The utensil making process #3: Working The Bowl Of The Spoon

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Blog entry by osageman posted 03-20-2009 03:53 AM 3363 reads 4 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Sanding The Spoon Part 3 of The utensil making process series no next part

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Thanks to all who ventured a guess, in the spoon contest. And the tree was, an American elm…We have the 3 winners. They are… 1.) John Grey, 2.) P Grene, 3.) and Max… I have already contacted them about their wooden utensil. Next month we will have a go at it again. This time the rules will be layed out better. The winner will have their choice of the utensils I make. From now on, there will be just one winner…

Now that we all know who won the 3 utensils, let’s look at the next installment in, “The utensil making proccess.

Here are the tools you will need for this part of the proccess. 1st, set you drill press where you are comfortable with the speed. I changed mine several times before I was satisfied. I picked up the grinding knobs at a Woodcrafters store at 87th and I-35 South in the Kansas City area. Look through their online store to find them. I don’t know how other brands work, I just know that the kutsall brand does the best job for me. I’ve tried lots of different tools for this part and the ones I’m telling you about work the best. I have thought and thought about the proccess of the bowl and ways to make it easier, But the way I’m sharing is the best I have been able to come up with. If anyone has a better way, PLEASE SHARE IT WITH ME… All 3 tools have a 1/4 inch shaft. One is for the sanding and the other 2 are for the grinding out of the bowl. The 2 for the grinding are: 1.) I use just a cheap carbide, 1/4 inch course grinding knob (round) You’ll use this one after you finish the drilling. The next one is a kutsall brand of grinder. It is a 1/4 inch grinding tip, oblong with a round cutting edge. Make sure you get the BLUE ONE. They make each one in a different color. This one is the course grinding knob. BUT, it makes a nice finish in the bowl of the spoon. They are around $20. I have used mine for 3 years now, and it’s still as sharp as when I bought it. And the 3rd thing you need is the 1/4 inch sanding disk. They make 2 sizes, get the smaller sanding disk. They fit (snap on and off) on the end of the shaft. They have 2 different grits, 80 and 120. You’ll need both.

Everyone that is following along should have their utensil cut out and sanded and ready for the next step. Hopefully, you are happy (I didn’t say satisfied) with the shape of your utensil. We are now ready to work on the bowl of the spoon. Don’t let this part intimidate you and be harder than it really is. I make 6 different sizes of “spoons” From giant ladles (20”inches long) to tea spoons (6” long) that you use in your tea cup.

I would rather make a large spoon (12”) than a tea spoon any day. it takes me about an hour to make a lg spoon BUT 11/2 hours to make a tea spoon. The smaller the utensil, the more meticulous and careful you must be.

Hopefully you have a drill press. I use a drill press for the start of the bowl. And I use the size bit that corresponds to the size of the spoon bowl I’m working on.

You’ll need a pencil (sharp and pointed) to trace around the edge of the spoons bowl. I use my thumb nail as a guide to trace a line around the bowl of the spoon. You want to have a trace line of about 1/8 inch (from the edge of the bowl) around the edge of the bowl. You want to stay within those lines as you are working on the bowl.

Now that you have the trace line, you need to decide what the top of the bowl will be shaped like. (this is the part where the spoon bowl and the handle meet). Just look at an old wooden spoon to get an idea. Or go back and look at pics of the spoon I put on my profile. You can see what it should look like. Nothing fancy, just hand draw a line there… I have a template that I use.

For your 1st spoon, I wouldn’t make the bowl too deep. Make this 1st spoon shallow to gain an understanding of whats involved with carving out the bowl. As you gain more knowledge and confidence, then go deeper. The deeper you go, the more difficult it is to sand. Once you have the line completely traced around the bowl of the spoon, you can start drilling out the bowl. What’s important to remember here is, to stay away from the edge of your pencil line and DON”T drill toooooooooo deep into the bowl. REMEMBER, you have to go down past the drilling and blend in that part.(sanding the bowl smooth) SO, your spoon bowl will be about an 1/8 of an inch more than when you stopped drilling.

Start drilling in the middle, taking into account how much wood you have on the bottom ( how thick it is to the bottom) That will be your guide as to how deep you go. REMEMBER, you have to shape the bottom of the spoon and that will reduce the amount that you can take out of the bowl area. I do everything by “feel” And once you learn the proccess you will too.

Remember, as you drill closer to the side of the bowl, don’t drill as deep.(deeper in the middle and then gradually less as you come towards the sides) I stay away from my trace line about 2/8”inches. Remember, this has to be blended in also. EVERYTHING ON A WOODEN UTENSIL HAS TO BE BLENDED IN…So take this into account on any part of the proccess.

Start with the black carbide grinding knob. You will have to figure out how you want to hold it as you grind. I hold the bottom of the spoon with my right hand and the handle with my left hand. Try it both ways and see which works best for you. Also, hold the spoon firmly, but not too tight, and let the grinding knob do the work for you. The KEY, to getting a nicely shaped bowl is to work the grinding knob in a natural, circular motion. Work the bowl down with this grinder until you are satisfied with the shape. (stay away from the edges of the spoon) If the grinding knob catches the edge of the bowl, it will rip a small chunk of wood out. If that happens, DO NOT TRY AND FIX IT OR YOU WILL DISTORT THE TOP OF THE SPOON. When you hold the spoon away from you and look at the bowl edge, you want a nice straight edge. We will fix this (as much as possible) when we are almost done with the spoon. When you are done with this stage, your spoon bowl will be almost shaped. As you get down to where your bowl is starting to look good, lighten up on the pressure of the grinding knob. This will naturally take less wood out of the bowl.

When I am about half way done with the bowl, I start to use my thumbs to gage what I need to take out of the bowl. You will be able to feel where the wood needs to come out of. I do this a lot at this stage; always feeling the inside of the bowl. When I am satisfied with the depth and the shape of the bowl it’s time to move to the blue kutsall grinding knob.

Now at this stage you have the bowl shaped, so now it’s time to put the finishing touches on the bowl… Work the Blue grinder in a circular motion just like the other grinder. You should be putting just enough pressure on the ginder to really smooth your bowl out. This is the step where you work to smooth out the edge of the bowl. Start making it look finished. When you are finished with this step the bowl should “look” finished. (but when you feel it, it will still feel a little rough) It is important that you make the bowl of the spoon as smooth as you can at this stage. If you don’t it will take a L-O-N-G time to sand it smooth.

Now, it’s time to finish the bowl with the sanding disk. Start with the 80 grit. Don’t use too heavy of a hand or you will wear out the disk fast. Just let the disk do the work. Unlike the grinders, you don’t want to work the sanding disk in a circular motion. Just work it back and forth, all over the inside of the bowl. When you have it to your liking, trade the 80 grit for the 120 grit. When you are finished with the 120 grit, you should have a nice smooth bowl.

Now, take 220 grit sand paper and hand sand the inside of the bowl (in a circular motion) and the edges of the bowl, to smooth it up and do the final shaping of the bowl. If you are happy with your work then you are ready for the next step. And that is finishing your wifes spoon on the sander. And we will get to that on Monday…

-- OsageWare

4 comments so far

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3715 days

#1 posted 03-20-2009 05:05 AM

Great tutorial. Now can you show photos? A video would be nice if you have that technology. I do better with the look/see approach.

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

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3878 days

#2 posted 03-20-2009 05:06 AM

What kind of grinder do you use? I have a Dremel type and a Craftsman Professional 25,000 rpm die grinder, both are hand held models.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3721 days

#3 posted 03-25-2009 07:40 PM

I’m not posting much, but wanted to comment that I’ve enjoyed reading the blog thus far. Thanks!

View Max's profile


56000 posts in 4266 days

#4 posted 03-28-2009 11:25 PM

I received the spoon that I won from John The Osage Tree. I am here to tell you they are nice very nice. The finish on it feels like silk it is so smooth. Great Craftsmanship and Quality. Thank you so much John.

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

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