Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm making you a spoon and I want you to make one too.

There is this guy named Barn and he is a spoon maker who travels around Britain making spoons in exchange for room and board or he will sell you one for about $11 US (7 British Pounds).  He doesn't do mail order, but will come to you and make you a spoon if you want one.  He has his peddler's license which gives him permission to sell his wares on street corners and such.  He's a regular guy, with a passion for the woodlands and for making spoons.
He has a blog and a facebook account that he updates on a pretty regular basis.  He seems like a really interesting man and I would love to meet him one day, but in the meantime, I have been thinking about the last sentence in his most recent post.

"Imagine if everyone had a spoon carved for them by someone that cared about them, I really like that idea."

I can't get that line out of my head.  Seriously, it has been rattling around for 24 hours or so.  I think I would like to give this a try and see what happens.

I'm going to make a few spoons and send them out to some folks that I care about.  (Yes Jim, you are first on the list).  I am going to include a brief note about why I made this spoon for them, and a request.  The request will be simple, nothing major, but I would like those people to make at least one spoon for someone else and send it to them with the same note and request attached.

"Imagine if everyone had a spoon carved for them by someone that cared about them, I really like that idea."

I really like that idea too Barn.  A lot.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Wonderful World

It continually amazes me when I think of this world that I have found.  I didn't create it, it has been here all the time.  I just found it though, a few months ago.  I needed something to occupy my time, something to keep my hands busy.  I remember that night, sitting down in front of my PC, browsing the internet and somehow I found a video from a guy named Carl in Minnesota.  In his video he showed how to carve a spoon.  How to cut the blank, how to carve the handle and the bowl.  As he talked over the screech of his bandsaw, I sat with my mouth hanging open in wonder.  I was hooked.  I mean right that second I went from not even knowing about spoon carving to being obsessed.  It was that night that I had my first glimpse into this wonderful world.  It wasn't too long before my first spoon was carved.

Days have changed to weeks and weeks to months since that night.  There are wood shavings in the garage, random spoons laying around the house.  I have a few nicks and cuts on my hands that are healing, and still, I am hooked.  There is something magical about taking a log from a tree and making a spoon.  It is a simple thing really, these spoons.  Just pieces of wood that have been shaped and carved and sanded.  The world needs more simple things I think.  More things made by the sweat of your brow and the strength of your hands.  I know that, for me at least, each time I sit and carve, I come away feeling like I have accomplished more by making that spoon then by working a full week at my "real" job.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Spooning again!

It feels like forever since I have carved a spoon.  Forever since I have done anything related to woodworking other than read websites and watch videos, actually.  But that isn't to say that the last few weeks have been a total waste from a woodworking perspective.  I was able to get Jögge Sundqvist's video and watch it a few times.  Kari Hultman posted a review on it and there isn't much more that I can say.  If you haven't seen it yet, it is well worth the money.

Things changed in a hurry a few days ago when a small overnight storm brought down half of a Bradford pear tree in my neighbor's yard.  I offered to help clean it up in exchange for a few sticks of wood.  Within 12 hours of it coming down, the first spoon was drying in the kitchen, less than 24 hours after it was downed, the second spoon was done, followed closely by a third.

Bradford pear has a very dense wood, it is some of the hardest wood that I have carved to date.  The water almost runs out of it when you cut it.  At some points it felt like I was carving rubber.  The knife felt dull in my hand and my arms and hands are still sore from working with it.  All in all, I am happy.  I plan to carve a few more spoons out of the supply that I have, but honestly I need to wait a few days to recover!  I could tell that I was out of practice, my shape and form are a bit off and they are certainly not as refined as they could be.  No matter!  Sitting outside on the back patio, a hot cup of coffee steaming in the afternoon sun surrounded in the colors of fall, carving a spoon, is the best medicine I can think of.  It feels good to be back!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Radially split spoon blanks

Joiners, cabinet makers, and other earlier woodworkers have been radially splitting logs for hundreds of years.  It produces wood that is structurally more sound than sawed lumber, has very little movement and checking as it dries and is overall prettier and nicer to look at because of the long grain lines.  Essentially, the process is to split a log into sections that are pie shaped using wedges at first and then a froe or splitting axe.
This picture is about chair making, but the general technique is the same.  Instead of cutting a stile for a chair, you could easily cut out a spoon blank from this small split of wood, possibly even two from each split, based on how wide it is.

So that is the plan.  I figure that I can use a froe to split off the heart wood and my drawknife to trim down the wide section of the split, essentially making a split "plank"  From there, it is as simple as drawing a spoon shape on the wood, and either using an axe or a saw to cut it out.  Obviously it is easier to type this out than to actually implement it.  I'll post pictures of the real process and the issues that it causes when I get to that point. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Have to make make this.

Tools.  That's the name of the game when the game is woodworking.  It takes about 2 seconds to figure out that you don't have the right tool for the job.  The first tool I needed was a shaving horse, to go with the new drawknife that I had purchased.  So I build one, it is crude, too big, it is bulky and I sweat like I am running a marathon when I use it, but it's done, at least for now, I have changes in mind, maybe later this week.
Now the first thing I shaved on my new horse were some scraps of 2x4 and I made wedges to split some White Ash that I had.  Let's not go into detail about how well or quickly or easily it split.  Let's just say that I soon had four quarters of Ash log, about 12 inches long.  I took the smallest and tried to put it on the shaving horse, but it was too thick.  I split off the heart wood, and was able to get it on the horse, though.  This is where the NO fun began.  I wrestled and sweated and wrestled and fought, and all but gave up on that piece of Ash.  But I was able to get the bark off of it, make a fairly large pile of shavings and ended up with a slightly smaller still piece of white ash.  My drawknife is dull, my horse didn't hold the wood very well, and white ash is HARD.  I think I lost 3 pounds of sweat and my shoulders are sore!  I split the ash down a bit more with my handy dandy home made wedges, cursed the need for a froe, cursed at the white ash for being some hard, and cursed at my horse, my drawknife, and I think I even yelled at my daughter when she came out and was asking me questions.

After painstaking work, though (far too much work, need to find a better way), I had a piece of white ash, shaved down to about an inch thick, and seven inches long.  I won't bore you with the details, but after even more work, and again, I have to find a better way, I had my very first wooden fan.  I learned a lot.  I learned about hinge point thickness and about interlocking hinge size.  I learned that splitting the wood is pretty easy, but you need to get it as thin as you can.  I also learned that some soaking in water before bending is probably a good idea as well.  But all in all, a fan is a fan, and I can only improve from here!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I asked Robin Wood about making spoon handles.

There are few better ways than choosing a spoon you like and copying it, then making lots of them, keep analysing as you go

I struggle so much with creating a handle that looks right.  I often find myself working on the handle, twisting it this way and that, and finally just giving up and not being happy with what I have.  I have a good grasp of how the grain runs in the handle, but still, I often get myself in trouble.  Tonight, I got out a pencil and drew an outline of a handle on my spoon.  I had carved most of it last night, but had left the handle chunky and thick because I wasn't sure.  I sort of like how it came out.

Not the best job ever, but I am pretty happy overall.  I also noticed something else.  My spoons are starting to be more symmetrical.  It doesn't feel like I am doing anything different, but somehow, they are starting to look more even on both sides.  I can feel myself getting better.  Here is another shot of the spoon above, plus two others that I oiled tonight.

Behold!!  The Spoon Man!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Whoa there horsey!

Construction began today on the shaving horse.  Let me start by saying I don't know what I am doing.  This is my first shaving horse and, like my first spoon, it ain't gonna be pretty.  But, I think it will work.  Today was a busy day across the board.  The dishwasher broke and all my effort spent in loading it this morning to earn points with the wife flew out the window.  I took the kids to Lowes today to buy some wood for the horse and to the grocery store to grab a few things, mainly coffee and milk, but ended up spending $40 somehow.  Back home to load a bunch of trash in the truck to take to the dump.  Back home agian, to mow the grass, and then start on the horse. is the first picture of the shaving horse.  I think I made it too long and will need to figure out if i need to shorten it.  I think it might be a bit too high as well.  I think it needs to come down 2 inches or so.  Next is the "bench" and the "dumbhead" for holding the stock.  No comments please.

Also for your viewing pleasure is a short of the garage, looking cleaner than it has in months.

I had my wife go out and buy some Flax Oil to put on my spoons.  After going to a few places (Thanks Honey!!) she found some and I was in business.  I was pretty nervous when I put the oil on for the first time, but after I saw what it did to the spoon, I was amazed.  The cherry spoon that I had turned a beautiful brown and the grain really showed up nicely.  The two birch spoons turned this lovely amber color and just look beautiful.  See below in the picture.  The two spoons directly to the right of the oiled ones are cherry and birch.  The difference is outstanding.

Ok, last but not least, and then I am off to bed.  I am the proud new owner of a new axe.  Well, new to me.  I bought if off of ebay tonight.  I need to make a handle for it, but I seem to be in possession of a pretty large quantity of white ash at the moment, so that shouldn't be a problem.  I'll post a picture when I get it.  All in all it has been a pretty good day. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Knife, Sanding and Trouble

I got my Mora 106 this afternoon.  It makes the Flexcut knife that I have look like a butter knife.  It has a nice long thin blade.  A better balanced handle and it seems to do a really nice job.  I carved a spoon tonight with it.  A little short one.  It did well.  I need to sharpen it, though.  I read this article about sharpening this particular knife.  The biggest issue is not rolling the blade edge when stropping it.  I need to do some more research before I sharpen it for the first time.

I also sanded my spoons that had dried tonight.  They are ready for oil now and I will post my thoughts on that tomorrow after I get it done.  I am using Flax Oil.  It cures, it is food safe, and it is a very common oil for wooden bowls and spoons.  Most organic oils do well, Olive Oil is no good won't cure.  It ends up either going rancid or just becomes this sort of sticky film on the outside of the spoons.  Anyway, here is the latest picture of the spoon pile. 

While I was sanding one of my finished spoons I saw what I thought was a knife mark.  A thin tiny line out on the end of the spoon.  I sanded a bit, but it didn't go away.  I held it up to the light and I saw what it really was..a crack.  It is tiny, super small, but it goes through the end of the bowl.  I don't think I can salvage it.  I'll keep it around though.  You can't see it that well, but it is there.
I priced some 8 foot 2x10's at Lowes today, they are $6 each.  I need to make a shaving horse...but that is a post for another day.  My hands are tore up from sanding and the bed is calling my name.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Name Change and other odds and ends

I live in suburban Virginia, south of the City of Richmond.  The housing development is called Woodlake.  The name, the Spoonman isn't what I want to be.  I want to be a woodworker with a big focus on spoon carving.  I have hardly any tools, I am just getting my feet wet so to speak.  I am getting there, slowly, but surely. 

My drawknife should be here sometime early next week.  I am going this weekend to buy some odds and ends to make a shaving horse.  I am trying to find a half decent axe.  I think with those basic tools I can really start to move forward.  I need to learn about sharpening and how to REALLY hone my knives.  I need to make a space for working, the garage will be my workshop for now..I need to start treating it like one.  The list goes on and on and on.  But a tree does not grow in a day, but when it has grown it is a thing of beauty and majesty.  Maybe if I take my time and do things the right way, I can make something that is worthy of the tree it came from.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sweet Birch spoon

I do my carving in the garage.  I have a work bench out there and enough light to see by.  I need to do some serious work out there if I am going to continue with this hobby.  Mainly I think I need to just clean it all up.  It is a disaster out there, stuff thrown haphazardly around, saw dust and shavings are starting to pile up.  There are random pices of wood, a few walking sticks, and tons of other stuff that need to be taken care of and put away/thrown away.  I also need a chair out there..and maybe some music.  I don't mind the silence though, I like sitting out there working on my spoons.  It's quiet, it gives you times to think and to plan.  Above all, it is a time when you can actually control what goes on.  In the world of work and conference calls and football practices and baths and dinner and running from here to there, the simple act of carving a spoon, working with your hands to shape something, feels pretty good.

I won't write a book called Chicken Soup for the Carver's Soul but, I'll make the spoon you can eat that soup with if you want. 

Birch tonight.  I like it.  My hands still smell like wintergreen despite washing them.  The picture isn't great, but you get the idea.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Busting my Ash

Three weeks ago, I think, I went up to Mom and Dad's and visited the family.  Not only did I bring home quite a few spoon blanks, but I also brought home a 6 foot White Ash log.  It is still in the back of my truck.  I see it every day and think that I should get it out of there.  Soon though, maybe the first of the month, it is coming out of the truck and I am going to split it.  I have a few odds and ends that I want to do with that log, I plan to make some spoons out of some of it I think.  Some baskets out of some of it (maybe, we shall see), and maybe something else.  I have an idea in my head.  Well two ideas maybe.  One I can do for sure..the other, I don't have the tools.  Someday maybe.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I have three spoons sitting down in the kitchen, drying.  They are going to sit there all week, and then it is finishing time.  I am going to sand them with 440 grit sand paper.  The finish will be mineral oil.  It is food safe, non-toxic, non-staining, and will bring out the grain really well.  Organic oils like olive, vegetable, and canola oil can go rancid on you.  Nut based oils, like walnut or peanut can potentially cause allergic reactions in people who touch or use your spoons, and go rancid as well.  So Mineral Oil is the way to go, I think, and is what I will be using.

My brother talked about being perfect on his most recent blog entry.  You know, I think he is right.  Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.  I spend a lot of time being pretty critical of the shape of my spoons.  I don't like the way the bowl feeds into the handle on a lot of them, or the way the end of the handle ends up being shaped.  At the same time, I think that maybe I need to settle down a bit, each spoon I make is better than the one before it.  That is all I can hope for I think.  Just to be happy with this thing that I have made.  When I can get to that point, I know that I will have reach perfection.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Sanding is not fun..period.  But let me tell you what..when you get to the point in the sanding process when the grain really starts to pop, it is all worth it.  I sanded the three spoons in the pictures below..they are going to dry for the rest of the week, then get one more good sanding..with finer and finer sand paper.  I'll oil them next weekend and they will be ready for use.

Spoons and Salsa

I made and canned some homemade salsa today.  I think three of the four jars actually are going to seal.  Maybe..I can't leave them alone long enough I think.  We will see..if nothing else, we are going to be eating salsa for a while, for sure!

I also wanted to post a picture of three of my most recent spoons.  Front and back..The two on the left are carved from Black Cherry, and the one on the right is from a piece of Black Birch.  I must say, the black birch carves so nice and easy compared to the cherry. 

They all need some sanding still, the black birch has barely had any at all.  The two cherry spoons need some finish sanding before I can get some oil on them. you go.

Jim wins..this round

So my brother Jim flat out robbed the idea of a blog from me.  Well, maybe not robbed, since I hadn't said anything about it ever, but still it was on my mind.  Why do people who make things with their hands, experienced people, or even those that are novices at this whole thing, feel the need to share with the world what they make or do?  Human nature?  Probably.  They are proud, they feel good about what they have done and do, and want others to see it.  So here it is..this is my spoon carving..this is why I disappear into the garage at night and come back dusty, sweaty, and maybe..just maybe..a little bloody.