Sunday, 31 March 2013

Spoon carving tutorial Pt4

The next stage is to start refining the shape using straight knives. I believe this is a Frosts 137 knife; I have a few Frosts knives, mostly 106s so I'm not for ever honing (yes lazy I know). My advice is make sure you get the high carbon laminated ones and forget the stainless, they are still fantastic value for money. I like the longer bladed ones so I can get nice long slicing cuts and span across the whole of the bowl when dressing it to a uniform surface. Some people prefer shorter blades for fear of picking up a nick I believe.

So here you can see I've sketched the final shape I wish to achieve with a pencil. I will work right to these lines now with the knife, again respecting the grain orientation of course. So as you look at the picture I will use draw cuts either side of the bowl working from front rim towards handle, then along the front leading edge from right to left. To form the concave shape in the transition area (between handle and bowl)  I will have to work inwards in both directions to avoid lifting grain. 
Don't worry about this untidy torn grain in the transition area, this is best left until the spoon has dried.
Just followed the sketched lines to shape the bowl profile.
The underside- looks like my axe needs honing!!
Now I have an idea of the final shape, I can waste more material from the underside of the bowl. Be very careful here with grain transitions: generally you work away from the highest point of the keel:-back towards the handle and forwards toward the leading edge. Here I'm doing the former..
Right side done, left to do..
Then slice forwards from the keel to the front edge.
Leaving this sort of shape at this stage. Note I have still left about 1/8th of an inch of thickness in case I need to remove material from the rim.

Nice long slicing draw cuts making the handle parallel from the centre line.
And again dressing the upper surface of the handle to keep it parallel withe the bowl rim.
Once the upper handle surface is flat, I have a reference to safely slim down the underside. I prefer to triangulate this too. 

 Finally before I hollow the bowl I take a planing cut off the upper surface of the bowl to ensure I have clean wood free of any axe nicks that would cause problems if not dealt with now.


Saturday, 30 March 2013

Spoon carving tutorial Pt3

So this is the shape we have so far. Next I'm going to remove more material from the upper surface to reflect the crank you can along the underside.

The lowest point of the crank on the top surface should be about a third of the way along the bowl from where the handle joins. This equates to the lowest point of the underside if that makes sense. To achieve this I'm going to work downwards from both the handle and the front rim of the bowl to the said point.
Above coming down from the handle with a stop cut. And below carefully working from the front rim the slicing across the bowl.
Now working on the back of the bowl , sort of triangulating with the axe.
I can't axe and photograph at the same time but below I'm trying to show more material being removed towards the lower front of the bowl.
Hopefully the gentle curve is now starting to look more refined.
And the progress so far on the underside.
This is the most important view you must keep checking on as you progress : the upper surface of the handle should be kept parallel withe the upper surface of the bowl. 
Before I finish with the axe I'm going to rough shape the blank to a generic spoon shape. This drawing is pretty poor but never mind there will be plenty of scope for design changes later. If I hadn't been rushing I could have thought more about the shape I wanted and worked straight to it with the axe. It surprised me when I first discovered how accurately you can shape just with the axe by choking up on the head. 
Rough shaping done, respecting grain direction of course.
Finally removing any areas of excess material before putting the axe back in it's sheath.

That's the axe work completed.

Spoon carving tutorial Pt2

The next job is to start removing some material from the upper (bark) surface. Essentially, we will be working down from the top of the handle towards the bowl, but first remove 2 or 3 inches worth of material from the top end so that the chopping will be done well below where the fingers will be holding the blank.

As mentioned before, we are just skimming the bark off at the shaft of the handle. This first cut can continue right over the bowl to remove the rounded surface. Be careful though not to cut too deeply and thin the material we have left to form the bowl.

I'm now going to remove more material from the handle and start to delineate  where the bowl will be. I've marked on the blank where I will be chopping. Note the first chops must be working AWAY from the bowl, otherwise there is a strong possibility of cleaving off the side of the bowl and creating firewood! 
Note how I'm supporting the blank on an edge directly below where I'm chopping in.
Now I can work down the handle, being careful only to lever out severed fibres so that the aforementioned cleaving is avoided.

The basic shape of the spoon blank is now starting to emerge but there is still more axe work to to to remove as much material as possible before moving on to the refining tools.


Friday, 29 March 2013

Spoon carving tutorial Pt 1

I thought it may be a useful resource to document in detail how I carve a spoon from start to finish, so I will take loads of photographs of the various stages and try to detail how I approach things as well as trying to throw in some tips for beginners as I go. Firstly though, let me say that anything I put up on here that is my own design or idea (rare though that may be), is put there to share ideas so I don't mind if anybody copies at all:- feel free. I only say that because I read some discussion recently on a social media site about etiquette when borrowing a design (which in my blue collar ignorance I was unaware of).
    Anyway, to get started - the only tools I use apart from a saw when preparing the original billet, are the 3 in my banner, viz:- Gransfors carving axe, frosts sloyd knife and Helgess spoon knife. I was going to go and get a nice log to use but realised the wife had borrowed my motor so I,ve had to use a piece of willow I had lying around. Its not a timber I'd favour for making treen as it is rather soft in my opinion; but on the plus side its dead easy to carve (akin to chilled butter with a good sharp knife).
The billet is a quarter of a log split radially through the pith. I did a course with Fritiof Runhall, as I think I have mentioned before, and follow to a great extent his methods. Fritiof always orientates the spoon so that the open bowl faces the bark and the handle is as close to the cambium layer as possible. Therefore the picture above shows the underside of our spoon. The first job is to work out where the front rim of our spoon will be and set about creating a nice flowing crank, from handle to bowl. Here I have marked out roughly where front rim will be.

So I axe at about 30 degrees up to the front rim to start forming the shape of the bowl.

It is important at this stage to take a shaving off each side of the bowl to ensure there will be sufficient thickness, this will become apparent later on.

Now you can see I've axed down to our rim from the top of the bowl, making sure I'm pretty parallel. This will be a useful reference plane for when we start removing material from the upper face of the spoon. I've also started to remove material thin the handle beyond the bowl.

Now to start removing material from the underside of the handle. Not too much at this stage but starting to form that nice curve. Remember we want the upper face of the finished handle to be as close to the bark as possible.

Ok that's far enough for tonight, I'm not very good with computers so this is a struggle for me. I've got further with the spoon but I will document that tomorrow, I,ve got banjo practise to catch up with......

This weeks tune is Hell broke loose in Georgia, love it!!


Tuesday, 26 March 2013


Here's a coat/hatstand I made recently for a colleague at work. A while ago his wife said she had seen some rustic looking stands from unusually shaped branches in a natural form. Anyway, I said I'd have a look and come up with something. I cut the Hazel (corylus avellana) pole a while ago and let it season in the shed. It's about 3" in diameter, so quite substantial; so I was worried it may be a little TOO rustic. Thankfully she loves it so all's well. 

 As you can see the log has an helix running through it which makes it quite a conversation piece. This is caused by a vine called Honeysuckle (lonicera periclymenum) or Woodbine to give it its other common name. As Hazel is a fairly soft and fast growing timber, the vine strangles the host sapling as it grows. Other timbers I commonly see exhibiting the same deformity are Willow,birch, rowan, ash and some of the poplars. Heres a close up of the stand:-

In the UK now is the best time to spot Honeysuckle in the woods as they are one of the first to break bud and absorb light before the spring canopy is formed. They tend to thrive on the very edge of mature  woodland .
Here's an example of Woodbine growing through Hazel in the wild:-
   And a branch with the vine peeled off , leaving the helical deformity. These are cherished by walking stick makers for stick shanks; they call them 'Twistys'. 
The rest of the stand is just made up of seasoned oak, shaped with a drawknife. The hangers are socketed in with round tenons and the legs have squared tenons to stop them turning. The whole thing was finished with some boiled linseed oil which gives good protection to wood with the bark left on.

Finally my current tune I'm learning to play on the banjo is Johnson Boys