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!