Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Ladle that was a spoon

At the very beginning of this new adventure I mentioned how I sourced a branch of wild cherry that my neighbor has lopped off and left on the side of the pavement.
It was mostly straight but had a fork in it towards the top end.   I thought the Y sides would make a good ladle.  Subsequently Ive seen a few YouTube vids that pretty much say the way I tried was the rank amateurs mistake approach.

Well the one thing this carving malarky has taught me is that if at first it doesnt look like you will succeed change the plan and then say that was what you were aiming for.  Its worked for me till now.

This is the roughed ladle - already its looking a bit "off". The back is too straight and the bowl area is just too small and odd shaped.
So I lopped most of the bowl off with a small hand saw and was left with this.

Note the healing scar on my thumb/knuckle  - I was cutting a piece of wood with a new saw when it bowed out to the left whilst pushing the saw and it bit me - hard and deep.  I know myself well enough to have found a cloth, put pressure on it and then locate the garden bench, tie my arm up to the washing line and wait for the world to spin. Spinning over I got up slowly, checked the wound and did some DIY skin bonding and then carried on.  The result is A) I didnt fall over and gash my head or worse fall through the greenhouse. B) by applying pressure straight away there was minimal bleeding and the cut was kept clean.   Im still rubbish as sawing. 

I actually finished the spoon tonight - Ill have to get a photo of the finished product but here are a few of it on the way to being finished.  Its not pretty but I like it. 

Monday, 29 September 2014

First Bowl

So - my third spoon is referred to as the Soup Spoon and you need a bowl to hold the liquid so you can use the spoon.

When I was at John Boddy Timber looking for wood to carve spoons and other "easier" items I saw these pre cut rounds ( for turning bowls on a lathe) and thought, how hard could it be- they've rounded it already and squared the top and bottom.  Lemon squeezy!

Tools : #8 gouge - a blister and some bruised hands.

This is European Steamed Beech.

I marked the center on the top and bottom sides - I had to go back to early geometry to find an easy way to find the center - its not all carving!

The blocks/rounds have been rolled in wax to ensure the moisture content doesnt change in the round.
This has been kiln dried so there wont be a need to do the slow drying as you have to do with greenwood. I thought that was a big Pro for using this sort of wood - but there is a massive Con!

It took 2 hours of hand aching perseverance to get to this stage -its practically bullet proof!

I stopped to sharpen my gouge and then get to it.  Ill update with another photo soon - I was determined to get it to the tipping point where it got easier.

To be continued:

06/12/2014 - Its been a long time since I updated this Blog, time and seasons wait for no man.
Today was the first carving I've done in about 4 weeks.  Any spare time has been going  into the Bowl Shave Horse (Pony). *more on that another time.

So my brilliant idea of carving a bowl from a prepared round that is prepared for turning has not worked to plan. The bowl is nearly finished but has taken a good 7 to 10 hours so far. Below are a set of photos that cover the various stages so far.

Once I got it to a reasonable *inside shape I started on the outside.  I tried various methods and each worked for a certain stage of the process.   Initially I tried the push knife,  this only mildly rounded the edge and then the bowl started slipping and I spent more time trying to work out a new way to secure the bowl.  So then I picked up the axe but was worried about cracking the bowl.

Although the bowl is round it still has grain running in the same direction through it.  So some cuts worked a dream and others left me with cause to worry.  I didnt photograph the next steps due to rushing about but suffice to say, a surform and a good old vice produced the quickest results.

That is almost the shape I was after but when I compare the outside to the inside they arent inline with each other. Its like having a V shaped bowl sitting in a U shaped bowl.
The problem now is that the outside has been rounded and any previous means of wedging and clamping wont work now.
Time for a simple solution.

A small off cut of wood screwed into a cross bar which is clamped down.  The T bar can swivel around so it can be "turned off" if need be.
A close up of the tool marks and to show the next attack line - the scallop marks on the lip show the next line where I will reduce the volume and try to match the profile of the outside of the bowl.

This has become a labor of love.  The wood is so hard and each round of carving means I have to take time out to sharpen the gouge. With daylight hours being limited its been put on the back burner for a while. 


So for my next item I decided to try and do a Kuksa - Scandinavian wooden drinking cup. 

I sourced a block of Lime wood from a local wood merchant, they have loads of pre cut rounds (for turning a bowl) in a huge range of woods.  I had heard Lime was easy to carve so for my first "bowl" I figured this was a good idea. This block was in an offcuts section - 3 of the sides are rough cut. 

Tools used - a #8 gouge and Mora 164. 

I took some time to measure and draw the outline on in as much detail so that I could get a good idea of what would go where.  Only. I realized I had left no room to actually carve the top end.  So I moved it down a bit - hence a "double" outline. 

With a couple of hours spare I set to work.  At first I couldnt make much ground on the bowl but then it went from chipping at the surface to carving nice crisp curls.

There is definately an organic feel to the stages of carving a bowl.  Once you get a decent depression in the middle and the sides are starting to become vertical the shavings come out in nice controlled curls. 

 But then you kind of hit a natural sticking point and you need to chip and gouge away at the "plug" at the bottom of the bowl - the only description I can think of is like chocolate that has solidified at the bottom of a bowl and you need to scrape and scour at it - but once its out the bowl is exposed..  This will make sense if you venture down this road. 

Below shows the knot and the "chocolate" at the bottom of the bowl. 

After just under an hour this is as far as Ive managed to get. 

To be continued:

26/01/2015 - kind of updating on the Kuksa... In short it came to an abrupt end due to realizing it was a dead end.  I will finish it and keep it as a coin/change cup.  The short of it is that I think I bought a block of Lime Wood thinking it was sound but it was probably a cut off.
There are long "dry" cracks running through out the length of it.
The second photo shows where it "enters" the bowl.  These arent stress cracks from waking it with a hammer whilst trying to remove the waste wood on the outside.

Im actually quite happy with the shape of it and all it needs now is finishing off - as it stands ( I dont have a photo of it in its retired condition).
I wouldve finished it if it wasnt for the cracks.
Subsequently I have been lucky enough to get some sections of a poplar tree that came down in a storm so when I run out of fresh wood Ill probably finish this.

Ill try to remember to take another photo of it as it is now - I have been really bad at forgetting to take photos of things as I start them.  It wouldve been handy for a scoop spatula I made and then wanted to replicate. Sometimes a mistake right at the beginning is impossible to rescue.  

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Beginnings Part II

Continued..  The Soup Spoon.

Using the thicker half of the first log I split -Alder - I roughed the piece by taking out the pith - the pith dries at a different rate to the rest of the wood and this puts tension into the length of the wood.  This in turn causes the finished product to crack or split later on.  Ill try to do some diagrams in the near future to explain the roughing concept but there are loads of YouTube videos out there showing this as well.

Here are some photos - I will try to be a bit more on the ball and take more photos of the stages.

It took about an hour to get from the raw to the completed stage above.  I left the spoon in a plastic bag for a week, rotating it each day as a means to control the rate at which it dried out (the Willow Big Spoon was going through the same process - update: the Willow Spoon has developed a small crack on the lip of the bowl. )
Next was sanding, hopefully as my knife skills develop I will sand less.  Sanding goes on FOREVER! - going through various grades from 70 grit to 100, 120, 200 and 320.  Although having said that the difference in the finish is well worth it.
Below is the spoon just before oiling.  As the spoon is made of wood it is soft and absorbent. Oiling will help to fill the cells and certain oils dry out and harden, resulting in a more robust item. Trying to reduce the number of variables for now, Im going with walnut oil but have been reading up on beeswax and coconut oil.  I have a couple of friends with nut allergies so want to be able to make them an item or two that they can use safely.

Below are the last shots before oiling - which involves coating the spoon in walnut oil and leaving it to dry. Repeating the process until it doesnt take anymore oil.

* working around a knot (dark spot) in the bowl takes some imagination and tons of patience!

The last item I worked on is a Spatula (of sorts) which Ive called the Whale Spatula.
The Big Willow Spoon was carved out of the bigger/deeper half of the split log.  The other half was just screaming to be used to make a flat naturally curved implement.

The process is much the same as the above but the piece of wood was destined to present some challenges - and I cant say I overcame them all.
Primarily the grain around the knot ended up ripping a hole out that was too deep to work around.

If you look at the underside of the spatula (bottom of the 3 above) you can see how the grain runs in multiple directions - I think it might have a bit to do with the fact that this piece has been drying out for a few weeks and I was a bit to rough with it when I used the surform to get the general shape and thickness.

The spatula is drying out at the moment, and as it came from the same piece as the Big Spoon Ill leave it for another week before I oil it.

So. That brings us up to date on my 4 attempts so far.  The Soup Spoon is looking good with it taking on the richness of the walnut oil and the Big Spoon has just started its oiling process - as it is starting to split Ill put it on the shelf next to the first attempt and have it as a reminder to be a bit more patient in the future.
Im in the process of building a "desk top" for my chopping block to enable me to clamp bigger blocks of wood down to carve things like bowls and kuskas safely.

Ill take some photos and do some diagrams if it works.

Thats it for now.

(Edit 29/11/2014) Adding the finished photos of the Soup Spoon.  Oiled with Walnut Oil - It took about 2 weeks for it to taper off on the amount it would retain.

Sunday, 31 August 2014


As the title suggests I have just started carving, greenwood carving for now.

A few weeks ago we had a massive storm in York and a willow tree split in the storm.  Since I was a kid I would pick up a stick and a pocket knife and imagine carving "something recognizable". The only thing I did consistently was leak red stuff from one of my digits.

I scoured the web for beginners guides and found a raft of information.  In todays world YouTube is the Oracle.

I bought the following online.

Gransfors Hand Hatchet (

  from - I phoned them as I wasnt sure if as a beginner I should go for the Wildlife Hatchet or the Hand Hatchet - both have the same heads - the difference is in the length of the handle. 

My next purchase was from Springfields via Amazon. 
I got the Mora 106 (longer straight blade) and the Mora 164 single edged spoon knife (also known as the Mora Hook knife .  On all the reviews for the Mora 164 it is very clear the 164 does not come as sharp as the 106. In fact - just about every review said you are best opening the package and then sharpen it yourself before you attempt to use it. 
Next port of call was YouTube for some instructibles on how to sharpen knives, the 164 in particular. 
I found 2 very useful videos, they both follow the same idea.

With sharp tools and a couple of hours to play with I hit the shed. 

My first attempt was on a short branch of Alder that was lying on the pavement and had been there for a few weeks.  
I split the branch (log section) and chose the smaller half. 

I thought I had a couple more photos of the next stages but I seem to have lost them somehow. Lets just say its MUCH smaller than it is in these photos. 
Feeling a bit lost and deflated I went back to YouTube for some more tips.  I found Porkbrick's video and it made a huge difference.  Thanks to Porkbrick for breaking it down into a logical sequence. 
His first of 4 vids can be found here :
Carving a spoon

(Edit 29/09/2014 - the not finished first spoon - the bottom of the 2 - with its better looking sibling from the other half of the piece it came from.) I have decided to stop trying to "fix" it and just leave it as is as a reminder of my first attempt.

So a week later I dashed out and split a piece of the Willow tree I had scavenged. Here are some of the photos. 

The split half - This is the thicker of the 2 halves.  as you can see the grain does not run in straight lines.  One of the mistakes I made on the first spoon was that I tried to carve straight lines and got rips and snags all over the place.   This time round I was going to follow the grain - thanks to Porkbricks vids. 
I used the axe to smooth the open surface and remove the bark off the outer side. 

I mapped out the bowl of the spoon - as this was where I was starting from and the rest would evolve as I roughed out one section. 

With a rough spoon outline shaped using the axe it was now time to start refining things.  I setup a temporary vice/bench with some old 2 x 4s that had been lying around for years.  I have an idea to make a more permanent version in the near future.  
I used a gouge to rough out the bowl.

Unfortunately I dont have any photos of me doing the next stages - I got lost in the moment and 4 hours later realized I was straining my eyes, and had shed a few drops of blood as well.   Silly mistakes, none of them while actually carving.  One nick was due to me holding the spoon AND the knife in my left hand to get a drink of water. I managed to bump the spoon on the "bench" and in turn push the blade into my finger - not deep but deep enough.  ( I now wear a glove on my left hand).
Below are photos of the first phase of the Big Spoon. 

** the "smudges" are a drops of the red stuff.  
The spoon fits quite well in the right hand - using the natural curve of the grain kinda forced the outcome. 
The spoon has been drying in a plastic bag for a week now.  As it is made of Willow I am being diligent and expect it to take a full 2 weeks to dry out. 
(Update,  Ive just sanded the spoon with varying grades - 70 - 100 - 120 (wet and dry) - and its showing some really nice patterns.  Ill use walnut oil to harden it. ) 

I will post a part II to this,  I also carved another spoon after the Willow Big Spoon - a smaller Soup Spoon out of the other half of the alder log I split earlier.