I enjoy carving wooden spoons for people to use everyday. Each spoon is unique as the natural patterns in the wood itself dictate much of the final form. When I want a particular style of spoon I have to find a piece that will allow me to make the shape and then I must work with the intrinsic grain patterns to expose it. Most of the time I simply let the wood tell me what to do. It is all very hard to explain. For me there is a distinct pleasure that only comes from using a hand crafted tool. It is similar to, but somehow different from the pleasure of its creation.
Most of the people who know that I carve wooden spoons have seen me carving them in one campground or another. Then there are others that have seen them and can’t believe that I really carve them myself with hand tools. Well the simple truth is that I am a woodworker and I have an internal need to be doing something with my hands much of the time. That can be a problem when you spend a lot of your time traveling in an RV. Not much room for tools. Sporadic opportunities to purchase supplies. Well you get the picture.
A few years ago Elaine and I chanced upon a bird carving museum and school somewhere near Bar Harbor, Maine and I saw this wood carving kit of knives that looked to be of good quality at a reasonable price. I purchased the kit and a block of basswood with directions for carving a loon. I carved the loon, and then from another piece of wood an armadillo, an old sea-captain, an owl and some other critters and they were “OK” and the carving part filled the time. Then one day I decided to carve a spoon and I was hooked. 50 or a 100(?) spoons later I am still carving them. Nothing fancy just utilitarian spoons.
I typically start with a piece of firewood, a material that I can find in almost any campground. Some of my spoons start as scrap from my wood shop, some from driftwood, some donated, and occasionally I will buy it either because I really like the piece or scrounging isn’t keeping up with demand. First, I use a hatchet to split the limb through the center. The very center must be removed or the wood will crack as it dries.
Depending on my whim, the piece of wood, and the spoon that I am making I may proceed to rough out the spoon with the hatchet. Next I will pare off waste with the saw and chisel and finally with roughing and bent knives.
In about an hour I have very nice pile of stuff.
Oh! And the beginnings of a spoon or sometimes, a smaller piece of firewood.
This one looks just fine. It should clean up nicely.
So I scooped out the bowl and then hand scraped it smooth which took the better part of an hour.
Then a little more careful knife-work, a little of hand scraping on the exterior, and last a bit of sanding. Another hour gone, but I have a new spoon!
The only thing left is a protective finish. I generally use food grade walnut oil as it soaks in well and “dries” as opposed to mineral oil which both evaporates and is washed out with normal dish washing. There is no perfect solution to the problem. If you use the spoon its finish will have to be renewed from time to time.
Hope you enjoyed your short course in spoon carving,
Your Random Rover,