In my last blog I detailed a list of ways to get started in crafting a spoon from green wood.
Since that short time ago I have learned some wonderful lessons regarding grain, timber size, and being more aware of the possibilities of a wooden spoons life if we care to use the spoon on a daily basis.
Note: A big thanks to Jarrod Stone Dahl for his guidance and explanations on this timber splitting technique. Jarrod is an amazing green woodworker. Please be sure to check his wonderful talents here: http://jarrodstonedahl.blogspot.com/
Now comes the wrath of the math…..this is where I usually take cover..lol.
Many of you more experienced green wood workers may already have splitting timber into different sections under your belt and understood. For me, splitting timber for spoon making was basically down the middle, remove the branches pith and hopefully getting 2 spoons from a 2-3” diameter inch branch. Nothing wrong with that method, but it may play a strong role in how long your wooden spoons bowl may last a life of constant use.
This is where end grain will appear if you split a branch down the middle then go to town hewing out a spoon blank….there will be no way around that. That end grain or “rings” in the spoons bowl are very pleasing to the eye. These end grain rings show off your spoons grain in a terrific pattern. Unfortunately one very important problem may occur from this. Every time end grain soaks water from eating, cleaning, etc, the water needs to release almost like a blocked garden hose. That pressure after some time may cause the spoons bowl to begin a crack if your spoons bowl is not strong and supported enough. I learned this by reading an article from Del Stubbs. Del is a very talented and experienced craftsman, tool maker and spoon maker. His sloyd knives are off the charts….if you are serious about carving look no further than: http://www.pinewoodforge.com/catalog.html you will not be disappointed at all.
Now getting back to our possible dilema, too thin of a spoon bowl with end grain rings can possibly spell a short life for your creation. Again nothing is guaranteed with wood, it moves and we have to deal with it…lol.
Here is an example that most of us use. A piece of 2-3” diameter branch we split and make one or two spoons from. This split would be known as Tangential.
Note: I am only using the measurement of 2-3” of timber diameter merely as an average number for the bowls width. You may still apply these ideas with 1-5” lets say…or varied sizes. Please keep in mind that 2-3” is a nice play room as you carve so your spoons bowl at the width is not too slender.
If you only have small diameter timber such as leftover branch limbs around 2-3” inches the story is not all sad. If your spoons bowl has end grain in it than it is suggested that thickening your bowls support underneath from the keel to tip will improve your spoons strength and lifespan.
This information at the end of the day is only additional education where the carver can make their choice when producing a wooden spoon to enjoy. From my studies I have found that there is no real right or wrong method there is only a preference for the maker and what timber sizes they have available.
Of course if our 2-3” diameter branch has a crook or a natural curve or bend in it, we will be doing fine with this size of timber. The bend is natures built in pattern literally showing us the form to shape our spoon. The whole trick here is seeing the path of the grain. Studying the branches crook we may have all we will need depending on your design and curvature you want to apply.
Here is an example of a crooked branch. Here the fibers of grain give us a natural lift so our spoons bowl may be totally without end grain inside the bowl. Crooked or bent branches are always fun to find and teach our eyes to see the shapes within those beautiful trees! Take a hike in the woods and do some spoon hunting!
For those of you who have some nice 15-7 inch diameter trunk wood splitting the timber radially is the way to go. If we split our piece radially we will get many nice spoon blanks and also relieve the end grain from appearing bullseye or a large section of it in our spoons bowl. This format as well as the crooked or bent smaller branch wood also supports the “form follows fiber” instruction to some degree that Jogge Sundqvist discusses and teaches. This way we can see grain that runs straight with a slight turn left or right through most of our spoon. Depending on how you split the wood, many times you will get a very straight grain path running throughout and of course the straighter the grain the stronger the spoon will be.
Here is an example of having a nice 7-15” diameter log of trunk wood. We can split this like pie pieces and make ourselves a good many spoon blanks from this without dealing with too much end grain in our spoons bowl. This process would be known as radial splitting
Here is an example of one of the removed pieces from our radial split.
Here is what your prepared spoon blank should look like after hewing it with your hatchet.*
So what does all of this complicated grain stuff mean? It is only additional education of the craft of making good spoons. Again there is no horror in doing a tangential split and making a nice spoon. This is only a warning that perhaps with heavy use the spoon may encounter checking issues in the spoons bowl. Guess what…it may never ever happen…that’s wood for ya…lol. Basically the best advice in a better understanding of all of this is go out and try it! I had a pretty difficult time wrapping my brain around the different planes of wood and how the grain runs so please do not feel like your not picking this up.
Like any subject matter the further you explore and study the more wonderful knowledge you can attain. Spoon craft continues to surprise me, pull me away from my other projects and keeps me learning. Spoon carving has made me a better woodworker, taught me skills otherwise I may not have ever tried. I suppose it is that feeling of green woodwork, that we may be out in the forest and we have more contact with that raw rugged tree. Our exercises from working at the log have strengthened our muscles physically as well as mentally. Our eyes understand natures ways a little more and our ears remind us of the tones of triumph, patience and caution.
In closing….you will not be able to attain this total understanding of carving and shaping without the hatchet. A band saw will not do the work justice if it is a higher education of spoon making you seek. The hatchet tells us automatically the grains story, the blade is communicating with the wood where the best cuts will naturally be hewn allowing the strength to follow a natural improved sculpture. This careful Sloyd work is not for quick duplication pumped though electric machines, it is an aged old wisdom the student must sweat and work with a determined diligence. I only get more humbled by seeing the masters work their magic. Much of my knowledge is from reading the guidance of Mr. Wille Sundqvist. By the way….he is 87 years strong and still making bowls and spoons in the cold of Sweden…spoons keep you young! A documentary is in the works…I cannot wait and it is long overdue! See that great news here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/761142325/the-spoon-the-bowl-and-the-knife-craftsman-wille-s
I hope a few of you out there may give this stuff a try and enjoy the journey!
Thanks for reading friends and take care!
-- "Make something you love tomorrow...and do it slowly" JLB