Garden Dibber from Peter Benson's Whittling Handbook

This is one of those implements that you will have done without for years but, once you have one, you wonder how you used to manage. It is invaluable for transplanting small or large plants, making trenches in seed trays for sowing seeds, or numerous other minor jobs that involve seedlings and plants.



  • Knife and strop
  • Safety glove
  • Finishing oil

The pattern is relatively unimportant – it just needs to make small holes in potting or garden compost. You can decorate it in any way you like, and it would make sense to include graduated marks along its length to give an idea of the correct depth for each seedling. While you can use a piece of a small branch of any size up to about 1 1⁄2in (40mm) in diameter, ideally you will need a piece about 1in (25mm) in diameter and 6–8in (150–200mm) long. I have used a piece of green, or undried, apple from the garden, but you could use any wood available.



Below left Two tent pegs and a plant label done in apple.

Below right Two plant labels carved from dry hazel sticks.


1 Mark a line around the stick about 1in (25mm) from one end and another about 1⁄8in (3mm) from the first.

2 Using a wedge cut from each line, remove the wood between them to a depth of about 1⁄4in (6mm), creating a V-shaped stop cut around the stick.

3 With the stop cut in place you can start removing the bark from the longer part of the stick.

4 Use a push cut to remove the bark, cutting towards your stop cut. 

5 Using a long push cut, remove the bark from the other end of the stick.


Tip: The larger the pieces you are trying to cut off, the harder work it will be. Relax and take your time — you will feel better for it in the morning!


6 Continue with push cuts to shape the end of the stick to a point. Don’t make it too sharp; the end can be rounded off.

7 Round off the top end of the stick with further push cuts, and remove the bark if you wish.

8 I have cut depth rings at 1in (25mm) intervals and drilled the end to take a leather strip as a hanger. With a coat of oil your dibber is finished.


Tip: If you have carved your piece in green or undried wood, wrap it in kitchen paper and leave it to dry out for a few days before giving it a coat of oil. This can be any wood-finishing oil that you have to hand or, if you haven’t any, you can use cooking or olive oil.


Whittling Handbook by Peter Benson, published by GMC (£7.99, available from