WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Carving Lovespoons

The Fine Art of Carving Lovespoons
by David Western

Fox Chapel Publishing: 2008
Paperback, 186 pp., $24.95
ISBN 978-1-56523-374-4

     Across northern and eastern Europe and parts of Africa, a richly symbolic and highly personal decorative art form has evolved over the past four centuries: the art of carving lovespoons. Most often imbued with details representing love or romantic intentions, lovespoons have varied greatly in design and degree of complexity, depending on the emotional intent, cultural background, creativity and carving skills of the maker. In the past several decades, lovespoons have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity and a corresponding increase in their symbolic and expressive vocabulary.
     In this book, the author, David Western, a Welshman now living in Victoria, BC, Canada, presents a clear, beautifully illustrated and photographed, step-by-step guide to the history, design and carving of lovespoons. Photographer Chris Roberts' luscious photographs make this book a feast for the eyes as well.
     Western begins with a photographic tour of lovespoons throughout history, followed by a fabulous gallery of current work that includes several pages of his own masterpieces. From there on, it becomes a how-to book, pitched at a level an avid beginner can follow. He walks us through the relevant properties of various kinds of woods, how they move, the importance of grain direction, and all the subtleties that carvers need to know when attempting such delicate and complicated cuts as a Celtic knot.
     Chapters on tools and sharpening follow, again clearly photographed and quite thoroughly explicated. The tool chapter shows the complete range of carving knives, chisels and other gear -- including power tools such as the bandsaw, drill press and Dremel tools -- that you'll want in your arsenal if you plan to carve your own lovespoons. The sharpening chapter is an illuminating tutorial on the hows and whys of sharpening and all the paraphrenalia you'll need to keep your tools in top condition for an effective and successful carving experience. Next comes a practice chapter called "Technique," in which Western shows the basic types of cuts and motifs used in lovespoons and how they are made, including types of borders, curves, lettering, chain links, swivels, and the spoon bowl itself. Knowing well that his students will make mistakes, he devotes six pages to fixing the most common ones.
     After an excellent discussion of finishing materials, techniques, whys and wherefores, Western walks the reader through three complete lovespoon projects, "novice," intermediate and advanced. These may look difficult at first glance, but with Western's thorough instructions, I believe that any ambitious craftsman could accomplish them.

Novice Lovespoon
Intermediate Lovespoon
Advanced Lovespoon

     The final chapters of the book include a worthy tutorial on the process of designing lovespoons followed by line drawings and photos of 15 varied lovespoon projects, ready to enlarge to actual size with a copy machine and get right to work, using all the knowledge and experience you've gained by reading this far. It is a very nicely thought-out progression from beginning to end.
. . . Ellis Walentine