How to Carve a Fish Hook with a Penknife

Test your penknife wood carving skills by whittling a fish hook for your next outdoor fishing adventure.

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courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press

In 50 Things to Do with a Penknife (Princeton Architectural Press) by Matt Collins, a horticultural consultant at the Garden Museum in London, showcases a practical guide for whittling with a penknife. Matt combines craftsmanship with savvy survival-skill projects that encompass a range of skills levels. Each project is accompanied by detailed step-by-step illustrations, making his book ideal for the creative adventurer.

Nothing epitomizes a riverside camping trip better than freshly caught fish cooking over an open fire. Along with a little bait and line, a homemade fish hook can provide all you’ll need to secure that campfire feast. The following steps demonstrate how to convert a forked twig into a tough and sharp hook, requiring nothing more than the trees around you and your trusty penknife. When fishing, hooks are occasionally lost or snagged under stones. While metal hooks will remain and become harmful to the environment, your wooden tackle will ultimately decompose.


1. Select a forked twig 1/4 inch in diameter. Measuring from the fork in the wood, make 1-1/2 inch on one of the forked stems and 3/4 inch on the other. The longer stem will become the main shaft, and the shorter stem will make the hook.

black and white illustration of a forked twig with two marks on either branch marking out a long edge and a short edge

2. Use angled stop cuts to split off the excess sections of twig.

black and white illustration of a person using a knife to cut in to a forked twig

3. Remove the bark and make a groove at the top of the main shaft all the way around.

black and white illustration of a person cutting a notch in to a twig

4. Remove the excess below the fork in the wood and round it off using a series of small push cuts.

black and white illustration of a person using a knife to cut off the tail portion of a forked twig

5. Give your hook a sharp point by carefully whittling down the end of the hook point.

black and white illustration of a person using a knife to sharpen one point of a bent twig to a point

More from 50 Things to Do with a Penknife:

How to Carve a Willow Whistle with a Penknife
Penknife Carving Projects and Techniques

Illustrations by Maria Nilsson from 50 Things to Do with a Penknife by Matt Collins, reprinted with permission from Princeton Architectural Press, 2017.

dark green book cover with yellow illustrations of sticks and a white illustration of a knife