Friday, January 22, 2010

Spoons grow on trees

Spoon carving is a fascinating art. I was introduced to it by Drew Langsner's book "Country Crafts;" it is also covered in some of his later books. Basically, you start with a tree and make the piece of tree into a spoon. It is, or can be, a totally indoor craft, and therefore possible when the temperature is (as today) -24C. This picture illustrates the process:
At left, a piece of a (largish) birch branch that I rescued from the all-consuming firewood heap. The next step is to split this in half, and chop out the outline of the spoon with a hatchet. It is also possible to saw the thing out. For scoop-type spoons (third from the left) I prefer the hatchet. For really curvy things we use the turning saw:
This is a homemade frame with a 6mm bandsaw blade. I buy bandsaw blades at yard sales for just such purposes. The blade can be set to any angle. In fact it is a hand-powered bandsaw. One way or another you rough out the spoon, and then proceed to carve. Partially carved spoons are next in the picture. The tools of the trade are shown on the right of the top picture. At the far right, the invaluable and indispensable Swedish Sloyd Knife. "Sloyd" (written, as I understand it, slojd in Swedish) means "craft" in that language. The one shown is a Erik Frost 6cm model. Then there is a gouge and another Frost tool, a hook knife. These are used for hollowing out the bowls. Sometimes the gouge works better, most of the time I use the hook knife. On the upper right corner of the red cloth, there is a scraper made out of a piece of old sawblade. This is used to smooth out the finished spoon. In the spoon-carving fraternity, "sandpaper" is a dirty word. Yes, it does smooth things. But it obscures the grain, and makes things look machine-made. The spoons are carved green; the final smoothing and details are added when the wood is dry. You must dry out the wood very slowly. Old-timers used sawdust; modern technology -- a zip-lock bag -- is much easier. Turn the bag out daily and let it dry. If it dries too fast it will crack, and your work is wasted.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of pages on the 'net on spoon carving. One could do worse than start here. Or google something like "wooden spoon carving."

Drew Langser's website (linked above) has a section on bowl carving
which is spoon carving on a much larger scale. If you're interested, all of his books are relevant. Except the chairmaking books, of course; but they are most interesting.

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