Monday, 19 April 2010

Carving a spoon Pt1

This time I've made a conscious effort to photograph the various stages in carving a wooden spoon. Ok it's not rocket science but it may be of interest to those who have thought about, but not had a go at making one.
The first decision is what wood to use. You can use just about any timber you like as long as it is non toxic and I would actively encourage experimentation. In Scandinavia they tend to use softwood and Birch as that's what is most widely available. I have carved with birch quite a bit and it is lovely timber to carve; but you have to know when to stop carving green and allow seasoning before the finishing cuts as it is quite fibrous and woolly in this state. I like carving with any fruitwood such as Apple, Pear, Plum, Blackthorn etc. The timber is nice and easy to carve green and a highly polished, faceted finish can be achieved on the final piece. If your spoon is going to be placed in the mouth, then it should be made from timber that doesn't have a strong taste, ie:- will not taint the food. So wood such as Walnut, Oak, Chestnut etc, which have high tanin content would not be suitable. Instead Beech and Sycamore are traditionally used for treen as they have no taste (the aforementioned fruitwoods are also fine).
I am going to make my spoon from Sycamore as I came across this pile of recent sneddings in my local woods and it just so happens that Sycamore is my favourite timber to carve.
To make it a little more interesting, I'm going to have a go at making a ladle, so I sought out a sharp crook that will do for my blank. When you look for a crook try and find one with as sharp an angle as possible, as they do straighten out somewhat as the timber dries, which can sometimes be frustrating. I cut the blank down a bit for carrying home, allowing plenty of extra material in case end shakes appear. Sycamore is not very prone to cracking, but some woods crack instantaneously so plenty of allowance must be made.

Now the tricky bit of splitting the crook. Start at the bowl end and knock the axe in so that it goes through the pith and is tangential to the crook (or spoon handle if you like). Then come in from the top of the crook, again tangential to the bowl and through the pith; hopefully the two splits should meet somewhere in the sharp point of the crook. You may need a couple of axes to complete the split, as I did. Almost invariably the inside piece is the most suitable blank and mine was no exception; you may be able to see a branch growing from the underside of the outer part, rendering it useless.

At this point it is very important to be quite ruthless with the axe and remove all bark and 'mine-out' any major defects before you have invested too much time in the project. You can always get another lump of wood so be ruthless. I had to remove quite a lot of material to get a decent blank, but I think there's enough left to make something.

The axe I'm using is a Gransfors Bruks large carving axe which I get on really well with-it was quite an investment but without doubt worth every penny. You should remove as much material as possible with the axe, working towards a rough shape. This will make knife work easier and quicker. Remember to always work lower on the blank than your fingers and keep inverting the blank end-on-end.

There's the blank roughed out. Next job is to start rough forming the bowl with the Bowl-Adze, again to make sure we don't have any defects which may cause a design re-think. That's an important point actually, as I never start a spoon with a fixed design in mind, I often have to alter direction to work round a defect, and as long as there's still enough material, let the piece evolve.
The Bowl adze is by Hans Karlsson and is a beauty. I think it's worth sourcing the best hand tools for the task and when you think about it , barring a major catastrophe, they should last a lifetime.

That's as far as it goes for now. The blank is still fairly wet and will be put in a plastic carrier bag with some shavings and kept somewhere cool and dark until next time.
Cheers for now

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