Spoon Club of two

I’m on a journey with carving spoons.  Making them is the most demanding work I do in wood as the tolerances are very, very fine; the risk management (one slip and it’s firewood) is high; the design content almost outweighs everything else; the number of beautiful spoons carved by other people is very high.  OK so it’s not an easy thing, I’d like to say I do it for relaxation, as I certainly don’t do it to make money!

Cyclo Cross Group

CycloCross Group (Photo credit: mirod)

However, making a spoon is a very concentrated piece of work, which lasts quite a long time, it’s a bit like riding the Yorkshire Three Peaks Cyclocross bike race – concentrated effort over a sustained period.




The thing is while I’m carving a spoon I can not think about anything else.  That is a good thing I think.

So here are two hazel spoons I’m working up.  I’ve done this design around four times before, all in hazel. They are copied from a Scottish horn spoon that we’ve had around the house for some years. This time I’ve made two at once.  A bit like in a spoon club pass round, I worked on one for a spell and then swapped to the other.  The main thing I noticed was that the second run always seemed to work better and more quickly than the first.  I guess I’m learning from the first making.

Axing out the split log:

This is bark up, that is, the bottom of the bowl and the back of the spoon facing the pith at the centre of the log.  You can see the brown line of the pith in the left hand half that’s just split. I’ve split the log with my little ‘Gem’ axe that I reserve for spoons and then with the right-hand half I’ve axed off the pith and the outside until it’s flat and wide enough to draw on the outline of the spoon.

Now I’ve got them both ready for tracing an outline.  I’d like to get away from this outline, but it gives me the overall length and width and a guide to the shape I’m after.

Here they’re drawn in:

And now I’ve axed the shapes out.

At this point I stopped and re-read the notes I’d taken at Spoonfest when attending Steve Tomlin‘s workshop on improving your spoons.

This gave me a good plan to follow instead of flitting about all over the spoon blank at will. My next tasks were: complete the plan profile of the handle, then the bowl, carve the underside of the bowl, carve the stem – where the handle joins the spoon last.  Hollow the bowl after the underside of the bowl is done.  All the time checking for symmetry and line.  I finished them off this morning and they are now awaiting poker-work from Jane and dispatch to customers.  They turned out slightly different, but I think carving two at once is a good thing for improving my carving.

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A unique event.  A fieldful of people getting together to share knowledge about spoons and a lot more spoon-related knowledge.

Spoonfest was organised by Barn Carder (AKA Barn the Spoon) and Robin Wood, as a weekend international extravaganza incorporating workshops for people just starting out spoon-making, engraving spoons, carving as a work-out for the body, rather than punishment, bacon butties, local beer, large piles of a dozen species of wood to sit and carve and burn on the camp fires.  There was no competition, there was a spoon shop, also a very diverse display of spoons from around the world.

Some of my favourites:

Fred Livesay, all the was from Minnesota. Fred discovered his woodworking skills at age 10. He later trained as a wheelwright and carriage-builder for seven summers, and then went on to study Scandinavian folk art, decorative arts, art history, and museum studies, and boy does he carve beautiful spoons!  I got to know him later in the week and he’s a great gentle guy (like all the spoon carvers I know, I wonder why that is?).

Next up Jarrod Stone Dahl’s fine spoons.  All his spoons for sale in the shop were quickly sold, but he carved a cherry one for me later in the week when I was on his knife-making course (see next post, blimy I’m still two and a half posts in arrears.) Here it is:

I think I’ll add some paint to the handle when it’s dry.

These are Jogge Sundquist’s.  He really is the master of spoons. A couple of the very fine ones at the bottom are his father’s. Wow!  Jogge gave a great demo on the Saturday – I’d missed his talk and class on the Friday as I was still in Cumbria.

There were just too many spoons to post here, but it was a real feast for the eyes and the brain.  There were lots of great friends and new friends to meet too, here’s my mate Sean, we snapped each other.

He looked very stylish in the new haircut and T shirt that everyone was wearing.

Steve Tomlin gave a very good seminar on improving your spoons.  I found this really helpful.  I also found Terence McSweeney’s workshop on stance while carving and working in general very helpful indeed, I am very aware that it is easy to damage your back without really trying, but keeping it straight whilst working is a good route to keeping it healthy.  Thanks very much chaps!

I enjoyed the Sunday morning sermon on the search for the patron saint of spooncarving (St. Peter Damian) by Martin Hazell

The finale was a massive spoon club event where spoons are worked on for 5 minutes and then passed round until they are finished.  Here’s what the results were of a class Fritiof Runhal ran the week before:

And here are the carvers lined up ready to work on 12 different spoons over an hour:

What a great weekend!  Many thanks to all who put in so much work to create such a successful  fulfilling event.  Hope you can manage it again next year.

Beech Ball


We’re back from a long weekend 300 miles away down South in Dorset for the Bodgers’ Beech Ball or AGM. We camped in the woods with our massive Dutch tent:

We’d picked my daughter Nim up from Bristol railway station on the way down and she had a happy time away from the smoke of London, into the smoke of our cooker and Kelly Kettle:

I can recommend the pineapple cooked in foil on the red boy (our Vietnamese charcoal-fired cooker)

There was lots to se and do: Henry was there framing:

Excellent demo of using the frame saw without a pit!

Sean Hellman gave a very detailed and interesting talk about natural sharpening stones.

Barn was there making and explaining how to make spoons:

Jane and Nim practiced Swedish knife grips in one of his sessions. Here he is in a more life-like size:


Sorry about the hazy focus!

Must get off to work, very busy this week with Otley Show, weaving a fence, peeling oak in The Lakes and getting a story chair ready for assembly during a school open day for the following weekend.

Part 2 of The Ball coming soon.


Sweden, Derbyshire and Sizergh Castle

Last week, when it was unseasonably hot outside, I spent most of the time in Edale Village Hall, learning some spoon carving techniques and design from Fritiof Runhal on a course run by Robin Wood.

Fritiof makes beautiful spoons in the mid Sweden style, and as he makes so many of them it is a joy to watch him work, and to draw inspiration from his finished work.  Feast your eyes:

These are beer geese, once used in celebrations to float on a lake of beer and used as cups.

Big ladles, and in detail …

I came home with quite a bunch of spoons, some of Fritiof’s and some lesser artefacts of my own, but also with a lot more insight into how to do spoons, for example, saving some bowl knife work by using the axe!

It was great to see some sensible ways to hold the spoon while working it:

I stayed in the youth hostel in Edale and self-catered (used one of the spoons I’d made for the cassoulet).  I was reflecting on how simple it is in the self-catering kitchen there, and why do people seem to need so much more?

The views from the hostel were pretty stunning:

Anyway it was good to meet up with a lot of woody people with similar interests and aims.

I met Gareth at Edale and then I met him again at Sizergh Castle‘s first wood fair, where we’ve been today.  I was turning on the pole lathe, and Madame was mistress of the wallops.  This is an old Wensleydale game which involves throwing hazel sticks at skittles. Lots of people had good fun, but I failed to take any pix.  Wait for the follow on at Beningborough Hall a week tomorrow.

There were lots of other woody chaps at Sizergh, it was a good event for the first time they’ve tried this out, many thanks to Tom Burditt of the National Trust for this initiative.  I got the gig through the North West Coppice Association, which we’ve just joined as they have more woods in Cumbria, and more people working them, than in Yorkshire.

Owen Jones was there, making swill baskets, seemingly without having to take any notice of what his hands were doing (they just seem to make the baskets while he has a good chat)! I think he has been brought up in the Fritiof school of ignoring what your hands are doing

Despite the weather feeling much like August ( Blimey, did I sweat running the lathe?) signs of autumn were around:

Lots of woody makers together, including coppice workers, shingle makers, basket weavers:

All in all, a Grand Day Out working.