Saturday, May 3, 2014

Knives, Forks, and Spoons

Like many woodworkers, I think about woodworking ALL. THE. TIME. I sketch projects during meetings, read about it in nearly every free moment and think about how I might prefer taking my vacation time completing a project, instead of a "lame" trip to the beach with the family. Still, I often find when I have some time, visiting the in-laws or on vacation, I can't have a bench & tool chest. Vice versa where I have tools (at home) I'm often busy with the mundane aspects of life. Jonas seems to handle this effectively by taking a small set of tools on-board when on assignment. Forking my woodwork in other direction, spoon carving may allow me to scratch this itch while away from the shop.

How I got here should not be a surprising, but there was a series of events that made me finally get off my butt and try spoons.

The Perfect Storm

  • Down tree has me thinking about joint stools and green woodworking.
  • Watching Roy with the kids recently (Carvings spoons with Peter Follansbee)
  • Recent PWW article on spoon carving
  • Recent storm that brought down many small limbs in our area.
  • Nice weather (finally). I was out on bike ride (literally, immediately after flipping through the PWW spoon article) and found a row of hedge trees (I like Bois D'arc) that had lost some limbs, I came back with a saw and got a few branching chunks. (I need to look into a way to mount a limb saw to my bike in the future...)
  • Procrastination, I've been trying to avoid doing some real things that need done like getting my lawn mower back on-line and finishing the bathroom mirror project.
  • I like cooking and making kitchen items for everyday use.
  • A little free time, I had read about #handjoinery and decided to join twitter (@boisdork) and give it a shot. I didn't read too carefully (and did on the wrong day and it was later cancelled for the week, oops) and did the joint (fairly easy this time) faster than I had anticipated. This left me 1½ hours prior to bed to putter around the shop. (I ended up spending a lot more time that night as well as the next.)

Don't give me problems! Give me solutions!

  • Problem: It was dark, I needed to drag a stump round 'round to the garage for a chopping spot, but didn't want to be bothered with actual physical labor. Also my only axe (an ancient fireman's axe with a 3' handle I've had since I was around 14) is out in the shed (did I mention it was dark) and I was lazy and frankly a bit intimidated with splitting hedge (bad childhood memories)
    • Solution: Bandsaw. I laid the branch on the table and excised along the pith giving me a rough blank in no time. This is viable if you are ok with a little Sam Maloof style bandsaw operation (nothing too bad) I should have been more careful in getting out the pith in a windy wood like hedge (see later).
  • Problem: I have no hook knife or really any knives at all. 
    • Solutions:
    • I used the general purpose knife (started as a broken kitchen knife) that I have used for various shop activities, it is/was sharp enough but not very heavy duty.
    • A firmer gouge worked OK as a hook knife replacement but you have to hold the work with a vise,clamp or crochet to align forces safely and must approach from sometimes awkward positions.
    • Bench Chisels are great for working a flat/convex areas, and I've used them enough to have familiarity in paring but again affected by work holding and direction of forces, so be careful 
      • (I have a Scar on my right hand from my first carving/ER lesson when I was 9. Never put your off hand in the path of a chisel)
    • Small forstner bit in a drill press (with depth stop) allowed me to hog out a lot of the bowl material quickly. Make sure the part of the convex bowl bottom is touching directly under where you are drilling so you don't drill through. 

After Action Report

This project was just as much fun as Follansbee makes it look. I'm glad I gave it a shot with the tool set I had. Now I feel like it's worth a little investment into some green wood tools, confident that I'll use them. I can really see that I may be able to rough out a spoon and then throw the blank and a couple knives into a (checked) bag and have a really fun thing to sit and do on vacation (I'll probably leave the axe at home though...)


  • Free form shaping is a lot of fun, being able to create a sweeping line or consistent thickness is addicting to me.
  • Elemental, Taking lots of shavings and crafting something in my hands is intrinsically rewarding to us as "Man". This I believe.
  • Osage Orange, I like this wood (much better when green) and these small branches had lots of grain color variations. I was worried it would be too open porous, but in these small branches it wasn't really an issue.
  • Burnishing, I used a polisseur and it really was amazing the transformation it had on this wood especially. I wasn't able to get everywhere with it so I formed a rounded tip burnisher from one of the off cuts of the hedge and that worked like magic on this piece. (I then added a bit of mineral oil)


  • Spoons can not be photographed. I've thought that Follansbee's spoons look a bit ungainly in photographs and that it was his Swedish style. Now I understand that form follows function and that this form looks great while handling/using the object, but it looks a bit funny (at least to my eye now) while sitting waiting for a photo.
  • Pith. When I roughed the handle out, I should have made absolutely sure I had removed all the pith. As it was, I incorrectly read the grain on this twisty wood and ended up having to excavate a groove along the back of the handle. Makes a nice finger rest detail, but I'll be more careful in the future
  • Pith. In the bowl, a tiny long-gone branch went through this crotch, so there is a tiny pith portion.We'll see what comes out of this, it may open into a hole in time, if so then I'll convert it to a slotted spoon...
  • Thinning in the handle. Because of the pith issues, I thinned one side of the handle more than I would have liked. It still feels good in the hand, but looks a bit thin (though hedge is tough/strong stuff).


  • I get to buy some new tools, at least a couple of knives, possibly a carving hatchet.
  • Left handed. This spoon is a perfect serving spoon for me as a lefty, but not so much for 75% of my household. (Unfortunately I couldn't select the way the tree grew.)
  • I forced my wife to look at this project midway through (why do we do this?) Her reaction was that it was "like some sort of cave man spoon." I think she'll come to love these spoons but a ½ done lefty spoon wasn't love at first sight.


  1. Great spoon, and great post! I loved reading your AAR. I think I would like to give spoon carving a try.

    I see what you mean about the spoon not photographing well. I think it looks best in the photo of it laying on your bench.

  2. You should definitely give it a try. Today I tried roughing the rest of the branches but none of them worked out upon opening. I'll be on the lookout for more branches. I think I remember a pear tree with a limb down on the way to work...

  3. Its a really neat idea and looks even better in person.