Carve a Wood Cooking Knife





Introduction: Carve a Wood Cooking Knife

I made this knife to chop up ground meat in the pan while cooking.

It's made from a sycamore branch. Sycamore has a nice, closed grain that is suitable for food utensils. I have also made spoons and other things from various logs that I've collected over the years.

Step 1: The Tools

The main tools I used for this project are as follows:

  • Pencil
  • Coping Saw
  • Dovetail Saw (Optional)
  • Chisel
  • Mallet
  • Carving Knife
  • Spokeshave
  • Card Scraper
  • Sandpaper

Step 2: Cutting and Marking the Timber

I cut the bark away and squared everything up to make the blank. Then I marked the general shape with a pencil.

Keep in mind that you may have to alter the design throughout the carving due to grain direction and the feel in your hand. Comfort usually wins out on things like this. You'll notice that I had more of a blunt end on the knife, but as I started to hold it, it didn't make sense with how I planned to use it, so I rounded it down more.

Step 3: Cut to the Marks

I was able to follow the line closely with the coping saw. I left a little bit of the line so I could shave to the line later.

At some parts, I used the dovetail saw to create reliefs for the saw and chisel. You really need to watch grain direction here. This sycamore had an interesting grain structure that left a few digs.

Step 4: Final Shaping

From here, the spokeshave is your best friend. I was able to get the main shaping from it and clean all my knife marks with a card scraper. A finely tuned card scraper can take off quite a bit of material and will help make your piece feel complete.

In some parts, I used sandpaper, but the card scraper can leave a good enough edge to go ahead and finish. I'd recommend butcher block oil for something like this. I'd stay away from vegetable oils as they can go rancid over time. I'd also wash by hand and oil whenever needed.

This is a quick project and there is a ton of information out there.



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    I tell people the little ones are for spanking 6 -8 year olds, the middle size is for middle schoolers and this size (big spoon, holds a tablespoon of salt), are for teens......for politicians one needs a 2X4...only kidding, chuckle...although as a kid I did fear the "spoon of death" and when I was 5 chewd one in half....then mom found it....she backed off a tad!

    2 replies

    Ha. Your elephant spoon looks great. The long spoon was my moms weapon of choice. I usually stayed away from the kitchen when she was busy.

    Being of Sicilian mom had heat seeking Sicilian Spoons . They found my butt no matter where I was causing trouble. I told the scout troop the walking sticks are to beat my kids with...they kinda kept their distance after that...

    Beware the power of the spoons!

    Again nice knife, I will be making one or two. I love the thought of free "tree wood" as a fellow carver commented on my work commented! Oh I fergit, Oak trees shed as well at times and while they hold little detail they hold enough and is very tough, and allow a thinner blade (birch as well, maybe). The wide pores allow you to really soak it in oil and then use the wax/oil mix or just wax to seal them . Heating the thing with steaming hot towels (or wrapped in oil rags in regular/micro oven), then waxing them is helpful, then buff them out. If you make them thinner, they are nice in pie plates. No scratching/gouging.

    I must say Jess I have not carved in a while I am getting all exciterated so I may need to break out the stones and knives very soon!

    I have my 6th graders make these at the Honolulu Waldorf School if they finish their toy tops As a second project. We use Shinto rasps to form the handle and blade once I cut out the blanks with a band saw. I have them finish them with a beeswax mineral oil blend and advise hand wash and dry...when the knife becomes dried out, you CAN use mineral oil as it won't go rancid and is an inexpensive alternative to butcher block oil. We have lots of exotic and beautiful hard wood here in Hawaii but I always check ti see that the wood is food safe...some woods can be toxic and should not be used for cooking/serving.

    1 reply

    That's cool. Rasps are a good tool to use for shaping, for sure. Paul Sellers uses them often in his spoon making.

    Mineral oil is also a great product to use. Exotics are definitely something I've been researching lately. I have a small stack of exotics that I'm wanting to work with, but want to find the right project for them. It's crazy how some of the exotics sawdust can act like poison ivy, or if inhaled, could cause flu like symptoms and also be toxic to foods, like you mentioned. So much detail out there.

    Is it possible to actually put a sharp edge on it or this more of a thin spatula?

    1 reply

    I'm sure you could put a sharper edge on it. It really depends on the wood. Too soft of a wood and it will just become brittle and the sharp edge could roll over and fray off.

    I was thinking about making a butter knife for spreading butter. I watched a video where they were talking about spreading cold butter and they used a wood knife got it wet in the sink put it in the microwave for 15 seconds and then spread cold butter on to bread with no problems. I think that would be really cool.

    That knife looks awesome! It gets addicting!

    unna try to put a picture here, but I doubt it will work, this is my elephans spoon in a stock pot


    very nice , I have made spoons and will try to post a pic. I used poplar as a local star guy gave me scraps to play with.

    English Plains Trees/Sycamore are the gift of god for carvers with no money in NYC. After Dutch Elm disease killed all the elms and American Chestnut trees in NYC they planted them all over. They loosen good sized branches from time to time that hit the ground and leave plenty to carve. I did a bunch of pipes and chains when I was a kid, plus lotsa pointy sticks. I wish I had thought of spoons salad tongs etc, when I was a kid. But even now perhaps I snag a limb and make some wood chips fly.

    They also make nice walking sticks if you get a nice piece. Sycamores drops dead wood to the floor and they are usually ripe, that is they are dry (well over a year) and ready to cave. The drier the Sycamore, the harder it gets, til it approaches steel.

    After making a spoon, I simply heavily oil them with mineral oil then wrap them in paper towel and then a cotton rag then plastic bag them for a week, adding more oil a few times.

    The beeswax/MO combo is nice perhaps one day I make a batch! Thanks for the nice tutorial, it was great!

    Chris Lubekman, has done a few books on making twig birds also did one on small things like knives letter openers and he used Birch, so try out birch as well.

    But Sycamore gets harder and harder over the years, and in places where Elms once ruled the forest, Sycamore supplanted them, and yield a very nice wood, for free!

    Sycamores are now considered an invasive species in many places and are being ripped out, ask around at the USDA County Extension Office.

    Lovely "meat knife". Are you planning spoons or spatulas with the rest of the wood?

    Wood love to see those too :-)

    4oz bees wax, melted and mixed with 16 oz mineral oil (food grade "laxative"), makes an awesome sealer/polish(use a wax warmer or double boiler setup to do the melting).

    Since you are using it with meat, wash it well after use, and reapply whenever the knife starts looking "dry". Mixture works equally well for salad bowls and skin lotion.

    2 replies

    Sorry. I didn't see your comment before posting about the 'wood butter' recipe. Thanks for adding the details. It's a fantastic finish, isn't it?

    Thanks. I've done a couple of spoons. Still having trouble with symmetry. ha.

    I'll have to try your bees wax mixture. Do do love waxes. Thanks for the tips!

    1, what kind of wood did you use?

    2, for those out there wanting to make this please note that most hardware store wood is chemically treated and not food safe.

    3, i use olive oil on my wooden utensils.

    2 replies

    1. I used sycamore.

    2. Even if the hardware store wood were food safe, I probably wouldn't use it anyways since most of them only carry pine, red oak and cedar.

    3. Olive oil has the tendency to go rancid just like vegetable oil, but, if you're using and washing it often, you shouldn't have a problem using either of those.

    I have used a 'butcher block conditioner' for years with great success. I used to buy online, but it's gotten very expensive. You can find recipes to make your own "wood butter" from beeswax and mineral oil. It's the same ingredients as in the butcher block conditioner I was spending a lot of money on.