Mixed methods for spoonmaking

DSC_0057I can’t really say that I like or dislike carving spoons with special knives and I suppose it has something to do with who I am as a furniture maker working in a workshop at a bench. DSC_0018I’ve made and sold thousands of wooden spoons and of course I’ve also taught hundreds if not thousands to make them. My methods revolve around fully dry wood and not green wood and mostly my materials come from scraps from flat boards rather than riven and split limbs. DSC_0021My tools are conventional woodworking tools used by different crafts. In this case the bowsaw for roughing out, the gouge for scalloping and  shaping and the spokeshave for refining and truing the shape. I used a couple of card scrapers to finish of the shaping and the spoon is ready to go in about half an hour to an hour–ready to sell really.

DSC_0022I prefer these tools to knives mostly because they do it so well. Cherry makes a good spoon, one of the best. I used a gouge today to carve out a large cherry spoon. It takes so little time with a gouge. The great benefit is you can fully carve the spoon from fully dried wood. when wood is dry of course it’s fully hard and in about five minutes a large bowl is full carved and scalloped to almost perfect symmetry. Another advantage of course is the spoon is ready for sale and further drying is needed and there is therefore no wait time sell your spoons.DSC_0026

This large spoon came from the bowsaw, the spokeshave and the scraper. I like the concept of carving spoons with hook knives, but they don’t work to well on fully dried and seasoned wood like this. It’s the gouge and the spokeshave that makes the big difference. DSC_0031The leverage you get with the gouge means more power to you. Using a mallet or chisel hammer means the depth comes in a a minute and refinement in two or three more. Another great advantage of course is your hands are always behind the cutting edge. Perfect for getting children into spoon carving effectively, productively and all the more important, safely.DSC_0055

I used a wooden spokeshave for this one and cherry is a wondrous wood to work with these two tools. As I said, it’s hard, resilient, dense-grained and very lovely with its rich honey colour and swirling grain patterns. Much more lovely than many other softer hardwoods. It means that all of the scraps from my furniture making become lifetime spoons, spatulas, garlic boards and much more.DSC_0046

Of course as a furniture maker I am using slabbed wood and not riven and split limbs. The sections clamp well in the vise or to the bench top. I never liked sitting sown to work and have stood within two feet of a bench vise for fifty years six days a week and 8-10 hours a day on average. mUch better for your back than shaving horses I think.

DSC_0035The cherry when dry or green cuts very nicely with my  bowsaw and so the main shape can be cut readily and then also the bulk of the waste comes away in a heartbeat. I suppose the remaining shaping comes from the spokeshave in a few more minutes work. When the wood is dry of course it is the very best. I use a 1/2” bandsaw metal cutting blade with 14 teeth per inch. DSC_0042These blades will cut thousands of linear feet and last me for about three years of use unless I somehow damage the blade. Not too likely. I buy a bandsaw blade and snap them to length. I get six bowsaw blades for £16 so that’s £2.60 a piece.DSC_0040

26 Comments

  1. Jon Place on 23 May 2015 at 10:18 pm

    I find spoon making to be one the more difficult skills; I’ve had a go at about 20 or so now and have only produced one that I’m happy with. I keep persevering though. Don’t know why but I seem to have some sort of mental block when it comes to this task.

    • Paul Sellers on 23 May 2015 at 10:46 pm

      Let me think about it. I am sure I have an answer tucked away somewhere.

  2. rondennis303 on 23 May 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Paul, the bow saw that is illustrated in the photographs above seems to have interesting bracing. I would appreciate learning more about this tool in one of your future post.

  3. Mike on 24 May 2015 at 12:22 am

    I was wondering about alternative methods other than a gouge. I do not have a hook knife or scorp. I have wanted to try spoon making for a while and was thinking i do not have the tools to do it. Could using a chisel to carve help?

  4. John Hinton on 24 May 2015 at 3:30 am

    Hi. Paul, I was wondering if you still sell wooden spoons and if you do I would like to buy one of them? Thank you very much for your reply

  5. Eric L on 24 May 2015 at 4:28 am

    I also would like more information on the bowsaw. Perhaps a video on building or maintenance

    Thank you

    Eric

  6. johnnie skears on 24 May 2015 at 6:21 am

    Interesting Paul, that looks like a knuckle guard on your bow saw. I, like Jon Place, haven’t been too successful at producing spoons as nice as I would like, so look forward to any further advice. Thanks for all you do. john

  7. simonjessup on 24 May 2015 at 10:53 am

    Hi Paul
    Yes like a few others above I’m interested in the Bow saw – why would you use a metal cutting blade rather than a wood cutting blade?

    Thanks

    Simon

  8. Julian on 24 May 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Interesting as usual! I, too, would like to know more about your bow saw. Thanks!

  9. Randy Allen on 25 May 2015 at 4:55 am

    Thanks for showing us how to make spoons without a shaving horse, green wood and little carving knives. What finish do you use on your cherry spoons?

    Cheers

  10. Jon Place on 26 May 2015 at 2:21 pm

    I really hope you can think of something Paul. I had another go this weekend and I’m still producing the sort of spoon that would look at home in the Flintstones. I did manage to produce a shallow bowl similar to the one in your book that I’m OK with but spoons still have me flummoxed.

  11. Mike Ballinger on 26 May 2015 at 3:21 pm

    From memory Paul and team had worked on a bowsaw project but it wasn’t released – something about safety. I’m hoping it gets posted one day.

    • Paul Sellers on 26 May 2015 at 4:40 pm

      It will, I use it regularly now and find it just excellent and especially for shaping, cutting joints and even for dovetails.

  12. Stein Arild Moi on 26 May 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Well, I don’t have the experience of Paul, but I have been carving spoons, spatulas and such for about a year now. I think I’m some 20 spoons in now, and starting to get the hang of it.

    I think it might be both easier to help you, and easier for you to help yourself if you can identify where the problem lies. Is it a problem of, your hands can’t do what the brain thinks, or is it a case of the brain does not know how a spoon should be? I know for me it took only a few spoons before I was confident I could make more or less whatever I could imagine. Imagining a good spoon how ever has taken a long time. Only the last few spoons have I started to get a hang of it.

    What has helped me a great deal is to look at spoons I think are good, trying to copy them, and also try to analyze what makes it good. When I’m done I look at what I though was good, what I actually did, and how it actually worked out. Was it like I thought it was? So far the answer has been no a lot of times, but gradually it is starting to be yes more often than not.

    Hope this was not too floaty, and at least somewhat helpful.

    Stein Arild Moi

  13. Mike Ballinger on 26 May 2015 at 8:49 pm

    Makes perfect sense to me.

  14. Andreas on 26 May 2015 at 11:14 pm

    This past weekend I made my first spoon from a piece of scrap oak I had left over from a table project.
    It’s a bit rustic and the spoon end it very thick (I didn’t want to break through), but for my first ever spoon I’m reasonably happy.

    I finished it with some sunflower oil, and then got on with some cooking. After I’d rinsed it off with some water it became really rough where it had been silky smooth before. Is it a case of sanding it off every time I use and wash it?

    thanks

    • Paul Sellers on 27 May 2015 at 3:12 am

      The grain will raise like that a couple of time and then it will take on its own smooth patina and not raise agrain:)

  15. Andreas on 27 May 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Super, thank you Paul. Will the grain settle down by itself or should I sand it down again till it doesn’t raise up any more?

    • Paul Sellers on 27 May 2015 at 7:08 pm

      Sand each time if you want to but remember that when you use the scrubby for cleaning it will work as an abrasive. A working spoon develops over a number of weeks and months. If you want a spoon that stays pretty it’s best not to use it for cooking. Every food has its own stain colour. Beetroot red, baked bean orange, turmeric yellow. Wood takes on stain, bleaches out after a while and then takes on more colour throughout its life. Kaleidoscopic woodworking!

      • Andreas on 27 May 2015 at 7:55 pm

        Thanks again Paul, yes, that makes sense; I might sand it once in a while, but as you say, the scrubby will act in a similar fashion too. This one is definitely not pretty enough to go on display, so a working spoon it is. 🙂
        It’s a wonderful substance to work. I’ve read that oak has a slightly bitter flavour… hadn’t noticed it myself yet, but I am pretty sure that it will become seasoned with all sorts of flavours over time.

        • Paul Sellers on 27 May 2015 at 9:22 pm

          Very few woods actually flavour the food after a few times in use and certainly not foods the simply touch such as salads and serving spoons. There are of course toxic woods, so research is a good idea anyway. Using them in stews and soups and such, where the spoon is in the liquid substantially, soon boils out much of any if not all flavour. Oak is bitter to taste if you suck a piece of oak, but it does not impart flavour to food.

          • Asen Yosifov on 2 April 2019 at 8:58 am

            Before we cook for the first time, we can put the spoon in hot water several times. This will remove any aroma and taste from the tree.



  16. Andreas on 27 May 2015 at 9:44 pm

    That’s reassuring. I wasn’t planning on sucking or chewing too many pieces of oak in my life time so I’ll be fine on that front I’m sure. That means I can happily turn my offcuts for the ends of boards into useful items like these beautiful spoons which you’re teaching us to make.

    Thank you again for all your input and support.
    I get home from work and just come alive when I go to my workshop.

  17. momist on 31 May 2015 at 11:07 am

    I eat my breakfast (porridge) every morning with a spoon I carved myself from cherry wood grown in my own garden. That’s very satisfying!
    I too will enjoy some more information about your bow saw. I have two old commercial bow saws, different sizes, one from the war years. What cord do you you use to tension them? And what source for the blades? I have used cut off and pinned 1/4″ band saw blades, but they are not very satisfactory, as they don’t seem anywhere near as stiff as the rusty old blades the saws came with.

  18. Andrew Wilkerson on 4 June 2015 at 11:46 am

    I made one from a scrap of Western Red Cedar. Turned out well. Not sure if it’s toxic though. I work with Cedar daily, my lungs don’t have much hope beween that and the decking oil finish I breath so I guess a bit more poison in my food won’t make much difference.

    I might make porridge for breakfast now. Good idea momist. Reminds me of Goldylocks and three bears. Next I’ll make a bowl to match. mmm just right!

  19. Selah Sapp on 21 June 2017 at 2:57 am

    Hello, I’m chuckling at all these great posts. Wood spoons bring out some fun. I am planning to start a business of wood spoons and ladles among other things. I grew up in my dad’s shop trying out every tool and couldn’t let go of the hand tools. I can’t wait to get back to what I love and this article came to my e-mail right on time!

    Thank you Mr. Sellers for sharing your passion and making your personal experience so available to others. Your motto, “lifestyle woodworker” is as true as it is needed.

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