Thursday, 26 December 2013

SPOON # 50 & 51 - Thursday 26 th December

Having run out of wood last week, I decided it was time to go out and get some. I'd tried a local tree surgeon whose house I pass everyday, but there's never anyone home, as was the case on this instance. So I put a note through the door explaining my circumstances in the hope that they'd get back to me, but no such luck.

So last Saturday evening I set out to a nearby wood with a bow saw. I hadn't really thought it through properly, a fact bourn out by how dark it was when I got there and that I couldn't actually see what trees I was looking at. I found what I presumed was a variety of willow growing beside a river with some tall, straight pollard type branches.

I got it home and carved a couple of spoons. It was very green wood, very wet and as such I had to be careful that it didn't dry out too quickly and crack.

I tried to do some nautical, scrimshaw type kolrosing - as you can see I found the little curls quite difficult so need to work on that.

The brown mark in the middle of the spoon that looks like a burn is a burn. As I was carving the spoon it began to split at the tip of the bowl so I popped it in the micro wave for several 20 second blasts in order to dry it out. On the last blast I gave it 30 seconds and burned it - oh well.

This is a spoon design I have used before, but previously with a smaller bowl that looked more like a tea spoon - I think it works much better with a larger bowl and is more practical as an eating spoon now.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

SPOON # 49 - Sunday 15th December

Here is another little laurel eating spoon - the last of my laurel. A simple design with a bit of kolrosing - in the new year I'd really like to do a lot more kolrosing. I've always been a fan of scrimshaw and fancy myself a bit of a scrimshander, even though I've never actually done any. Come to think of it, I quite fancy a go at shotgun engraving too. When I was about 17 I used to work with a bloke, Uncle Chris, who had been a jewellery engraver in a previous life and he'd let me use his graving tools and took me to Birmingham jewellery quarter to buy a small quantity of silver which I carved into a love spoon pendant for my girlfriend- come to think of it, that was the first spoon I ever made.

This is a very simple pattern, I began with the intention of having another go at basket weave pattern, but soon realised I'd got the angles on the transecting lines wrong so went with this simple criss-cross instead.

I rubbed the kolrosing with charcoal - I'm sure I've read that this is a traditional method - and it worked fairly well. It looked like a dirty smudge at first, but after a rub down with walnut oil it looked okay.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

SPOON # 48 - Saturday 7th December

After last week's disasters I have to say I am quite pleased with this week's spoon. It's another laurel spoon, which means I was kind of restricted size-wise, as it is only a relatively thin branch that I have been using. Again, it has some rather nice tortoise-shell like patterning to the wood, which will deepen with age. It's an eating spoon, size-wise. I have fallen into the habit of carving a really smooth finish, and sanding a little, on the inside of the bowl and leaving it tooled on the outside.

As you can see, the handle profile is very curvaceous - wasn't sure at first if it would work
or be a little over the top. I think it's okay.

I used my crook knife again on the underside of the handle to make concave cuts along the side of the keel,
making it feel a little slimmer.

I really like the honey tones of this wood. I'll certainly keep my eyes open for laurel again. As it happens, I have enough left for one more little spoon, then I am all out of wood. I'll have to put out some feelers for something to see me through to New Year.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Just a quick one to say Happy Christmas to all my friends, fellow carvers, green woodworkers, bushcrafters and any one else who might stumble across my blog.

My wife took this photo of my carving in the sitting room last night - she said it was for the purpose of putting something a little festive on my blog but I suspect her divorce solicitor has advised her to collect evidence.

Either way - HAPPY CHRISTMAS - I'd be interested to hear what new knives and axes you find in your stockings!

SPOONS # 45, 46, 47 - 17th November - 1st December

It's been a really busy few weeks, hence my ability to post any spoons recently. So, I am going to post three in one this week.

I can't honestly say I am very pleased with the three I have to show, for various reasons, but I put most of it down to lack of practise and I find myself in the surprising position of being nearly at the end of my 52 spoons project, by which time I thought I would be a consummate expert, only to find that the spoons I am making are not as good as many I had made previously. That's not to say it's all bad - I'm not even at the end of the project yet and I am considerably better than I was at the beginning and my understanding of the form and design of spoons has increased incredibly. What it tells me is that I can not expect to carve only a single spoon a week, giving it only an hour or so, with tools that I haven't taken the time to sharpen properly and wood that is way below a carvable standard, and still come out with something I am pleased with and proud of.

Any way, here are my three spoon, carved in the order from right to left.

The first one I carved was this little laurel spoon, which I actually don't mind that much.

It's quite a nice shape and colour. I quite like the effect of the knots in the wood, though it does make it hard to carve. I didn't originally mean the handle to be as curvy in profile as it ended up, but I had a spot where I was getting a lot of tear-out so had to carve it out. I used a hooked knife on the reverse of the spoon for the first time, too, meaning that the keel along the back of the handle is actually concave.

Then, last week, I carved this spoon (or should I say, began to carve it):

As you can see, this was from a natural crook and I'd hoped it would give me a lovely spoon. The wood is sycamore or rowan, I found it already cut in my local woods, so didn't know how old or dry it would be. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered it was very dry and fibrous and splintery and it did not carve very well at all. I left it, thinking I would come back to it to finish off once I had sharpened my knives, only to discover last night that it had two crack opening up on the bowl. Just as well really as I should have given up on it right from the first.

Yesterday's spoon is the worst. I only had a little laurel branch wood left, which didn't allow me sufficient width to do a proper crank on the spoon, so I did what I actually dislike immensely, and carved a flat spoon.

I don't know why, but I just don't like it. Oh well, now I know that for sure I'll be careful to avoid that in future (other than for cooking spoons, which work quite well straight).

So the hunt is on to find something a little better to se me through to the new year.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

SPOON # 44 - Saturday 9th November

Well, here we have another laurel spoon.

A little more kolrossing


I had a bit of a panic last week. When I was kid, my big brother Adrian, who was into all things pathology, used to get interesting and exotic insects that he wanted to preserve or make into microscope slides and would put them in a box for a few days with laurel leaves, explaining that the cyanide in the leaves would reverse the effects of rigor mortis and enable him to work on a newly pliable insect exoskeleton. Remembering this fact it suddenly occurred to me that if laurel contains cyanide, it's probably not a good idea to make eating implements from it.

I have since scoured the internet and found a number of confusing (there is a wide variety of laurels and I don't know what the common or garden British variety is called) and contradictory articles. Is there anyone out there who can answer this question once and for all for me?

If you are interested in the Japanese whittling knife in the photos, by the way, have a look at my other blog where I have included a short post about it:

Friday, 1 November 2013

SPOON # 43 - 1st November

This is quite a nice little laurel eating spoon (if I do say so myself - I'm quite pleased with it). Thought I'd try a little kolrossing in something of a tartan style - on my way to trying that basket weave pattern that I like so much. Next time, maybe?

Even with careful measuring, it's hard to get the lines a uniform distance apart.
It doesn't help that my ruler is not flexible, but the handle surface is contoured.
I'm quite pleased with the effect of the gravy browning - yet to see how permanent it is.

I've seen the word kolrossing spelt with both a single and double s - I'm not sure which ~(if either - it's no doubt an anglicised spelling of a Scandinavian word) is right. Sorry if I have got it wrong.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

SPOON # 42 - Thursday 24th October

My wife Ruth (who is very understanding and indulgent, if not positively encouraging of my hobbies and interests) pointed out the other day that my maths had somehow gone astray and that if I kept adding a spoon each weekend until the end of the year I would only manage 51 spoons, which would kind of defeat the point of the blog's title. I have obviously dropped one along the way, hence here is my second spoon of the week and hopefully I am now on track to complete my 52 spoons by the deadline of last weekend in 2013.

When Ruth and I first married we were poorer than church mice. I was a full-time student and she was very quickly pregnant and then a stay at home mother so we had to get by on my student grant (those were the good old days when the government said that all British children had a right to degree level education and they actually paid for us to do it) and the small amounts of money I was able to make unloading vegetables at Safeway early in the morning and ushering (in a rather dashing synthetic blue waistcoat and dickie bow) at the local Showcase Cinema at night. We were given a council flat in a rather run-down part of Birmingham, top floor - 15th floor - which has since been demolished. In an attempt to personalize and liven up the place a little I decided to paint a fish on the bathroom wall, taking for my inspiration the fish (trout I believe) that are carved around the edge of the fountain in Birmingham Town Hall Square - locally known as The Floosy in the Jacuzzi.

Anyway, having made a very short and simple story (about my most recent spoon) long and unnecessarily complicated, I thought I would try to produce said fish on the handle of my latest spoon. I had recently tried carving a spoon handle (as mentioned in my last post) which hadn't turned out satisfactorily, so instead thought I would have a go at kolrossing - the traditional Scandinavian method of scoring a pattern into the wood (rather than actually removing wood, as in carving) and then rubbing in some kind of coloured pigment, I'm led to believe that this would often be fine sawdust or ash.

So, here is my spoon (no prizes for spotting the nod to a Jarrod Stonedahl design), complete with 'fish' coloured with gravy browning.

I love the colour this wood has gone after only a night in walnut oil -
it was really quite 'blonde' when I first carved it.

Ok, so not anatomically correct perhaps (couldn't fit a dorsal fin on) but I'm quite happy with it.
I wasn't sure whether to put an extra line in between each of the 'scales' to make it a
bit finer, but thought I should quit while I was winning.

And just in case you thought everyone from Birmingham was morally loose, here is some good citizen's response to the fountain.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

SPOON # 41 - Sunday 20th October

Julian and I have long been fans of charity shops - for the first 5 years of marriage we pretty-well lived out of them. (My wife Ruth has just pointed out that this sounds like Julian and I were married - if we were then I've got some complaints about how little he helped out with the kids!) Plus, I tend to find that what popular society no longer finds fashionable and so sends off to the charity shops, is actually often exactly what I'm looking for.

Any way, Julian found this spoon in a charity shop, liked it and bought it. It's a very practical cooking and serving spoon and I know he and his wife use it a lot, which is why they were a little disappointed to discover a crack opening up from the front of the bowl.

I really like it too and so took it home with the intention of copying it. And so I tried this weekend, another piece of laurel.

This is not a great picture as the colouration on the right of the bowl
makes it look flat - trust me, it's symmetrical.

You can't see it too well but I have purposely left some axe marks on the front and back of the handle
as I thought it added to the hand-made, rustic look of the spoon.

It's actually quite a deep bowl, but looks flat compared to the original below.

Unfortunately, despite having some lovely colouring, which will oil up beautifully, the wood wasn't quite deep enough and so doesn't have the lovely deep, full bowl that the original had. Don't get me wrong, I like my spoon, it will be a good serving spoon, but I'm going to bide my time till I get something a little bigger and try again.

On a completely different point, it still amazes me to look at the before and after and know that after just an hour or so of carving a chunk of wood can become a spoon.
And on still another note, I had said that I would try and carve the handle of my last spoon, so thought I'd give it a go a couple of nights ago. I have long been an admirer of the carving of Jan Harm ter Brugge, a very skilled carver from Amsterdam whose small scoop workshop I attended at the first Spoonfest. He does a lot of fine decoration and kolrossing on his spoons and often employs a basket-weave pattern, which is very effective and beautiful. Here are a few of his spoons:
actually, I can't show you any of his spoons as for some reason Google wont let me copy the pictures, but if you do an images search you can have a look for yourself. Strangely, there aren't that many images on line - I wish he had a blog that I could follow.
Any way, to cut a long story short, I tried the basket-weave pattern on my spoon handle, it didn't work, it looked pretty awful and I ended up having to carve it back off! I'm going to have to practise this one as I would really like to master it. Any one out there have any tips or advice, I'd be pleased to hear it.