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Wooden Spoon Material Experiment

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Blog entry by bobkberg posted 08-13-2014 01:55 AM 1020 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife loves her wooden spoons, but after many years, they warp and crack and eventually fall apart. So I started wondering what the best material to make a wooden spoon out of might be.

I bought 10 small samples of hardwoods and cut them all to roughly the size that could serve as the bowl of a wooden spoon. So I have 10 pieces of wood roughly 5” long, 2 1/2” wide and 7/16” thick.

I started with those and put them into a large stock pot with 4 gallons of water and started boiling them, adding more water as it evaporated. After 5 hours of boiling, I baked them at 350 F until they were completely dry – about an hour, but not positive. Then I boiled them 5 more hours (adding water), and then baked them dry again.

As you might expect, much of the wood color came out into the water – and colored all the samples. What I did not expect was that the color soaked well into the wood – almost 1/16”. The samples below were all sanded back to clean grain and took on very similar coloring – despite being taken down to a clean surface on the belt sander. However, I was just trying to simulate long-term abuse in a kitchen. The coloring is just an interesting sidelight.

The results are as follows:
Cherry: Warping and cracking
Walnut: Slight warping
Basswood: No warping or cracking
Maple: Slight warping, Very slight cracking
Ash: No warping or cracking
Unknown: No warping or cracking
Poplar: Slight warping
Alder: Slight warping, moderate cracking
Birch: Warping, no cracking
Red Oak: Warping and heavier cracking.

About the “Unknown”: I labeled each piece with a marker, but the “Before photo” I didn’t have a good angle and can’t see the printing. After all the boiling, the lettering is difficult-to-impossible to make out. Below is a photo taken and blown up. If anyone can make out the name (or identify from the “before” picture), I’ll repost this with the name included.

I looked up the toxicity of wood in: http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity/
None of the woods listed above mention toxicity, although all of them have the capability of harming us while being worked on. If nothing else, I recommend the site as a good reference for those people who work with exotic or unusual woods.

-- Bob www.singularengineering.com - A sideline, not how I earn a living



5 comments so far

View stefang's profile (online now)

stefang

13251 posts in 2020 days


#1 posted 08-13-2014 12:20 PM

Interesting experiment Bob. I don’t know a whole lot about what is best, but I do know that here in Norway birch is used mostly for spoons, spatulas and the like. This is due in large part because birch doesn’t impart any wood taste to food and some claim that it is also slightly antibacterial. It can also take a lot of abuse. There are probably lots of other good choices, but we use a lot of birch utensils and I can personally vouch for their longevity and lack of wood flavor. With it’s closed grain and fine texture it is also a favorite wood for carving in case one wants to decorate those utensils. On the down side it’s not very exciting wood to look at.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View bobkberg's profile

bobkberg

363 posts in 1759 days


#2 posted 08-14-2014 12:18 AM

Thanks Mike! I only noticed a small amount of warping – since that wouldn’t matter much on a spoon or spatula it would probably never be noticed.

-- Bob www.singularengineering.com - A sideline, not how I earn a living

View Picklehead's profile

Picklehead

609 posts in 615 days


#3 posted 08-14-2014 01:18 AM

“unknown” looks like mahogany, maybe

-- You've got to be smarter than the tree.

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

899 posts in 172 days


#4 posted 08-14-2014 01:26 AM

I’d guess sapele

-- "We build our workshops. Then we enjoy the fruits of our labor by laboring for more fruits." - Me

View bobkberg's profile

bobkberg

363 posts in 1759 days


#5 posted 08-14-2014 04:06 AM

Thanks to both of you for helping! I don’t know why I couldn’t think of Mahogany. I’m pretty sure it isn’t Sapele because I only bought common hardwoods. Perhaps a senior moment?

-- Bob www.singularengineering.com - A sideline, not how I earn a living

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