The utensil making process #2: Sanding The Spoon

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Blog entry by osageman posted 03-17-2009 05:50 AM 2971 reads 3 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Wooden Kitchen Utensils Part 2 of The utensil making process series Part 3: Working The Bowl Of The Spoon »

I don’t know if I need a disclaimer or not on safety. So I will just add that, you need to take precaution when sanding and working around power equipment. Just be safe and know your tools…

Now you have your pattern cut out, and you are ready to start sanding the shape. There is really no easy way to explain the process with out photos or videos. I will leave it up to you to read between the lines, (so to speak)

There is 3 parts to a wooden utensil, 1.) the bowl. 2.) the neck (or throat area. This will be the thinest part of the handle area) 3.) and the handle.

Hopefully you left at least 3/16 of an inch around your trace line when you cut the spoon out on the band saw. The better you cut out your pattern the easier it will be to shape it. Example: if you leave 1/4 inch here and 1/16inch there, you will have to work the thick area down to the 1/16” area before you blend it altogether. Just take your time when cutting it out on the bandsaw and the sanding will be much easier. You will need this extra wood to blend in and get that uniform look. One thing I forgot to mention in my last blog was, to leave the throat area of the utensil thicker until you are more experienced. When I first started I had the tendency to make the throat area too small and the finished utensil was too weak in this area. So, determine the strength of the wood you are using to see how thick you need the neck area. This also goes for the thickness of the bowl on the spoon.

The 2 main things to remember when you are sanding, stay away from the throat, and stay away from the edges of the utensil. You will blend in the edges when you are almost finished. What I mean about staying away for the edge is; don’t sand the edge down and round them off. Leave the edges sharp until the last step in the finishing stage. You do sand the corners, but, that is not at this stage of the process.

I use 3, 1×42 inch belt sanders. Each with a different grit belt. The first one is 60 or 80 grit. Don’t go any lower than 60 grit. (it take too much wood at a time and wants to suck the wood in to the belt) I find 80 grit works the best for me. The next one has 220 grit and then 320 grit. I recommend wearing gloves and eye glass protection for the sanding. The 60 or 80 grit takes small pieces of wood and flings them in your eyes

Hold the utensil lightly but with a firm hand. Hold the utensil where it feels the most comfortable for you. Start sanding the sides of the spoon to get the shape you want. Sand in, even, easy strokes. Don’t use a heavy hand, take it easy and let the sanding belt do the work. When you start sanding, work almost down to the line that you traced. Then when you have the utensil nicely shaped, then finish working down to the trace line, (but, leave a faint tracing of the line on the utensil) Remember, to blend in and make it one continual shape. You want it uniform in shape. When you hold it at arms length, you want to see a thing of beauty. It really is an art form. I want people that buy my utensils to see 3 things. 1.) I want them to see a “work of art” 2.) I want them to see a work of art that is functional. And 3.) When they hold my utensil, I want it to fit like it was part of their hand (ergonomic) All you are doing at this stage is getting the spoon ready for the next step of carving out the bowl.

Now, there is something you need to decide at this point before you start sanding the top and bottom. Do you want a leather hanger in your handle. If you do, you need to drill a hole in the end of the handle. I find that it is better to drill the hole in the side and not drill through the top. You need to do it at this stage because the handle is still mostly square, and will be easy to drill a nice straight hole. Take into account where that hole will be when you finish the utensil. You want it in the lower 1/3 of the finished handle as far back as possible. I use leather made for boots. It is treated to be strong. Use a drill bit that is just big enough that you have to lightly force the leather through the hole. Take your time and drill the hole straight.

Now, it’s time to start sanding the top and bottom. All you want to do at this stage is smooth out the top and bottom. Hold the utensil out in front of you to see where you need to shape it. Work it down to the shape you are comfortable with. (I can’t emphsis it enough, stay away from the throat area as much as you can) I like to have the over all shape of the spoon done before I start carving out the bowl. All I want at this point is the appearance of a finished utensil You will blend the throat in when you are almost finished. The throat area is just behind the bowl of the spoon, where the neck starts to get thicker. I work out all the rough areas, and feel it to see if it needs more taken off here or there. Once you get the look and feel, stop.

I don’t worry too much about the bottom of the spoon bowl, I just smooth it up a little bit. At this point when you hold the utensil and look at it, it should have a semi finished shape Hold the utensil on it’s side and now it’s time to work the handle. Once you get the shape that you want with the 80 grit belt, then you need to take it to the next grit belt (220 grit) This will smooth up the spoon and will make it ready for the next step of “working the bowl”. When you are ready to move to the next step of the process, your spoon should have an over all finished shape.

So, what you are doing is laying the foundation for what the finished utensil will look like. Some things to remember while you are sanding are; Stay away from the edges and throat area (I can’t emphasis that enough) make sure the utensil is straight and square. Hold the spoon in your hand and look at it from every angle. Is the handle and top of the spoon bowl square ? When it’s ready for the next step you want to see a utensil that is elegant in shape.

If things get off at the beginning, then they only get worse as you progress.

WOW, this is hard to try and explain without photos or videos. If you were with me in the shop, I could just show you. At some point I will re write the entire process. I’m sure the next step won’t be any easier to explain. Maybe by then I’ll have photos up for you to see. The main thing is, have fun. I don’t mind making mistakes, because, those are the utensils I get to keep and use.

If you start making your utensil and get stuck, just email me and we can talk on the phone. Good success, John

-- OsageWare

3 comments so far

View mmh's profile


3677 posts in 3749 days

#1 posted 03-17-2009 06:24 AM

Nicely done. Maybe you’ll make a video and we can buy tickets and bring popcorn too. I’m going to have to look at my wood pile now . . .

What brand of belt sander do you have? (1” x 42”)

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View BigFoot Products Canada's profile

BigFoot Products Canada

711 posts in 3420 days

#2 posted 03-17-2009 02:23 PM

I’ve always intended on trying this.. I’ve still got it on my to-do list..:) It would be great to see some pics of your work!

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3941 days

#3 posted 03-18-2009 12:46 AM

When you get some photos, you can come back and edit the blog and add them in.

Not having the luxury of so many belt sanders, I have shaped what few spoons I have made using a spokeshave at first, then using a regular 3”x21” belt sander fixed to my bench and changing out a couple of different grits along the way (100,220) and finally a lot of hand sanding with fine grits.

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

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