Saturday, 23 October 2010

Some maple spoons

From a maple tree recently felled due to damage. There was a lot of wood left over, available for me to hack away at and these are my efforts so far.
I'm very happy with the second from the left. The shape of the bowl and handle turned out better than I was expecting.
Second from the end is a right-handed spoon. Not too many spoons out there for just left or right handed use. Might make a left handed one to be to all those south-paws out there. The little spoon in the middle looks like it might turn into my new favourite eating spoon. Just need to apply some more walnut oil to them all and let them properly soak it in. All seven (plus a few failures) are the result of about a week and half's effort.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Pumpkin Carving

The first pumpkins I've carved for a long time. It's a wonderfully messy affair and I'm very happy with the end result:

There is a long tradition of carving vegetables in the UK. Originally turnips and swedes were put under the carving knife and turned into lanterns. In the United States carved pumpkins had a strong association with the harvest festival long before becoming the mascot of Halloween.
The term jack o' lantern originally referred to night watchmen, who carried lanterns as they patrolled.
Wikipedia does offer this interesting origin myth:
Another version of the myth says that Jack was getting chased by some villagers from whom he had stolen, when he met the Devil, who claimed it was time for him to die. However, the thief stalled his death by tempting the Devil with a chance to bedevil the church-going villagers chasing him. Jack told the Devil to turn into a coin with which he would pay for the stolen goods (the Devil could take on any shape he wanted); later, when the coin/Devil disappeared, the Christian villagers would fight over who had stolen it. The Devil agreed to this plan. He turned himself into a silver coin and jumped into Jack's wallet, only to find himself next to a cross Jack had also picked up in the village. Jack had closed the wallet tight, and the cross stripped the Devil of his powers; and so he was trapped. In both myths, Jack only lets the Devil go when he agrees never to take his soul. After a while the thief died, as all living things do. Of course, his life had been too sinful for Jack to go to heaven; however, the Devil had promised not to take his soul, and so he was barred from hell as well. Jack now had nowhere to go. He asked how he would see where to go, as he had no light, and the Devil mockingly tossed him an ember that would never burn out from the flames of hell. Jack carved out one of his turnips (which was his favourite food), put the ember inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o'-Lantern.
 Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Stages of a spoon

 Split with an axe. I then remove the bark and the dark wood in the centre.
 After looking at the grain of the wood, I draw on a design and use the axe to create the rough shape.
 I then use the knife to refine the shape.
 I hollow out the bowl with my crook knife.
Finally I scrape it as smooth as I can. Now all that's left to do is to seal the wood with walnut oil. This helps preserve the wood, stops foodstuff from soaking in and brings out the natural grain.

My woodcarving tools

Here are the tools I use for carving spoons.
At the top is a Gransfors Bruks Wildlife hatchet. I use it for splitting wood and roughing out the shape of spoons. It can be used to do surprisingly fine work.
My leatherman wave was mainly used to collect wood, until I snapped the saw. I now use a Bahco Laplander folding saw. Next is a Mora 164 crook knife. This is used to hollow out the bowl of the spoon. It's not the best crook knife out there but it does the job. Next is the Mora Clipper. It's a fantastic starter knife. The blade is made from a high carbon steel and holds an edge extremely well. It's dirt cheap, so a great blade to learn how to sharpen with. It has however been replaced by the knife next to it. The Woodlander Classic, by Ben Orford. This is a very pricey knife that I wouldn't recommend for just spoon carving as it's a bit too much knife for that. It is however a joy to hold and use.

Useful Links

Here is a collection of useful online resources for those of you interested in carving spoons yourself.
  • Robin Wood
    Robin is a wood turner from Derbyshire, UK. He creates wonderful wooden bowls, among other things. He is a great source of inspiration for me and an outspoken advocate for protecting and promoting many of Britain's traditional crafts. He also has a four-part instructional video on how to carve a spoon. Great for carvers of any level.
  • Pinewood Forge
    Lots and lots of resources within this site. Not only is it the online store front for Del Stubbs, who makes excellent slojd (craft) knives, but it has links to a vast array of carving websites. Some of the links to spoon sites (over a hundred) are very inspirational.
  • Bushcraft UK
    Quite possibly my favourite online forum. The members are a bottomless source of knowledge, inspiration and support. There are probably threads in the archives on any question you might have about traditional crafts. The search function is a little sub-par but any question you post will often be quickly and comprehensively answered.
  • Jon's Bushcraft
    A bushcraft enthusiast from Warwickshire, UK, he has several tutorials on a range of carving/bushcraft projects from carving a whistle to putting a Canadian skin on a wooden canoe frame. The projects have five levels difficulty from easy to hard.
  • The Woodsmith Store
    Lots of various tools to tempt you here. I'm a satisfied customer having ordered a variety of tools from them. Reasonably priced, great service. 
  • Ben Orford
    While there are lots of professional knife makers out there, Ben Orford is a chap based in Herefordshire, UK from whom I've bought an apple handled Woodlander. It's a great knife, extremely well made. A little more than what you'll need if you just carving spoons, but as an out and about bushcraft knife I'm extremely pleased with it. He also sells everything you'd need to start carving spoons.