Home » Paul Sellers’ Blog » Spoons of Purpose and Character Done

Spoons of Purpose and Character Done

DSC_0114 DSC_0116 DSC_0119 DSC_0120 DSC_0136 DSC_0141 DSC_0154 DSC_0157 DSC_0179 DSC_0183 DSC_0128It’s hard to say what it’s like to make small collections like this. I have determined that using the gouge to carve a spoon is quicker and easier in general than using say a small spoon scorp or knives. Especially is this so in dry rather than green wood, which most of my spoons were made from. Carving the bowls is the quickest part surprisingly and especially so if you have as a good a gouge as I had. I admit I have blasted on a bit about the Hirsch gouge but I haven’t used one like it before. I am not saying other gouges are not equal to this one I am using, I just haven’t found one that keeps an edge like this one did. I sharpened up three times in cutting 35 spoons and three scalloped chair seats.
As I carved out the bowls using my ‘eye’ method to increase the depth, I was ever conscious of the different woods I was using and the variable aspects of the characteristics that define them in their particular species. Woods known as hard were the easiest to make whereas soft woods I found more difficult to refine and finish out. I think all of the woods carry idiosyncrasies and of course there are plain woods like aspen and birch and then there are woods like oak and beech that have bright smiles in the form of ray flecks we call medullary rays or medullaries.
For the main part, carving some parts of a spoon is not much different to peeling a potato. I think that that’s the difference between knives and gouges. The gouge does not seem that way, but the spokeshave seems to me like a heavy potato peeler. So between the knives and a spokeshave you have more a potato peeling session.
Here are the spoons I carved out this past week or so. I actually made more than 35, just in case I changed my mind on one or two. Sometimes, when I am making something as simple as a spoon, people question why I do it. Well, my answer is always the same, spoons and spoon making are the first aspect of woodworking through which I brought my boys into a world we know as woodworking and I think it is the best way of showing people just what grain really is. To carve, you must know grain very differently than the superficial and external level people know grain as. Here we are digging in much deeper into realms most people sadly never know. It’s here that they learned about the multidimensional depth of grain and the need to ‘read’ grain as and before you actual follow through each cut.
Where I live is a country regionally known for a long history of making love spoons. My tour of St Fagan’s museum last year revealed the oldest known love spoon, one made in the late 1600’s. A love spoon was and perhas in some cases still made and given to a beloved as a token of a man’s love for his betrothed and was hand carved with knives and chisels into the most ornate of shapes and sizes. Of course it need not be gender specific any more. It wasn’t only Wales that held to the tradition, Germany and Scandinavian countries shared the same tradition. The spoons originated as practical and useable spoons, but they became more ornate and more decorative through the centuries. Today, they are produced mostly by commercial CNC routers and look just like that. No feeling in the racks of gift shops I mean. They are tourist items and mostly all stained the same and seem somehow now to be so characterless.
When my boys made their first hand carved wooden spoons they were for learning and then, subsequent to that training gave it to their mum. You see, making something is lifeless if it is not intended for someone. Giving a gift from wood, making it, shaping it and thinking of its function as it takes form, seems to me to be meaningful.

Here is a video on YouTube on how they are all made. Interesting for some of you to see, but going to the woods and through the wood pile in my shop deepens the interest I have in making anything from a lump of wood. This second video is how some of them started in the woods. I hope they inspire you.

19 comments

  1. Graham Case says:

    Paul,

    Thank you for all these great spoon posts! When I first started watching them, I immediately tried to make a spoon… out of pine… with only a chisel!

    It quickly became more of a sad spatula than a spoon.

    However, I have since made one and a half spoons from some local cherry wood, which turned out much nicer. Very happy with both of them.

    I was curious if you could/would do a video on how you sharpen your gouge? I’ve only had some success getting my gouge mostly sharp, and any pointers would be greatly appreciated

    Thanks,
    Graham

  2. Hi Bobbie, Get out into the woods and go make! Get your gouge from Highland Woodworking for Christmas and se what you can carve out. I once made my living from selling spoons and raised a family of hungry boys on it too.

  3. Matt says:

    Great post. What gouge do you use to carve the inside? I checked out the gouges at Highland, but am unsure which one to pick up.

  4. Brandon Avakian says:

    Random question for you Paul (I believe this may have been brought up before). What paint color do you put on your workbenches, cabinets and mobile table? It looks very similar to the paint color you use at your US school.

    • Paul Sellers says:

      The paint colour in the USA is three coats of Benjamin Moore’s exterior wall paint. It’s called Texas Leather. After the first coat, it’s water-based emulsion, what you call acrylic I think, sand smooth with 240 abrasive paper. The UK paint is 1812 Kashmir beige from B&Q. (Big-box UK). Apply two more coats and leave to dry through. About two hours is enough. I then apply two coats of clear and blond or bleached shellac by fine brush. Do not allow the brush to rest when you apply the second coat. It will dray the first and become gummy. Brushed shellac goes on fast with a fast brush. Quick, effective and easy to do. Lastly, after drying for two hours min, take 0000 steel wool and cut the surface lightly. Take the same wad of steel wool and apply paste wax.

    • The paint colour in the USA is three coats of Benjamin Moore’s exterior wall paint. It’s called Texas Leather. After the first coat, it’s water-based emulsion, what you call acrylic I think, sand smooth with 240 abrasive paper. The UK paint is 1812 Kashmir beige from B&Q. (Big-box UK). Apply two more coats and leave to dry through. About two hours is enough. I then apply two coats of clear, blond or bleached shellac by fine brush. Do not allow the brush to rest when you apply the second coat. It will drag the first and become gummy. Brushed shellac goes on fast with a fast brush. Quick, effective and easy to do. Lastly, after drying for two hours min, take 0000 steel wool and cut the surface lightly. Take the same wad of steel wool and apply paste wax. Buff out with a soft rag or a Kiwi soft shoeshine brush.

      • Brandon Avakian says:

        Thank you. I have always wondered what color you used because it is so pleasant and easy on the eyes. Thanks again.

  5. Robert says:

    Paul,

    Your posts on these spoons and on spoon making in general have been great. They’ve inspired me to make spoons as christmas gifts. Making these spoons has been great fun and a learning experience. You really get to practice reading grain, developing ideas for design and connecting your brain, eyes and hands to achieve the intended end result (with a bit of improvisation along the way).

    With only a few tools, you get to apply a wide variety of techniques and the end result is a personal gift. Thank you for the inspiration!
    Robert

  6. Some woods are toxic in the sense of the dust is harmful. Mostly these are imported exotics. I probably would not use these anyway. Domestic western species are fine. Sycamore and maple, beech, ash cherry, walnut, oak, rowan, all the fruit woods, all the nut woods and many more.

  7. Anthony Bancroft says:

    Hello Mr. Paul, I have just recently started watching you video’s. It is such a relief to know there are still Real Carpenters around. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to such a fine craft.

  8. Robert Brunston says:

    Mr. Paul
    I have been in wood working for 40 years and by watching your vedios on you tube I have learned many things they don’t teach you in school or on the job.
    Thank you so much. Keep making vedios please your are an excellent instructor.
    Also I think you have the most practical ideas!
    Thank you again.
    Robert Brunston

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