Salad Spoon Set

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Blog entry by daltxguy posted 09-29-2010 05:09 AM 4840 reads 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

These salad spoons and a little bonus spoon were carved from recycled wood ( rimu – dacrydium cupressinum). Below is a bit of history of how they used to be made and in particular how I made this one, considering that it was from recycled wood and not from a tree.

Traditional spoon making

Historically spoons were rived from a log and rough carved with an axe. Riving, or splitting wood was usually done with a froe and a mallet. A hatchet was used to shape and smooth the general shape. The bowl was then carved with a spoon knife – a curved bladed knife.

The process has as much to do with the tools available as with the materials used.

Spoons, bowls and general eating utensils, termed ‘treen’ were fabricated as needed out of wood before metal and plastics were commonly available and where needed by generally skilled homesteaders. As the tools for fabricating it were probably part of the general tool kit of most households and the materials from which they were made were abundantly available, treen making was probably considered just another chore in a homestead much like growing crops, making soap, spinning yarn or drawing water from a well.
The method of splitting the wood from a log to form the blank for a spoon serves several purposes. It takes advantage of the natural tendency of wood to easily split along its grain which runs in the direction of the trunk. This eliminates the need to cut wood with a saw, a laborious process. Also, wood split this way takes advantage of the natural strength of the material. By splitting the wood along its grain, cross grain is eliminated, giving strength to the spoon and eliminating the tendency to warp.

As with anything utilitarian, fancier versions were also created by folks artists and today we regard treen making as a specialty woodworking craft.

My method, at least this time

While I would very much like to produce spoons in the traditional way, the material being used here dictates the process in this case. The wood being used is Rimu which is recycled from house renovations . As the wood was already milled for house construction, there is no need to rive the blank from a log and the grain direction is imposed by the recycled piece. Since the availability of Rimu is now limited, care also has to be taken to use the existing resources as carefully and as efficiently as possible. As a result, the blanks are cut from the wood using a bandsaw but even still, care is taken to use the straightest grain from the recycled pieces and to cut along the grain as much as possible.

Figure 1 – Rimu ‘Sarking’

Figure 2 – Cutting the spoon blank from recycled rimu sarking on the bandsaw

The desired pattern is largely drawn freehand and there is a lot of freedom at this step. This pretty much determines what kind of spoon or utensil you will be making from the wood. Since all wood is used, sometimes it is the shape of the piece remaining from a previous project which dictates what will be made.

Since we are then starting with a blank closer to the final shape, shaping with a hatchet would be overkill at this point and wasteful. The spoon is still shaped with handtools but because we already so close to a final shape a much finer handtool can be used. A spokeshave is the main means of shaping the handle round and the back of the spoon to a curved surface and to clean up any bandsaw marks.

Figure 3 – The spoon is clamped and the handle rounded with a spokeshave

The next step is to shape the back of the spoon and this too is done with the spokeshave. You can see the spoon beginning to take shape now. Spoon making is not unlike carving an elephant – remove all of the parts which do not look like an elephant!

Figure 4 – Back of the spoon being shaped

From here the next step is to carve the bowl. Since, in this case, we are not making a deep bowl such as that which might be used for a soup ladle, we don’t need to drill out the bowl or carve a steep angle into the bowl. Instead of a curved knife carving spoon, a shallow gouge chisel is used.

At this point the spoon shape is nearly final and what follows next is a lot (a lot and probably never enough!) of sanding with increasing grits of software from 100 grit to 400 grit. Any imperfections in the shape or tool marks are touched up at this stage though the absolute removal of hand tool marks is not pursued with fanaticism.
The spoon is finished with several applications of pure linseed oil ( ie: flaxseed oil), linseed oil of course being perfectly food safe.

Figure 5 – Sanding and sanding and sanding

Figure 6 – Spoon and grain detail

From the workshop of Steve Racz

Beautiful Murchison, New Zealand

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

10 comments so far

View TreeBones's profile


1827 posts in 4051 days

#1 posted 09-29-2010 05:34 AM

Very impressive and very cool. Thanks. I want to go out and do some Reiving and shaving the old fashioned way to make wooden utensils.

-- Ron, Twain Harte, Ca. Portable on site Sawmill Service

View matai's profile


32 posts in 2844 days

#2 posted 09-29-2010 09:00 AM

Great to see efficient use of recycled timber and makes me think of looking out for some second hand carving chisels, as I expect my fancy new bench chisels would be far from ideal for this task. Nice history lesson too, I’d never heard the word treen before.

-- Dave, Christchurch NZ

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3143 days

#3 posted 09-29-2010 11:48 AM

thank´s for sharing your process of it
but I just wonder (as I learned in school 35 years ago)
why you don´t carve the hollow side first ?


View helluvawreck's profile


31417 posts in 2894 days

#4 posted 09-29-2010 12:51 PM

This was a very interesting post; The picture of the mountains is beautiful and it reminds me a little of Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains. take care

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3942 days

#5 posted 09-29-2010 01:00 PM

Dave, I only own a single gouge chisel but I am in the process of trying to make a curved knife (out of an old jigsaw blade) but I also noticed the local vet had some knives for hoofs ( rural vet of course). I just might get one and try that, it was only $10.

Dennis, actually I think I did but I described it the wrong order. It makes more sense of course because it is easier to carve the insides while the back is still flat.

Hellavuwreck – I’ve been through the smokies and there are days when it does look like that.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3143 days

#6 posted 09-29-2010 01:29 PM

I gess if you have one of the small knifescorps and use a leather appron to rest the spoons against
it wuolden matter i think thats what they did in the old days in Skandinavia
and there toolbench for this kind of kitchenittemps was a shavinghorse and a sawbench
actuly the saws and sawbeches was intruduced very late they nearly did all work with axe´s and drawknife´s
when they make timber for houses and otherthings

after all they hadn´t the bandsaw…..LOL
niice spokeshave by the way

take care

View a1Jim's profile


117126 posts in 3605 days

#7 posted 09-29-2010 02:24 PM

Looks like fun well done.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Woodwrecker's profile


4154 posts in 3603 days

#8 posted 09-29-2010 04:14 PM

Great job.
Nice history.
Awesome scenery.

-- Eric, central Florida / Utor praemia operibus duris

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 3133 days

#9 posted 09-30-2010 06:08 AM

You, and a few other posters in the last few months, have renewed my interest in making wooden utensils. Now if i only had the time, or could give up box making for a while. Thanks for the post.

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3942 days

#10 posted 09-30-2010 06:50 AM

Dennis, I would love to have been around the timber framing scandanavians with only an axe and a drawknife to make everything!
That spokeshave is a very nice modern piece from Lee Valley and a joy to use. I have been a Lee Valley fan since just after they opened and Mr Lee could still be found behind the counter sometimes in Ottawa.

Robert, you need fewer tools and less time to make a spoon and no glue-ups. With your projects, a spoon would just be an offcut!

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

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