Spoon Carving Lesson

By the way, the “lesson” here was for me.  Spoiler Alert: watch the grain.

I’ve watched the first three of Paul Seller’s videos so far.  I want to try the various projects and techniques he shows as I’m watching them, and shop time has been scarce.  6th grade finals for my son, re-org at work and assorted minor dramas that keep life interesting.

I had so much fun with the spoon carving I decided I’d do another.  Global Wood, which I’ve blogged about before, is near my office.  That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.  I tend toward the former, other members of my family the latter.  I stopped in a few weeks ago and picked up some interesting scraps.  A couple of subtly colored bits of Claro Walnut, one interesting piece with a bold bit of sapwood and one that is sort of outrageously colored/figured.  Also a small offcut of Camphor Burl.

Interesting Scraps for Spoon Carving

The Camphor made me nostalgic.  I made a drawer for a wall cabinet years ago from a bit of non-burled Camphor.  It was a small flitch that I had to re-saw, joint and thickness plane into submission.  I ended up ankle deep in Camphor chips, the entire shop awash with the fragrance of Camphor.  It was amazing.  I think I can make a small coffee scoop from this piece.

Camphor Burl

What I wanted to get some more experience with was chiseling off the waste, especially with a denser, harder wood like Walnut.  I sketched out a few ideas for spoons…

Claro Walnut Scrap and Spoon Ideas

Marked one one on the Claro blank and made some relief cuts.

Ready to Remove the Waste from the Profile

I started with the outside curve, using the chisel bevel up.  I’m cutting across the grain with little chance of splitting bits off.  I’m using a plastic-handled Stanley chisel here, nothing fancy.  It’s one that I had laying around, it was pretty nasty but I ground and sharpened it and it does a nice job on this work.

Chiseling off the Waste

But when I started working the other way, bevel up of course, disaster struck.  Looking at the picture it’s obvious what happened and what I did wrong.  The grain is very clear, but problems are always clearer in retrospect.  I should have been taking much smaller bites when working here.  The grain is going down, the shape of the handle is going up and this piece of wood is going in the kindling pile.

Rut-Roh…What Did I Do Wrong?

Back to square one.  At least this mistake didn’t draw blood.

Starting Over, Transferring the Design

This time I resolved to pay more careful attention to the grain.  Part of the problem is that there are long gaps between time I can steal away to the shop.  When I do get out there it’s been at least a week, lately it’s been several weeks and I’m not quite focussed.  Maybe I can do a few warm up exercises to get my fingers limber and my brain engaged next time.

This time I looked at the grain, made a test cut to see how it was going to work and paid attention to it.  At the beginning of the video you can see the part on the left edge where I made a test cut.  See which way the grain wants to split?

Chop off the Bulk, Pare to the Line

Success at Last

This is great practice, and fun to boot.  You could do it with a bandsaw, turning saw or even a coping saw too.  The real point, for me, is to learn how to use a chisel – not the end result.  Even more importantly, to learn how to read the grain and account for that.  And to learn how to focus on the project and take the entire effort into account so that the end result is something pleasing.

Categories: Uncategorized | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Spoon Carving Lesson

  1. Wow! This looks really fun. Sounds like you’re learning some really good techniques from PS.

    How did film and chisel at the same time?

    • I had my son Kolya film it, he needs to work on his filming technique. But I need to work on my carving technique, so it all comes out in the wash.

      I carved a bowl today, it’s came out OK. In recent magazines I’ve see articles for carving a bowl with a tablesaw (!) and another for making a sled for routing out a seat shape. I want to be able to do those things with just the hand tools I have. Plus a few more. Maybe several more.

      • LOL! I solved this problem (bowl carving). My neighbor across the street got a lathe!

      • I want a wood lathe too, but I don’t think that would work for this bowl – it’s oval 🙂

  2. I made the spatula and it looks like a spoon with a hole in it. I’m going to try a spoon so maybe I’ll get the spatula without a hole this time. Sometimes reading the grain ain’t so easy.

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