Saturday, 23 March 2013

SPOON # 12 - Saturday 23rd March

Last week I struggled with a piece of applewood that my friend Dave had given me. I'd had high hopes and expectations of producing some spectacular and interestingly coloured spoons. I did make some spoons, but it was hard going - the wood was fibrous and difficult to work, with lots of knots, swirls and tear-out. Alex suggested that it might have been because the apple tree that the wood had come from had been heavily pruned, encouraging lots of side growth, which would in turn cause the wood grain to be irregular. He's probably right.

This week, Dave brought me a scruffy, gnarly old bit of lilac, a wood that I hadn't carved before. I didn't hold out much hope, but thought I'd got nothing to loose to give it a go.

A raggedy bit of lilac.
 I took it into the garden to saw it into usable sections - there was a main trunk section that I thought I could possibly do something with, and a piddly bit that I wanted to cut off as it didn't look good for anything. Then, throwing it onto the firewood pile, I noticed it had quite a nice crook in it, so I split it and found some beautiful purple heart wood and thought, I'll have a go at a crooked spoon. Here are the results:
Here you can see how the crank of the spoon follows the natural crook of the wood.
This should make the spoon a little stronger as it follows, rather than breaks, the wood fibres.

I am quite pleased with the results - I wish I hadn't had to carve out so much of the heart wood though, but that's just the shape of the spoon. I thoroughly enjoyed carving the lilac - in fact, I think I'd go as far as to say, it's my favourite wood to carve to date - green, moist, but firm and holds a cut really nicely. I'm looking forward to doing a couple more this week.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

My other blog......

Hi all, just incase you weren't aware and were interested, here is a link to my other blog, one which I do with my little brother Julian, that covers an eclectic range of green wood / carving / bodging / turning / bushcraft / traditional crafts type topics. Hope you enjoy it, and we always love to hear from others with similar interests so please, don't be afraid to post comments - we'll always reply.

Thanks, Richard
I don't think it hurts to maintain standards - I'd like to see more green woodworkers and bodgers in a shirt and tie (yes, of course I am only joking and yes, my wife does go mad when she sees me doing stuff like this in my suit)

SPOON # 11 - Saturday 16th March

I decided to have a go at making a spoon that I actually needed, this week. I can best explain this need by showing you the spoons that we use in our kitchen:
 form left to right:

- teaspoon - good for making hot drinks and children's eating spoon
- dessert spoon - general purpose adult's eating spoon
- table spoons - these are old, like the ones my mum and nan both used for cooking - roughly an ounce in measure
- ladle - okay for small measures and perfect for pancake batter
- plastic serving spoons - cheap, ugly, but just right for serving adult portions

We had friends come for tea on Monday. I had made a beef cobbler (beef stew with dumplings) and we ended up having to use the plastic serving spoon, which wasn't a problem as such, but it certainly didn't add to the dining experience. So, I decided to make a ladle.

Now, I've made ladles before, but each time with varying degrees of failure. My first was a cherry ladle, carved around a camp fire with the intention of using it to serve up a hare stew I had made. It turned out ok (which is sadly more than can be said for the hare stew which was rank) and worked well and all was good except, when I got it home I didn't take care to dry it slowly and so it cracked on the lip of the bowl. Then I dropped it and a piece broke out where the crack had been.

One of my earliest attempts at carving - my wife's initials.

A more recent attemp at a laddle was out of birch and again, before I'd even completed the spoon, it began to split.

Notice the splits in the bowl either side of the handle - the chunk out of the rim
was a knot that broke out when I threw the spoon out of frustraction when the first crack appeared.
Then another challenge for me when carving something big - big enough to actually ladle with - is achieving size and elegance at the same time. I once carved a ladle that was so hefty my son called it the 'war spoon' and used it to chase pheasants round the woods where we were camping. And I should add, if he'd managed to hit a bird with the thing it would have brained it!

So, the challenge, as I said, was to make a larger spoon, that was a little more svelte than my previous attempts. Last week a friend from work gave me some apple wood. I carved a little spoon in the week with a piece of off-cut and was very pleased with the results. So, I thought I'd try using apple for my ladle. And here it is:


I can't honestlt say I'm very happy with it. I am an exponent of symetry - I admire those carvers who can go asymetric, but it simply doesn't work for me. And, as you can see, one side of the bowl has flattened, which just draws my eye every time I look at it. On the plus side, it has a huge bowl, easily big enough for actually using and I managed to get the profile of the handle fairly thin, so it's not overly chunky.

I do worry about the splitting and cracking as it dries out so it is carefully wrapped in newspaper and resting in my garage which is nice and cool for a slow drying out period - hopefully it will survive intact. As the wood was very green and very moist, I haven't really finished it yet, but will smooth it once it has dried out for a week or two. Perhaps when I come back to it I'll like it a little more. I guess I need to keep my eyes out for a good spoon crook for my next laddle, and then the bowl and rim will be that little bit stronger.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

SPOON # 10 - Sunday 10th March

This week's spoon is an ash spoon, carved in what I call the 'Swedish style'. This means it has a more square-shaped bowl and is fairly shallow, making it in my thinking more like a scoop or shovel. It's slightly cranked and lightly ornamented.

What's interesting about this spoon is the grain pattern of this particular piece of ash - it is in tight waves rather than straight lines. I don't know why, common sense tells me it either grew under stress or suffered some kind of disease which affected the growth of the tree. Whatever the reason, it's the most amazing grain pattern, giving the wood a kind of striped effect from a distance, but close up, having intricate and delicate, almost spirals of grain.

I made a few spoons from this wood before. This spoon was made from the last piece, which I saved from the wood pile. It was very dry and as a result hard to carve, but I simply couldn't bring myself to burn such a beautiful piece of wood, knowing I might never get anything like it again.

Apologies that I couldn't get as clear a close up as I'd like - macro photography is not my personal forte - but I think you can just see the grain pattern if you look carefully.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

SPOON # 9 - Saturday 2nd March

Here is my spoon for this week:

It's a fairly simple ash eating spoon - I know, more ash, but there is some variety on the horizon and I'm hoping to pick up some different wood from my friend, the very benevollent Tom, once I get the chance to visit his woodland. It's bigger than a tea spoon, but smaller than a dessert spoon, slightly cranked, with a shallow bowl to make getting the lips in there easier.

I know a number of spoon carvers who have made racks to hang their eating spoons on their wall and for a while have quite liked the idea of having a go at one myself. Here are two that I was watching on ebay - the more ornamental of the two went for only £28 for the rack, 6 spoons and the towel rail:

So, I'm going to have a go at making my own rack, perhaps like the first of the two above - my chip carving just isn't up to making one like the second one. And with that in mind, this week I have carved a second spoon, the same as the first, with the intention of carving another four over the next few weeks. Once I've completed it I'll post pictures.

If you are interested in the process of carving a spoon, have a look at my other blog, on the link below: