how to carve a spoon

Spoon making is a very useful skill that encompasses many of the grips and carving techinques used on larger carving projects. A fairly wide range of softwoods and ‘soft’ hard woods can be used. Personally, I have found hazel spoons and ash spoons to be a little too fibrous for fine spoon making but nonetheless it is quite possible. I have found blackthorn a VERY hard wood to work even green and very hard woods like oak and hornbeam are nearly impossible to work. Birch, Sycamore, Willow, Crab Apple and even Chestnut make fine spoons. Using greenwood rather than seasoned is the other main identification and selection issue as is the thickness of the limb you use. Smaller, younger limbs often have prominent (and proportionally large) piths than can be an issue to navigate around when you are carving although they can be employed to good effect as grooves or channels.

The pictures above show a cut blank that is split with an small hatchet. Both blanks are similar and I could have chosen a more ‘kinked’ piece of wood to effect the shoulder angle of the spoon more effectively but I find this a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a pre-requisite.

The split wood is then roughed out, utilising stop cuts to control the splitting away of wood. After the roughing out then a knife is used to reduce volume further. Then a spoon or crook knife is used to produce the bowl. Further fine carving is then replaced with sanding using ever finer grades of sand paper (or ‘sandstone pebbles’). To get a very, very fine finish then wetting the wood to raise the grain before sanding it back (and then repeating the process) is employed. Finally an oiling with a non-toxic oil that does not congeal or go rancid is recommended. The other main consideration is that the greenwood will harden as it loses moisture. Carving over a number of days without losing alot of the bulk of the wood will encourage splitting. You can help keep it moist, soft and prevent obvious splitting/cracking by keeping the partially carved piece in a plastic bag with apple or orange peel to keep a moist atmosphere for short term storage before carving is completed.

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