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Spoon making – Methods for shaping

Try to remember throughout the processes of how we can make spoons that we are interested in investigating areas of woodworking and the goal is not to become a spoon maker unless that’s the limited sphere you want to gain to operate in. Spoon making using these different methods, tools, techniques and so on give the deeper insights we need as woodworkers for other areas of woodworking ranging from fiddle making to canoes, boats, furniture and so on and so the work gives us the deep insights all woodworkers should possess through practice.

Stop-cut tenon-saw methodDSC_0483

Whether you are using the square blank or the half limb, this method works fine for both. DSC_0492Anchor your spoon blank in the vise as shown and saw down to close to the line with successive cuts about 1” apart. I suggest you leave about 1/8” to the actual line.


Starting at the high point at the shoulder of the spoon, use the 1” chisel with the bevel down to chop away the waste. This goes quickly and you must read the grain as you go because sometimes the grain will nosedive unexpectedly. If this does happen you may need to change direction and come from the opposite end.

DSC_0500Use the chisel bevel up for convex runs around the bowl area. Start shallow…

DSC_0502…and the follow the line, parallel to the carved bowl.

Axe-cut method


DSC_0413Don’t underestimate the value of the axe in general woodworking. Few tools parallel its versatility, but obviously there are inherent dangers that should not be overlooked. One fault in watching someone expert with an axe is the confidence and speed with which they work. It can be mesmerising, but seldom if ever have I seen a YouTube video or film that makes a clear statement about this. I have used axes of different types for about fifty years. I started to use a dull one that hit concrete most days for spitting crates for firewood for my mother. When I became an apprentice we used them frequently for many types of work and working on restoration on old buildings was impossible without an axe in my bass.

It takes practice and care to handle an axe well. Most of us don’t usually tell that we gained more from near misses and minor cuts but I will say it here. Sharp or dull, axes can be dangerous. Be sure to judge yourself, those around you and all the more your own children rightly if you want them to use them.

To rough out the spoon using the axe you can free-hold the spoon blank with your second hand and tap-chop the axe into the wood. By this I mean place the cutting edge on the wood, angle the blank and feel for the centre of cut from the axe by lifting and dropping the axe and blank together onto the bench top (scrap wood between) or stump. This tells you whether to increase or decrease the angle your left hand is holding the blank to the bench. You want the axe to feel centred so that the axe follows the line it must take. This ‘dropping’ technique makes the axe method much safer because the second (none dominant) hand is usually to the side of the direction of cut and the spoon blank stands between the hand and the cutting edge. Taking this direction usually means that the axe will scallop into and along the axis of the grain and splits will therefor generally run the length of the blank. You can remove small or large quantities this way.

Bow saw method

DSC_0620You can use a bow saw as I am or you can use a coping saw. This then is a bench tool method by nature of using the the third hand, which is the vise housed in the bench. Because this bow saw has a fixed blade and does not turn, you must work with the tool to alter direction and this means making a cut in one direction and then cross cutting into that cut to remove the waste and create the ability to then make cuts in another direction. DSC_0420DSC_0669This altered direction may be a minor change but it can be the only way to change the course f the saw sometimes. Whereas there is some flex in the blade and saw and you can ‘bend’ direction, this is limited with this saw as it is generally used for straight cuts.

It’s surprising how versatile this saw  is for lopping off parts you don’t want. I even use it for crosscutting limbs for bench work as I am here. If, because of wetness, you find it binding, change depth by rotating the limb and sawing in sections. In this case I was able to saw all the way through with no problem, but different wood types will affect the saw’s passage sometimes.

1 Comment

  1. Dennis De Paul on 1 September 2016 at 5:31 am

    I’ve ‘discovered’ your blog and videos on Youtube. Very helpful, informative and encouraging. Thank you sir.

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