Beginner Hand Carving: Spoons

Since founding our company, I have always been fascinated by carved wooden products, especially those belonging in the kitchen. I love to cook, experimenting with different ingredients and exploring cultural foods. People that know me and know my company, understand that I am passionate about handmade items, and my dad’s wife gave me a whittling book as a gift.

The book had many types of carvings with step by step instructions, the tools you will need, and how to carve in general. Whilst the choices were wide, once I saw the carved wooden spoons, that was it, I made up my mind of what I wanted to make.

Finding wood was not a problem as I am always on the lookout for furniture that has been dumped so that I can keep it for recycling into new products.

In regards to tools, I was slightly limited, back when I made the elephant out of a Christmas tree. I used an old blunt chisel, which I would not recommend at all.

I quickly made a decision that I should buy a Swiss army knife as recommended in the book, this was fairly cheap.

Despite this one tool being so multipurpose, and now I do use it all the time. I did find that it was not such an all-rounder and especially for spoons, a tool you will need is a hook knife.

This tool is very good at carving out the wooden bowl of the spoon. A really good sharp hook knife for a professional can be quite expensive however these ones work out a lot cheaper and come in a set and whilst it may be a bit tougher, they will get the job done.

 

  • Set includes a wood carving hook knife, a whittling knife, a chip carving detail knife, a leather strap, and a polishing compound.
  • The handle is made from Fraxinus spp wood and covered with natural oil.
  • It comes with a compact canvas roll-up bag that has individual slots for each carving tool.

Health and safety when carving 

Carving is not easy at all, it can make you ache even worse than the gym, you should also ensure that you follow good practices for health and safety. My first attempt was poor, the wood had split and the spoon was not usable but this is expected with a first attempt. 

Practise makes perfect, as with anything new. I must have cut myself around 6 times, 5 being minor and one quite major, I slipped with the knife and stabbed it into my hand.

It is very dangerous and should not be done if you are not qualified, or without doing the necessary research. You should also make sure not to keep these knives laying around as they are very sharp and could easily cause harm to others.

The dust from many kinds of wood can be quite toxic and so you should make sure to wear a mask, protective gloves for your hands, and any other necessary safety equipment.

What type of wood to use?

Popular wood choices for carving include but are not limited to Basswood, Aspen, butternut, Walnut, maple, cherry, mahogany, and oak. 

Some woods are not so good, some are more difficult to carve, and some cannot even be carved. You should avoid those with a strong scent as some contain a type of chemical within the odour that can cause headaches.

How to carve a spoon?

  1. Find a straight knot free branch, it should be slightly longer than the desired length of your spoon.
  2. The branch's diameter should be thick enough to make a spoon. 
  3. Flatten one side of the branch using long strokes, this will be for the top of your spoon
  4. Using a scooping stroke, flatten the bottom of the handle leaving the end of the branch thick for making the bowl of the spoon.
  5. Draw your spoon with a pen or pencil on the top of the spoon. 
  6. Cut around your spoon to shape the handle, and remove bark from the underside of the bowl.
  7. Shape the bowl of the spoon, cutting off any lines that you have drawn. 
  8. Draw the perimeter of the spoon's bowl and with the point of the knife carefully cut inwards around the line, or alternatively use a hook knife to hollow it out. 
  9. Once it has been hollowed, with fine sandpaper you will need to sand the entire spoon,  

 hand carved pine spoon

Please Note: I am by no means a professional in regards to carving or working with tools, and you should always follow advice from a qualified professional, and do diversified research.

Spoon Carving by Eric Bach

I have been carving for about 3 years. I have always been enthralled by knives, and I have many, of different types. I work long, stressful hours in our restaurant, and 3 years ago I was looking for something to do to unwind after shifts, keeping my hands busy, so I could stop smoking so much. At the same time, we trimmed a dogwood tree that we cherish, and I kept the wood. Enter the perfect storm. I picked up a knife and whittled down a stick until it started looking like a spoon. I dremmelled out the bowl, sanded it, I was satisfied and dissatisfied at the same time

So, I got on the internet and started looking for information about making spoons. Soon, I got a Mora 106 and 164. With the proper tools, I was hooked. 

What inspires me? Easy...my wife and kids. Everything I do is for them, and carving is the most selfish thing that I do...but they all encourage my carving. A few artists inspire me. On Instagram, @spoonzbyjeff is one of my favourites, although I don't try their styles much.

What crafts do I do? I used to paint and do pen and ink a lot before the kids, but carving spoons is my only true craft these days. 

What woods? I have not tried so many types, but generally, hardwoods, not conifers, and fruit trees seem to be among my favourites. Black cherry and mango have been my favourite two.

I am a chef as my occupation, we have owned the Strawberry Cafe for 14 years and I have cooked for 29 years, professionally. We are currently opening another restaurant, and I hope that I can find time to carve.

Advice for others wanting to carve, try and find what you want to carve. Then buy sufficient, high-quality tools for your purposes. If you spoon carve, a sloyd knife, a hook knife, a carving axe, a stump, a mallet, and good sharpening tools are all you need.

Although I have other tools, I decided from the get-go to not use power tools in my process, but I am not interested in production speed.

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