What better way to while away a few hours on a sunny spring day than to carve yourself a spoon? For spoon carving, you will only need a good sharp knife, a small pruning saw and a crook or hooked knife to gouge out the bowl of the spoon. Birch and sycamore are both good woods to use and, as you become more practised, you will be able to experiment with many different species.
Select a small pole about 2 to 3 inches in diameter that is growing. It’s good to try and find one with a natural curve or slight dog leg that you can use as the curve of the spoon. Start by cutting the pole to a little longer than you need for the finished spoon and split the pole in half, length ways. To do this, place your knife with the edge across one end of the pole and carefully, using an off cut from your pole as a mallet, knock your knife into the pole. Allow it to split slowly as forcing it at this stage may make the split run off centre. Select the half or ‘cleft’ which curves the right way for the spoon you want to carve and whittle the split surface with your knife so that it is smooth.
Using a pencil, roughly draw a spoon shape on to the wood, you could use any spoon which you like the shape of as a template for this. Using the knife carefully, whittle and slice around the outline until you have completed shaping in that plane. The grain in the wood may run in different directions and dictate which way you can cut.
Look at your spoon from the side and decide how you would like to shape the curve of the spoon handle. If you have managed to use a pole with a natural curve or dog-leg it may only need a little refining. Always use your knife carefully making sure that you are always cutting away from yourself. If you have made the handle of your spoon wide in one plane, you can make it thin in the other plane and vice versa, shaping in this way will ensure that the spoon remains strong enough.
When you are satisfied with the shape of your spoon you can turn your attention to shaping the inside of the bowl. With your hooked knife slowly start to remove all the unwanted wood, the grain of the wood will dictate which direction you will need to cut in but in general cutting across the grain works well. When this is finished you can start finishing the spoon.
If you intend to sand the spoon to a smooth finish, store it at room temperature for a few days first, this will dry the wood out a little and make sanding easier. If you intend leaving you spoon with a tooled finish carefully go over the spoon with your knife fine-tuning any slightly rough or uneven areas (You may have to stop yourself!). Finally to treat your spoon use a little warmed sunflower oil, this will bring out the markings in the wood and also be safe for eating with.
If you’re interested in learning more, Dan is running a Bowl and Spoon carving course in June please have a look at http://www.dwwp.co.uk/Carving.asp for full details.