Spoon making for fun (and profit?)

by Mike
(Canterbury, Uk)

We had a bit of a craft session today, carving our own wooden spoons. I had a few lessons in knife work recently when I attended an excellent Ray Mears "Woodlore" course.

Some basic, good quality tools are essential if you want to do any carving.

  • a good bushcraft knife

  • A simple folding saw

  • a spoon gouge (a curved blade for hollowing shapes

  • a First Aid Kit

We started by felling one of our silver birch trees - if you can find a section with no knots and a slight natural curve in the right place that is excellent.

Split the section down its length through the centre - with a decent knife and a heavy block you can do this easily enough, otherwise use a splitting axe.

Smooth the surface down with your knife then draw on the outline of your spoon as seen from above. Carve away the sides until your spoon matches the outline drawn. Don't try to carve the bowl shape, or profile the underside at all at this stage.

Once you have carved down to match the outline you can work out exactly where profile of the spoon will fall in the side of the piece. Try to tilt the bowl at a slight angle relative to the handle and avoid having knots at any thin points, such as the bowl of the spoon, or where the handle joins the bowl. Draw the profile on with pencil, and again carve down to the line.

Your spoon should now look pretty much like a spoon, and just needs rounding off, and generally finishing. At this stage you want to get all the carving done bar hollowing the bowl itself.

Finally, use your spoon gouge to hollow out the bowl of the spoon. You are aiming for a thin lip if you are making an eating spoon, and not too deep. Try it in your mouth and see if it feel right. With the birch I used the bowl of the spoon was practically translucent when I was done.

If you want to put some finishing touches on it you might sand the surface smooth, and rub some vegetable oil into the wood.

This was the second spoon I've made and, start to finish took less than an hour. The first one took about ten! Obviously take plenty of care when working with knives and enjoy making a beautiful and functional spoon.

Things to look out for: Knife work is strenuous and requires great care and control. Don't ever work in poor light or when tired. If you are not using your knife make sure it is put away safely in it's sheath. Don't try to use an inadequate knife for heavy carving work - folding pen knifes are not sturdy enough and, even if you don't cut yourself, are liable to give nasty blisters. I use the Mora Training Knife - it is comfortable to hold and very sturdy.

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