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Questions about carving spoons and bowls

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Forum topic by woodcarverhur posted 04-18-2016 04:30 PM 1728 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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woodcarverhur

3 posts in 275 days


04-18-2016 04:30 PM

I’m about to make my first attempt carving a spoon and a bowl out of some basswood and had a couple questions before I begin.
-Are there any safety precautions I need to take when using a hook knife and my primary carving knife?
-Is there any tips you have to make things go smoother or make my end result look better when carving these items?
-How big or small are the wood blocks you use to carve a spoon and/or bowl?
Any other useful ideas or tips you guys have would help a lot.


26 replies so far

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jdh122

885 posts in 2323 days


#1 posted 04-18-2016 05:25 PM

My main suggestion would be to forget about the basswood (assuming it’s in lumber form) and make them out of a green log (white birch is one of the best for this). Green wood is so much more enjoyable to work for this kind of project. For a bowl you generally start with an ax and adze before moving on to the knives.

For a bowl I use the largest half logs I can get, although I suppose you could reach a point that the bowls were too big. As I live in a city and have no easy access to green wood I take what I can get when I see it.
Others will have better advice than me on safety precautions for carving dried basswood, but for green wood bowl carving the most important thing is not to strike with the ax more than half way up the piece that you’re holding in your other hand. When doing the ax work I use a protective glove in my holding hand, but take it off once I start with the curved knife/gouge/large knife.

Not trying to hijack your thread: you can no doubt make a nice bowl out of dried basswood carving blocks (for a spoon that was going to get regular use I’d be concerned about strength), but this is exactly the type of project that was made for green wood.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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Karda

117 posts in 59 days


#2 posted 12-09-2016 07:06 PM

never heard of carving green wood. What about splitting when the wood dries. That woud be terrible to spend a lot of time on a carvinhg only to have it split when it dries

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Karda

117 posts in 59 days


#3 posted 12-09-2016 07:06 PM

never heard of carving green wood. What about splitting when the wood dries. That woud be terrible to spend a lot of time on a carvinhg only to have it split when it dries

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ClaudeF

305 posts in 1213 days


#4 posted 12-10-2016 05:16 PM

Personally, I wouldn’t use basswood for a cooking spoon. Although it’s a hardwood, it’s pretty “soft” for cooking. I’d suggest woods such as poplar, birch, walnut, maple, cherry, olive. I’ve even made cooking spoons from Padauk and Purpleheart. If these are going to be gifts, you should inquire first about allergies. Some people are allergic to nuts, for example, and walnut, butternut, etc. might trigger a reaction.

Claude

-- https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClaudesWoodcarving

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Kirk650

340 posts in 254 days


#5 posted 12-10-2016 11:05 PM

I normally use dry Walnut or cherry for spoon making. I turn the handle on the lathe, leaving the spoon head square. Then I can clamp the square spoon head in a vise or on the bench, using the vise and a bench dog. I carve/chisel the spoon hollow with Pfiel carving chisels. Took me a while to choose the proper chisels. Once the hollow is done, I shape the outside of the spoon head with various sanders. The hollow is sanded with a rubber inflatable thingy and the fitted sandpaper I got at Woodcraft.

This all started when a guy asked if I’d make him “a big bean spoon for large pots of beans”. I made quite a few Big Bean Spoons. Practice brings speed.

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Picklehead

1028 posts in 1435 days


#6 posted 12-10-2016 11:19 PM

Here are a few good videos of green wood carving spoons using hook knives. The Ben Orford and Jarrod Stone Dahl videos cover the whole process from log to spoon:

Robin Wood

Ben Orford

Jarrod Stone Dahl

-- You've got to be smarter than the tree.

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Karda

117 posts in 59 days


#7 posted 12-12-2016 03:48 AM

the videos are very informative, but one question i have is is there a problem with cracks or warpage as the work dries

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Picklehead

1028 posts in 1435 days


#8 posted 12-12-2016 05:00 AM

Not unless you try to dry it quickly in an oven or in the sun. Cracks are caused by differential drying at the end versus the middle of the board or workpiece. Since the edges and ends are all tapered and rounded there is essentially more ends and less middle, so less stress and less/no cracking.

Here’s Del Stubbs from Pinewood Forge (maker of some very nice spoon knives) explaining it better:
“Boards 1″ thick sometimes do crack on just the very end, this is because the end grain is like the end of a hose, the moisture shoots out there way faster than the side of the hose, thus it has to shrink rapidly on the end – it’s uneven shrinkage that causes cracking. This effect is greatly worsened when the end of a board is cut at 90 degrees to the side grain – making it either pure severely shrinking end grain – or pure barely shrinking side grain. So…if one can make a gradual slope between the two then that is much kinder to the wood and greatly lessons the uneven shrinkage that causes cracking. (Boards by design need to have this perpendicular end grain cut, so to compensate a coating is used to slow down drying just on the end grain) A tradition in spoon carving from Sweden is to use a boiled potato to smear starch into end grain if there is a large section of it, but usually just roughing out the piece and slow air dry is quite adequate.
A well designed spoon blank is just that, it is all soft slopes between side and end grain, and what end grain is perpendicular to the side grain is kept to a bare minimum.”

-- You've got to be smarter than the tree.

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jdh122

885 posts in 2323 days


#9 posted 12-12-2016 10:58 AM

Normally there is not a problem with the wood cracking, although I have lost one bowl to cracking (but the wood was a bit wonky). Just need a way to slow down the drying a bit – I’ve used the potato method with a lot of success, some just let it dry in a place that’s not too warm or dry, and others use a microwave. Never had a spoon crack – normally the bowl of the spoon’s not very abrupt (as Picklehead’s post explains) and the walls of the piece are thin.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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Karda

117 posts in 59 days


#10 posted 12-12-2016 07:02 PM

thanks, that makes sense, I saved the article from Pinewood Forge I’ll read it later thanks. one other question, what common woods are good for spoons, I know some woods can give a disagreeable taste to food

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Picklehead

1028 posts in 1435 days


#11 posted 12-12-2016 07:41 PM

Birch, cherry, maple, walnut (may cause taste or allergy issues) are the ones I use because they are readily available both green (from my property) or as offcuts from mills or cabinet/furniture shops. Might check with sawmills or people with portable bandsaws for offcuts of sapwood, etc. Nice spoons can come from sapwood/heartwood combinations that are frequently cut off before kiln drying.

-- You've got to be smarter than the tree.

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Karda

117 posts in 59 days


#12 posted 12-12-2016 08:19 PM

ok thanks

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jdh122

885 posts in 2323 days


#13 posted 12-13-2016 06:03 AM

White/paper birch has a fantastic combination of strength and workability when green for making treenware (wooden spoons and bowls). But lots of other wood will work, including many that don’t grow big enough to be used for other projects. Lilac wood is really nice, for example, and I’ve heard good things about rhododendron. Most kinds of fruitwood are beautiful (although a lot harder to carve than birch). The great thing is that it’s easy to experiment since there is no material cost if you get it from a neighbor trimming his trees, and the time investment in a single spoon is small enough that you can easily afford to experiment.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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Karda

117 posts in 59 days


#14 posted 12-13-2016 06:22 AM

thanks for the suggestions another couple question one is about Mora spoon knives are they good I read some where they aren’t pleasant to use, like it is more work than it should be and where can I get spoon blades I can make the handle myself

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jdh122

885 posts in 2323 days


#15 posted 12-14-2016 06:39 AM

I’m not an expert spoon carver or anything, but I do have a Mora spoon knife. I used mine for a while and then decided to upgrade to a hand-forged one that cost about $100. But you can carve the bowls of spoons with a Mora and it’s hard to beat the price. Make sure, though, that you get one that is not sharpened on both sides. The ones that have two sharpened surfaces are harder to use since you can’t push the blade with your thumb. It also helps to re-grind the edge with a less steep bevel.
You can get un-handled knife here: http://pinewoodforge.com/product/blades-for-spoon-carving-to-make-your-own-knife/ and probably from other makers as well. Price seems pretty good, though there’s a 2 month waitlist…

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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