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.