Sunday, January 11, 2015

Spoons in January

From this:

To this:

In just a couple of hours.  Making spoons out of wood you cut down yourself is about as close to instant gratification as you find in a woodworking project.
Over the holidays I traveled to where I grew up, in northern Wisconsin. I have a little place there with a few acres of nice trees, so I can ski back into the woods and pick out a likely-looking piece of wood, cut it down, then ski back to the shop and hack away to my heart's content. Speaking of heart's content, here's one place I find mine:

 I had so much fun carving spoons every day that I  brought some wood back to Georgia with me. From left to right, birch, apple, and tag alder. The tag alder was kind of a whim on my part. It's just a shrub at home, not a tree, and everyone seems to hate it. I've never heard of anyone doing anything with the wood. Some had grown up on my trails where I don't want it, so when I went back to clear the trail I saw some was large enough for spoon blanks and thought to myself "Why not?"

 Even though this wood has been split, it will check a lot as it dries, beginning immediately, so today I spent a couple of hours turning the half-logs into rough spoon blanks. First, with a broad hatchet, I trimmed all the pith off the blank, to minimize cracking stresses and give me a clear view of where any knots might be in the wood:

 The broad hatchet is quite heavy, and I'm fortunate to have a much lighter carving hatchet for more detailed work.

Once I have a clean face on the blank, I trace the shape of a template onto it:

Next, I reduce the blank further, still with the heavy hatchet.

Since I won't be carving all these into spoons right away, I put them in a plastic bag along with all the chips. These will keep a fair amount of moisture around the blanks, hopefully slowing down the drying and checking until I can carve them further.

Today I had the urge to make a spoon, so I pulled one of the blanks out of the bag and did it. Here I have had to retrace my template onto the blank because I got too close to the finished edge with the big hatchet. This smaller Karlsson hatchet feels like a feather after an hour or so of the big broad hatchet!

In the photo below, note that I have made two relief saw cuts in to the neck of the blank. This lets me use the hatchet to start making something that looks like a rough, rough spoon.

Next I use a wide carving gouge with a very low sweep to add some "crank," so that the handle bends downward towards the neck, then bends back up towards the bowl. Some can do this with the hatchet, others a push knife or drawknife, but this works for me.

Below you can see that the top surface of the blank has some crank. I made another relief sawcut on the bottom edge of the handle, then used the hatchet to carve that out a bit, but by then I had run out of patience with the camera.

Eighty-five percent of the rest of the spoon was carved with a sloyd knife, ten percent with hook knives, and a final five percent with a much smaller detail knife. Perhaps I'll photograph my process some other time. So far, here are the spoons I've carved this winter, in birch and tag alder (no apple so far, but soon).

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