Saturday, 23 February 2013

SPOON # 8 - 23rd February

I haven't got an awful lot of wood at the moment, and what I do have is fast seasoning and drying out in the back garden, making it increasingly difficult to carve and will soon be good for nothing but the woodburner. So, I thought I'd have a go at making the most of it by carving my biggest spoon so far this year.

For big stirers

I rather like carved items that have the tool marks left on, rather than sanded off -
 though I do sand sometimes, especially if it's an eating spoon and potentially going in someone's mouth.

I used a section of ash that I split a couple of weeks ago and decided to make a spoon that was pretty much as long as the log had been, leaving just a little to cut off either end, to allow for any checking (the end section of wood that had been most exposed to the elements since being originally cut and which was therefore the most dried and cracked - if you allow any of this wood to make up part of your spoon, it WILL crack and split - a lesson I have learned the hard way). I haven't actually measured the spoon, but I have taken a photo with it beside a regular dessert spoon for comparision.

With it being so big, naturally it is a cooking spoon, for stiring sauces, pasta, cous cous, etc. The bowl has that point that means it will reach well into the corners of square-bottomed saucepans. And again I have chosen not to crank the bowl and handle, as it will be used more for stiring than serving. For this reason also I intended to make the bowl fairly shallow, but got carried away smoothing and ended up quite deep anyway. I would really like to get myself a new hooked knife at some point. This is the knife I use for carving out the bowl - if you haven't seen one before, they look like this:

Frosts hooked spoon knife - ole faithful

a very simple idea, but really very ingenious. Anyway, because of the tight radius of the blade on my knife, it means it will take fairly deep, but narrow cuts. What I would like is a blade that is more 'open', sometimes called a finishing knife, or even a twca cam (Welsh spoon knife) that would mean I can cut the length of the bowl in one, smoother cut.

Twca cam - see how long the handle is and how broad the sweep of the blade compared to the bowl of the spoon. This is the one recommended by Barn 'the spoon' Carder - price around £65, if I remember rightly.
A selection of hooked knives - second from right is the Frosts and you can see how much tighter the curve of the blade is compared to the finishing knives on the left.
Again, it's a fairly simple non-decorative finish, but I have carved the end of the handle in what I call a 'biscuit finish' - I call it this because I think the regular notches look a little like a Nice biscuit.

Everybody likes to dunk a Nice - it's so nice!!
Came across this rather 'Nice' chopping board online - available at squarepear.
It still has a couple of weeks drying out and I will oil it with walnut oil (my non-toxic oil of choice) and I imagine, once it has been used and washed a few times, it will develop quite an attractive petina.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

SPOON # 7 - Sunday 17th February

I was hoping I wouldn't have to do this, certainly not so early on in the project, but here I have, for your entertainment, a spoon of convenience. Having been away at EuroDisney for best part of the week, I haven't had time to make a new spoon, and so have had to go to the fire wood where I had discarded this particular spoon as a reject. I have finished it off and it doesn't look too bad, so why did I discard it in the first place?

I think it is actually a very nice shape, following the natural curve of the wood.

Well, it is a willow spoon, carved from a crook, or bent branch. Spoons made in this way are supposed to be preferable as the spoon follows the natural contours of the wood, so giving the spoon extra strength (though, unless you're planning to use your spoon as a tyre iron I'm not sure that using straight wood would mean your spoon being unservicably weak). I have not had much experience of crooks and was quite pleased with this one, until, as is so often the case, I discovered that the crook concealed a knot - the dirty great brown blob you can see in the centre of the bowl. I was so cross as I don't have the time or resources to carve pretty much a whole spoon, only to throw it away, and when the knot actually fell out, leaving a big hole, I knew I had no alternative.

However, as I had to post a spoon, and with necessity being the mother of invention (or botch jobs) I glued the knot back in and completed the spoon. As you can see, I have left it tooled and given it a slight up-sweep at the tip of the handle. Not my finest or proudest moment, but not a bad spoon in the end.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

SPOON # 6 - Saturday 9th February

Spoon number 6 is an ash dessert spoon. Despite the fact that I prefer cranked spoons, this is the second in a row that I've made which is straight. That’s not to say I don’t like straight spoons. There are some carvers out there who make some lovely ones – I follow Simon Hill on his blog:
He has made some lovely straight spoons lately, highly decorative and beautifully finished. Have a look – his spoons are for sale and well worth the price, I think.

Mine is a fairly simple spoon, but I have carved the end in what I have come to call ‘Jarrod-style’. Jarrod Stonedahl is one of my all-time favourite spoon carvers. He makes very delicate, often painted, practical yet decorative spoons, many of which seem to utilize a similar technique on the end-of-the-handle carving. It is simple, but to my eyes, very effective and quite Victorian looking. Just have a look at Jarrod's spoon rack - brilliant!

I did see Jarrod at Spoonfest but didn’t actually get to do his class, so have kind of worked it out by looking at a spoon that my brother Julian bought of his, as well as pictures from his website. It simply entails carving notches (straight-sided ‘v’ cuts) and cornices (curved cuts) in the edge profile of the stem or handle. Then a long 45 degree cut is made on the top edge of the handle, in effect chamfering it. This has the effect of adding an extra dimension to the d├ęcor, something which I think is really elegant.

Have a look at this spoon of Jarrods and you’ll see what I mean:

I particularly like the white spoon - it looks so 'authentic' and could easily have been made a hundred or so years ago.
Jarrod also sells his spoons and if you can get hold of one, I would highly recommend them. Julian eats his breakfast with one every morning and it holds up to regular use really well.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

SPOON # 5 - 3rd February

When I first began carving spoons, often sat around a camp fire, whittling away the evening, I was quite interested in the decorative aspect of what I was carving - patterns, twists, lettering,etc. As I carved more, the actual form of the spoon became more important as well as functionality, whilst decoration took something of a back seat. So for this week's spoon I thought I'd have a go at someting a little more decorative.

Again it's an ash spoon, though carving on this one was not so easy as I'd split it a couple of weeks ago and it had been indoors, where it had dried out a little more than I would have liked. It has what I call a reversed bowl - imagining the bowl as an egg shape, on modern spoons it is conventional for the thick end to be nearest the stem of the handle, with the narrower, pointed end being at the tip. A reversed bowl is just that, where the thick end is at the tip and the pointed end at the handle. I've left on the tool marks and, unusually for me, not crancked the handle at all.

The design on the handle is a very simplified celtic twist. One of my favourite Saturday activities is to sit in front of the Six Nations Rugby and carve a spoon or kuksa on my little portable stump in the sitting room. My wife is very indulgent of my hobbies and allows me to carve in the house as the sitting room floor is wooden and I can sweep my shavings straight into the wood burner. So I thought I'd carve this spoon in comemoration of the opening game between Ireland and Wales which I was watching while I carved it.

It still needs further drying, then oiling, and I am hoping I might get a little colour or darkening in the lower carved sections, and this should show off the relief even further. I have a really nice set of Flexcut palm chisels somewhere, but I suspect they are either in my garage or shed, which are both still in 'winter-mode' - meaning we have simply thrown everything in there over the winter, just to get things out of the way, and they both need a good spring cleaning, which I hope will uncover the chisels. If I'd got them to hand I think I would have done a little more carving on the twist to highlight the shape of the bands. Maybe once the spoon is completely dried out and I've finally found the chisels.