Hand Tools Archive

Spoon carving *PIC*

Paul in NJ
My last post generated a question or two about my spoon carving. I cut a branch of cherry the other day to show how I carve my spoons. The branch is small, only 1-1/2” in diameter, so it limits the size of the spoons I made.

There is a lot of cherry that grows in this area and is my favorite for green wood carving of spoons. I have used other fruitwoods like apple and pear as well as birch, soft maple, and other fine-grained diffuse porous woods but cherry is the easiest to find so I mostly use that. A fresh cut branch of 3-4 inches is ideal. I carve the spoon bowl from the outside towards the pith. This gives a nicely concentric grain pattern when you look into the bowl. You can get a larger spoon if you carve from the pith side but the resulting hourglass pattern is not as pleasing to my eye.

Here are some of the knives I use:

These are home made from O1 annealed stock. The knives are cheap enough to buy but I like making them. You can purchase good quality Scandinavian knives for about $25 -$30. The curved knives come in different sweeps and left or right handed bevels. The straight knife has acute flat bevels on both sides, whereas the curved ones only on one side. Here is the grip I use to hollow the bowl:

Here is a link to Roy Underhill’s show featuring Peter Follansbee carving spoons:


There is a lot of information packed in that show and is worthwhile watching. When I go camping or out to our friends cabin I will bring a hatchet and a few knives. Like Peter shows, I will rough out a blank with a hatchet and finish the spoons with knives. I am not real great with the hatchet and spoil some blanks but the wood is free and the hatchet work is in the beginning of the process. The skill is in how close you come to the line, leaving less for the knife to remove. At home I can use my band saw to rough out. Here are two blanks roughed out:

I used the hatchet for the right one and the band saw for the left one. In my shop I may use my workbench vise (or my new hi-vise) or my shave pony to work the spoon with a drawknife or spoke shave:

Here are the resulting spoons:

I will let them dry for a period and then clean them up a little. After they dry some more I finish them with walnut oil. I like the heat-treated Mahoney’s oil brand.

Some recent spoons:

Paul Dzioba

P.S. The shave pony works great but it is a pain mobility wise having it strapped to you. A real shave horse is in the works.

© 1998 - 2017 by Ellis Walentine. All rights reserved.
No parts of this web site may be reproduced in any form or by
any means without the written permission of the publisher.