By Rick Mastelli

Tedswoodworking Plans

Ted's Woodworking Plans

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like ladles. But an eating spoon has a fairly mild curve to it, and although it's best made out of a piece of wood that has the same curve, (see Fig. 1) it is possible to coax an eating spoon out of a piece of dimensioned lumber or a split from a log. I prefer to work from split firewood or branches. Not only can you look for the right shape, but you can work them green, and carving green wood has it all over carving it dry. (We'll talk about drying a spoon without it cracking, later.)

What kind of wood makes a good spoon? Any close-grained, medium-dense hardwood, without an odor or resin to taint food, will do. That includes maple, beech, birch, all the fruitwoods (apple makes great spoons), and a good many shrubs, like holly, dogwood and laurel. Those in the photos are of soft maple.

Bandsawing the Spoon Blank

If you're working from a branch, start by sawing the wood along the pith or central point of heart wood. (Sec photo on page 38.) Left in the spoon, the pith would generate cracking. Usually, you can guess your way along the pith of a limb with a bandsaw. Sometimes it will surprise you. though, for the pith is not always in the center of a branch. You may need to take a second pass to remove it.

Now take a pencil and roughly sketch your spoon in top view, as the photo on page 38 shows. Begin with a centerline, draw the bowl around it, then a stem, and a handle broad enough to be comfortable in the s -

From a Crook to the Cook— Tableware Shaped from Tree Branches

Morning porridge wfl taste a little more deBdous with a spoon you carved by band. Cast your eye over this lot to see bow a common kitchen utensfl fashioned out of wood cantakeonan hand. We all know infinite variety what a spoon looks of forms. like, at least a metal one.

But a wood spoon is a little different. It requires different thicknesses along its various sections. The lip can actually be thinner than on a metal spoon, if the bottom of the bowl follows the grain. The stem, because it's narrow in top view, has to be relatively thick in a side view. The handle, which is wide, can be relatively thin. (See Fig. 2.) Remember the propeller? All of which leaves plenty of room for this to be your spoon. The shape of the bowl in top view can have much more variety than I've seen in metal spoons. (See lead photo.) Try a shovel shape, wider at the end than toward the stem. Proportioned properly, this can make a tempting eating spoon or an excellent serving spoon. If you intend this to be a kitchen spoon, angling the lip slightly (as seen in top view) will make it work better when scraping the bottoms and corners of pots.

Handles can be comfortably shaped to suit any grip. You shouldn't have to compromise the spoon's function to express yourself creatively; no matter how original. if the spoon doesn't work well, it's not a good spoon. But a serviceable spoon, one that is a lasting

pleasure to use, can have all kinds of distinguishing characteristics. The creativity of craftsmanship lies in working within a set of sound design constraints.

Now bandsaw out the top view you've just drawn. This is pretty straightforward if you're working with a flat board. But if you're sawing a branch, there won't be stock directly under the blade to provide support while you're cutting. Keep a good, firm hold on the blank, lest it catch, roll and pinch the blade. I always begin with a couple of relief cuts where the bowl meets the stem. (See photo on page 38.) This makes bandsaw-ing the bowl and the stem a cinch. Leave the handle a little long to allow room for a decorative finial.

Next, bandsaw the spoon's profile

Rick Mastelli

Before bandsawing the spoon outline, make a couple of relief cuts where the bowl meets the handle.

The best spoons start with a sightly curved branch. Begin by splitting the branch down the pith with an ax or on the bandsaw.

FIG. 1: POSITIONING A SPOON IN A BRANCH

Cut bottom of bowl so it follow? the curve of the grain.

FIG. 1: POSITIONING A SPOON IN A BRANCH

Cut bottom of bowl so it follow? the curve of the grain.

The best spoons start with a sightly curved branch. Begin by splitting the branch down the pith with an ax or on the bandsaw.

in side view. These cuts make the difference between a two-dimensional cutout and a functional piece of sculpture. You want to lower the plane of the bowl at an angle in relation to the stem. (See Fig. 1.) A relief cut at the stem and a long slice from the lip will release a triangular piece of waste. Remember to ensure that the bottom of the bowl follows the grain. The bowl is potentially the weakest place in the spoon, because it must be thin to get under food and into your mouth. So you don't want to see the annular rings of weak end grain in the spoon bowl. But you can fashion a relatively flat eating spoon from quarter-sawn (or split) stock without running into problems with the grain orientation. Note that the bowl is deeper toward the stem than it is near the lip. Remember to leave the stem thick, as well as the very end of the handle where you'll carve the finial. Your end result off the bandsaw should look something like the photo on page 39.

Carving the Spoon

Now I must tell you about the knife I use, the excellent Swedish sloyd knife (available from. Woodcraft Supply. 210 Wood Countv Industrial Park, P.O. Box 1686, Parkersburg, WV 26102, 800-225-1153). The size and composition of its blade distinguishes it from most carving knives familiar to American whittlers. It can vary, but the blade is typically 4'/j in. long and Va in. wide, coming to a long, narrow point. The length may seem unwieldy or fragile, but every inch has its purpose and it is extremely rugged. The secret is the blade's laminated composition, consisting of hard, edge-holding steel in the center, sandwiched between layers of softer, less brittle, easier-to-hone steel. The combination maximizes the advantages of each steel.

The sloyd knife is sharpened with one long, perfectly flat bevel on each side of the edge. There are no micro bevels on a properly sharpened sloyd knife. The flat bevel provides support for the knife edge. You depend on that Hat the way you depend upon the sole of a plane. If the edge were micro-beveled, you'd have to lift the back of the knife to get the edge in contact with the wood. Two problems result: You lose support for the edge, so there's no surface to guide the depth-of-cut, and you change the cutting angle. A slovd knife should be sharpened to about 25°, the optimal cutting angle for most carving woods. The sidebar on page 40 describes the variety of grips and strokes used in can -

Before bandsawing the spoon outline, make a couple of relief cuts where the bowl meets the handle.

ing a spoon.

But before you do any can ing, inspect your spoon blank carefully from all angles. Look for discrepancies in symmetry, both in the overall outline, and in the relative thicknesses of comparable areas. Also, look for any twist from the handle to the bowl. Your spoon doesn't have to be symmetrical; but it should have a deliberate shape. Wille says that a symmetrical spoon is more peaceful, because you don't have to wonder why it is not symmetrical. But asymmetry can be natural and pleasing, too. so long as it's purposeful. Look long and get to know the spoon you are about to carve.

As you take up your knife and begin redressing obvious problems, continue to look. Carving is like drawing in three-dimensions; you'll not be shirking progress if you stop often to see what you're doing. Carve with long strokes to balance the whole. When you see some gross thickness that needs thinning, get in and remove it all. Strive for large, smooth surfaces rather than caning in nicks, which just leave a scalloped surface, obscuring the overall shape.

Once you've cleaned up the bandsawn shape, you're ready to hollow the inside ol the bowl. You need to know how big, what shape, and where the bowl will be before you can work out the balance for the rest of the spoon. Use a medium-sweep, straight, carving gouge, " 1 ' w later to a wide-sweep, bent gouge.

As with the knife grips, you want to maximize

To holow out the bowl of the spoon, use a medium-sweep straight gouge. Choke up on K, to that less than an inch of steel extends from your fist. A twist of your wrist wil remove chips without endangering your flesh.

FIG. 2: ANATOMY OF A SPOON

Rick Mastelli

After you've band sewn out the general shape of the spoon, your blank should look something like this.

FIG. 2: ANATOMY OF A SPOON

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