Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Uh-Oh, I'm Afraid This Could Be Addicting.

A few months back, inspired by the many spoon carving blogs I'd been seeing and the spoons that Peter Follansbee post on his site from time to time, and Robin Wood's web site, I ordered a couple spoon carving knives. I bought 2 hook knives from Del Stubbs at Pinewood Forge in Minnesota (excellent quality knives) and an inexpensive "Sloyd" knife off of eBay. The Sloyd knife is ok, but I find it's 4" blade to be too long and I'd like to eventually get one of Del's in a 2 1/4" blade length.

Very few tools required for spoon carving.

Anyway, fast forward to a few weeks ago and with my 5th wedding anniversary fast approaching, I was looking for a woodworking project I felt up to handling. We try to do the traditional wedding gift thing based on  the years married, and the traditional 5th anniversary gift was wood. I wasn't really up for a furniture project, so I figured, what better time to give spoon carving a try. There's lots of good videos on the subject. One of the best I found on YouTube was one by Ben Orford. Also found some good ones from Barn Carder and I had gotten the Jogge Sundqvist DVD for Christmas. Now time to find some wood. From what I gathered, fruit woods make great spoons, as well as birch, rhododendron, holly I think; really just about any tight grained, closed cell wood I believe. I found something growing out by my wood shed. Kinda looked a little cherry-ish by the bark, but not exactly. But it was a great size for spoon blanks, was tight grained, and was available. We have a winner.

And you can't argue with the cost of material; whatever this is.

After cutting a few limbs off and cutting some sections around 16" or so in length, I was ready to give it a shot. I split a section in half, removed the pith with a hatchet, smoothed it out a little with a draw knife, and sketched out a spoon shaped object on the flat surface. I removed the bark from the sides and then rough shaped the outside of the branch, which is the back of the spoon, with a hatchet into what seemed like a good shape. Then I started rough shaping the sides of the spoon to my lines with the hatchet. I think this is what Pye refers to as the workmanship of risk in his book. It's pretty exhilarating seeing how close you can come to your lines with a hatchet without ruining your spoon. So after the hatchet work was done, I shaped it up a little better with the Sloyd knife, then went at the bowl with the hook knives. These came direct from Del surgically sharp and ready to use. I have a few "surgical" nicks on my right thumb that can attest to their level of sharpness.

Still had a nice amount of keel here. Somehow lost it in the shaping process

When I got the spoon shaped how I wanted it, I was ready to do a little decorative carving on the handle to snaz it up a little and I wanted to put our names and wedding date on it. I had planned on doing this with a chip carving knife I'd bought at a woodworking show about 25 years ago and never used. What a worthless hunk of steel and wood that turned out to be. Luckily, I tried it on a scrap piece first. So with no chip carving knife, I decided to go at it with my trusty Pfeil v-gouge. This worked well enough and I was pleased with the results. With the carving done, I hit a few spots with a scraper and then it was on to the finish. I didn't use any sandpaper on the spoon; I much prefer the look of spoons that show the facets of the carving knives rather than something that is sanded to the point of looking like something that came from Ikea or Bed Bath and Beyond. I used grape seed oil to finish this spoon. Just rubbed it on by hand, let it dry a while, rubbed it in a little more, and then wiped off the excess. I believe I ended up giving it 7 or 8 coats like this. Other than losing the keel a bit, I'm pretty happy with the results for a first effort and I think Jen was pleased with it. It was a very enjoyable project and I see more spoons in my future. This one is pretty much just decorative, but I'd like to do some cooking spoons, eating spoons, maybe some spatulas. I'd like to try some different woods also, maybe some apple or pear. Oh, and if your gonna eat with wooden spoons, it only make sense to eat out of wooden bowls. Oh boy, looks like yet another rabbit hole to fall down. Good thing I have a spring pole lathe.  :-)

Completed and oiled up.

Close-up of the carving.

The bowl.

Backside. Anyone have any guesses as to the type of wood?

As you can see, I lost that nice keel I had earlier.


Anonymous said...


I have to ask for a lesson on spoon terminology please. A spoon's keel, is that an angle created between the bowl and handle? The spoon doesn't appear flat then? Or is it something entirely?

Thanks so much


Andy said...

That's nice Jamie. I am sure she will be very pleased.

Jamie Bacon said...

Hi Doug. I should have explained what the keel is when it comes to spoons. The keel refers to a line extending from somewhere about the center of the bottom of the bowl of the spoon, down the handle, until you get past the narrow part of the neck of the spoon. You want that to strengthen the handle in that narrow section. The wide part of the handle, where you would hold the spoon, can be thin because it has strength from the width, but the narrow part of the spoon, right behind the bowl, wants to be thicker to give it some strength. Hope this explanation makes sense. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

Jamie Bacon said...

Thanks Andy. I gave it to her last Friday. I think she liked it ok. :-)

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed watching you making this anniversary gift for Jen:)


Anonymous said...

Thanks Jamie,

Got it now. Best to you and your family, and Happy New Year.


Shannon Rogers said...

Happy anniversary to you both. What a great gift to make the rest of us husbands look bad! Maybe if I give my wife a pole lathe...

That sure looks like Cherry to me. The sap to heart transition, the gum pocket, even the medullary ray pattern looks like Cherry. Probably it isn't Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) but still probably something in the same genus.

Caleb James said...


Love the spoon. I got drawn into the spoon making party as well.

I got some apple wood so that I could make some planes out of it and so looking at the wood that had all the branches intersection the trunk I just saw spoons that needed to come out so on to buying a hook knife and spending way too much time carving.

I could have made a plane for each spoon I made. :) L

Jamie Bacon said...

Thanks Caleb. It's easy to get drawn into the party! I'd love to give carving in apple or pear wood a try. It's funny how, even after carving just one spoon, we see branches in a whole different light now. You DO actually see the curve of a spoon in the curve of a branch and ladles where there previously were just crooks in a branch.

Jason said...

I also got bit by the spoon bug. I happen to work in green wood for a living, so it was only a matter of time before I started spoons. That is a fantastic start to spoon carving! I can't wait to see what else you make.

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