I’ve done a fair amount of carving over the years, with creations in categories ranging from signs to decorative decoys. However, these two items are in a new category for me – spoon carving. I arrived at this subject by a circuitous route. My original interest in greenwood working and chairmaking led me to the works of Roy Underhill and Drew Langsner. Drew, in turn led me to spoon carving, and that led me to the video, Carving Swedish Woodenware, starring Jogge Sundquist. Jogge is the son of renowned Swedish spoon carver Willi Sundquist, and carries on the tradition in his father’s stead.
Spoon carving is an old tradition in many countries, where small items were made during the winter months when it was too cold to work outside. These can range in style from the utilitarian to oranate decorative pieces, with adornments such as chip carving or kolrosing.
One of the great attractions for me is that the source material is usually wood that is really unfit for much else. Branch sections with sharp curves make the best choice for spoon wood. The idea is to let the bowl of the spoon and the curves of the handle follow the natural grain lines in the wood. This gives you a much stronger structure with less end-grain runout to weaken the wood or allow excessive absorption of cooking liquids. This results in woodenware that is both strong and long-lasting.
These two are my first and second efforts. The smaller was the first. Done in pecan, it was the testbed for Sundquist’s spoon-carving techniques. The larger, in cherry, was my personalization of the concept, with the idea of a combination spoon and pot-scraper/stirrer. The smaller spoon actually has the better grain structure of the two, as you can see by the oval pattern in the bowl of the spoon. The cherry one didn’t adhere closely enough to the grain of the branch, but still was worth the trouble to make. Both were finished with a soaking in walnut oil. My daughter has already asked for one, so I’m at it again.
Few specialized tools are needed, although a good small axe and turning saw really make the rough work go quickly. Beyond that, it’s mostly knife work. I WOULD strongly recommend at least getting a Swedish-style curved knife. I got one from Del Stubbs at Pinewood Forge, along with one of his sloyd knives, and can’t recommend them highly enough. Not only does he sell great knives, but he also has wonderful links to different spoon carving resources. Another useful tool is a medium-sized carving gouge such as a 3/4″ #8. For another great source for articles on spoon carving, check out Kari Hultman’s Village Carpenter blog, and enter “spoon” in the search engine. She has an impressive amount of experience on the subject, as well as on the use of chip carving as decoration.
Spoon carving requires little in the way of equipment outlay, uses wood that’s useless for anything else but firewood, and serves as a great way to while away those evenings when it’s too late to be working in the shop, and you’d rather not watch what’s on television.
Besides, TV rots your brain.