took quite a while, some are still in progress. The point is money can be made carving primitive items with a nominal investment. I don’t measure income in money so much as tradable goods, like the tools, rabbits, chickens, piglets, fencing supplies gift cards and so on.

If you try carving, do some reading and ask questions of other people. Most carvers are willing to share tips and experience.

Also, read Six Ways You Can Make More Money To Buy More Preps (Or Just Pay Off Your Bills)

Prizes For This Round (Ends April 12, 2016) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…

  1. First place winner will receive –   A gift certificate for $150 off of  rifle ammo at Lucky Gunner, an Urban Survival Kit a $109 value courtesy of  TEOTWAWKI supplies, a WonderMix Deluxe Kitchen Mixer a $299 value courtesy of Kodiak Health and a LifeStraw Mission Filter a $109 value courtesy of EarthEasy, for a total prize value of $667
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – 30 Day Food Storage All-in-One Pail a $119 value courtesy of Augason and Berkey Light with 2 (9″) Berkey Earth Elements a $157 value courtesy of LPC Survival, for a total prize value of $276.
  3. Third place winner will receive –  International MRE Meals Supply a $72.00 value, a LifeStraw Portable Water Filter a $19 value, Yoder’s Fully Cooked Canned Bacon a $15 value all courtesy of CampingSurvival and one copy of each of my books “The Prepper’s Primer” and a copy of “The Prepared Prepper’s Cookbook“ for a total prize value of $137.


  1. I saw an ad for a pocket knife specifically for carving. I thought about it for just the type of situation that you were describing.

    It’s called a Carvin’ Jack. Sold by Flexcut Carving Knives ( I saw the add in a Backwoodsman magazine.

  2. Very nice!! Would love to see pics of your carvings. I’m going to email this article to my son as he’s beginning his carving~ won a ribbon at the county fair for his hiking stick!!
    Thank you so much for sharing this!!!

    • My recent items are on Twitter, #kf4tap I’ll try to dig out pics of the older stuff to post

  3. Always cash to be made selling homemade arts, crafts, soaps, lotions, and much more. Also are great gifts that save money!

    • Basketry would be good to learn! For an income and post shtf trading. In my area it seems everyone makes soaps. I needed something different.

  4. Look for stuff in your basement, garage, storage shed, or attic, to sell on ebay or amazon. I know one guy who made about $1800 doing that. That extra kitchen appliance you haven’t used in 2 years -sell it. That old set of china you haven’t used in over 10 years -sell it. That antique sitting in a corner collecting dust -take it to a few antique shops to see what they’ll give you for it.

    • I was looking on Amazon recently to see if I could sell stuff there, but they want $40/month! An e-bay store is cheaper, but I’m tech-phobic – setting up a store would be difficult for me. Tho that may be just my procrastination speaking.

      But if there are any low-tech ways to sell on-line, or easy instructions for amazon or e-bay, I’d sure appreciate some hints.

      • Might look at Etsy. I don’t know anything about how selling products there works but folks do sell lots of handcrafts there, which I only know because The Boss is always showing me something that caught her eye at that site.

  5. Keith- nice read, TYVM! Aggressive predatious fish (Bass, Musky, Pike, etc.) can often be goaded into a strike. A strike when they are not hungry. I’ve seen bow rakes used to clear portions of muck near shore, then the flipper returns & casts the spot(s). The explosion can send chills!

    2 stories…. in Canada, Lake of the Woods, low water year in Sept. Saw ‘something odd’ amidst snarl of once underwater wood thicket. Got the boat in close, saw it was a home made ‘Suick’. The designer had even ‘dimpled’ its surface w/a carving tool. Replaced the wood screws, trebles, split rings, screw eye etc. Added a touch of super glue to the ‘borings’. It waits in tackle box to do battle w/a fresh water shark.

    Another time I was on a lake in No Ill w/a buddy. Not much action. I suggested pulling up outboard & coasting a very big weed patch, tossing topwaters. Rather windy that day. I tied on a Bill Dance frog & whammo! My buddy didn’t believe it! Asked to use one. So I gave him the 1 I was using & tied on 1 of a different color & pattern, wanting to experiment. He caught bucketmouth after bucketmouth! Dang I was being a nice guy, I caught 1…..

    Your reference to creativity gave me an idea…. how about ‘nunchuks’ disguised as a cane….? Just sayin. Might sell a few here!

    TY Again!

    • I have been thinking of a discreet way to carry a set of chucks, but in a cane / stick is a great idea, if you do send it in to be published! I’m sure creek more would like it.

  6. Wonderful to read of your inspiration, your determination and your success! Therein lies what is missing in an entire generation, unfortunately. Oh, inspiration is there. It’s called money. The determination to stay the course no matter what, not so much. Well done!

    • My divorce was the root of this, and many years of military training making do with what I had, also growing up with applilachian grand parents.

  7. Don’t forget the Mora hook knives. They make spoon making a lot easier.

    My main carving knife is an old Craftsman three bade. No locks, no safeties…lol. These days I wear a No Cry cut resistant glove when I whittle. I’ve already got more than enough scars to lie about…lol.

    • I have a mora or two! My favorite knife has been lost. It was a kissing crane carbon steel knife.

  8. livinglife says:

    I would venture to guess you could also sell knife sharpening service as well.

    • I used to sharpen blades at a flea market on weekends. Paper wheels and jeweler a rouge, I could have a blade shaving sharp in about two minutes.

  9. I remember a fella coming round the old neighborhoods w/his little cart w/a foot pumped/treadle driven grinding wheel. Sharpened knives, $1 ea in ’80’s. Was $.25 when I was young. ! little bell clanged periodically, announcing his arrival.

    Prolly $3 or more now per blade. Politicians can rest easy, throwing knives don’t take to sharpening. Something about garlic comes to mind also, but I’m getting on in years…..

  10. Blade sharpening something I’ve never been good @. There’s a you tube of a Japanese chef using a large whetstone. The guy’s a master. He also sharpens to about 16 degrees….most of use about 22 degrees. He goes @ it so macho, it’s something to behold.

    Also I’ve never been muchw/business accumen. But here’s a thought: look @ what causes people to stress. Provide the relief/answer.

    Regarding the ‘chuks idea, perhaps ‘toilet chain’ to retract & dispense easily. Either a spring load inside or let gravity do it. A ‘snap together’ pair of metal ‘cups’, maybe 2″ ea? Something to offset the weakness due to the drilling to contain the chain….

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