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.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

SPOON # 40 - Saturday 12th October

I've momentarily solved the wood shortage issue with a few decent pieces of laurel which I noticed had been lopped from a bush beside the school entrance where I work and left to rot. I didn't think they looked like they had been cut too long ago - they had dead leaves on so I figured probably this year at least. I grabbed a saw from the caretaker and hacked me off a few pieces that, if they were still green, would be good for four or five spoons. Julian warned me that dead wood dries out quicker with the leaves on, but I thought it was at least worth a try.

There was a nice, straight-ish crook, so I thought I would begin with a small ladle, since I gave the only other ladle I had last weekend to my brother-in-law who I know will actually use it. The laurel actually carved well - certainly not too dry (I've carved much drier and harder wood), but also not fresh, which in some respects is better as the wood doesn't seem to be so fibrous and carves cleaner. Also, not so much chance of the spoon drying too quickly and splitting, which is one of the things that upsets me more than anything, closely followed by when my wife puts the long handled serving spoons in the utensil drawer instead of in the jar under the sink where she knows they belong (I suspect she is trying to drive me slowly insane).

The finished spoon, whilst not ground-breaking in its design, is a little different for me as it is fairly asymmetric, in that there is a distinct twist between the handle and the bowl and I would usually aim for completely symmetrical, but I figured, what's the point of using a crook where you follow the natural line of the grain, if I'm only going to alter that line to suit my own eye. As it turns out, it doesn't offend me too much and it's a nice little spoon.

You'll notice I've left a thin strip of bark on the handle in order to maintain the shape -
we'll have to see if that stays on or not.

Apologies that I forgot again to put something else in the photos for a size reference - it's small for a ladle, about 6 inches, and I guess it would work well as an olive spoon.

As you will see, it has an over exaggerated keel on the heel of the bowl, which at first I thought I would trim back as I was afraid it looked too heavy for such a small ladle, but in the end decided to leave it as it was. I might carve the handle a little at a later date - though I know I say that a lot and then rarely get round to it. I'd really like to learn more carving and kolrossing skills. I guess I need a decent pointed knife.

Friday, 11 October 2013

SPOON # 39 - Sunday 6th October

I know I've moaned a bit lately about not having time to carve - well, without wishing to go over old ground, it's also meant that I haven't spent time finding wood. So, when I came to have a carve last weekend (I know I'm only just posting this, but I did carve it last week, honest) I didn't have a lot to choose from. In fact, I only had a small piece of really quite seasoned Rowan that I'd wrapped in a carrier bag and stuck at the bottom of my carving bag to keep moist. Usually when I do this, I forget all about the wood, only to find it months later covered in black mildew. This time it hadn't gone black, but was fairly dry and hard - so much for the carrier bag method!

I'm actually quite pleased with the results, this time. It's only a small spoon, about the size of your average tea spoon - I still get a kick out of showing people these little spoons and then showing them my big carving axe and explaining that I use the axe to make the spoon - it seems a little over the top. It is based on a shape I tried before, but which didn't really work. I bought a little plastic spoon in the John Lewis sale, thinking it would be a nice design to copy, and this time I think it's worked quite well.