Introduction: How to Make Cooking Spoons

This post shows how to make multipurpose wooden cooking spoons on a lathe.

I wanted to make my mom something for Christmas, and I also wanted an excuse to learn how to use a wood lathe, so I made some cooking spoons out of walnut.

*I decided to make three spoons, two 10", and one heavy duty 14". 

*Once you have the wood and all the tools you need, one spoon should only take a couple hours to make.

Materials:
-Wood of your choice (2"x2" stock works well for small-medium spoons. After the fact, I realized I should have used 3"x3" stock for the larger 14" spoon)
-Assorted Sand paper (the lowest grit I used was 80, the highest I used was 600)
-"Salad bowl finish" (this is a great finish to put on cooking spoons, its durable, non-toxic, and also brings out the grain of the wood really nicely). Cutting board oil also works


Tools:
-Wood lathe
-Band saw
-Belt sander or other electric sander (its possible to get away with just hand-sanding, but your hands may fall off in the process)
-Dremel, with several drum-sanding bits (for carving out the 'bowl' of the spoon).


Step 1: Designing the Spoons

The first step is designing your spoons. I decided to make two 10" spoons and one 14" spoon. (see photos for the sketches I did) The 10" ones are pretty good multipurpose spoons for cooking most dishes, but I thought I'd make one huge spoon for when the time comes to stir that huge pot of soup or stock. 

After I sketched up my designs, I ordered the wood online at woodworkerssource.com (they have a great selection). I prefer picking out my own wood, but Im in college so ordering online was just more convenient. This site not only has very witty confirmation emails (see attached photo), but also has 2x2 turning stock for a fairly good price, I got a 30" piece of walnut for $15, and I managed to get all three spoons out of it.

Yes, 10+10+14 is more then 30. I made both 10" spoons from the same 10" length of wood, you will see how in the next step.


Step 2: Shaping the Wood on a Lathe

First I cut the edges off of my stock, turning it into an octagon (this makes it easier to turn it into a cylinder on the lathe). Then I cross-cut the stock at about 13 inches, giving me one 13 inch piece and one 17 inch piece. You always need about 1-2 inches on either side of your product when turning it on a lathe, because the lathe spindles need to bit into something substantial. The dimensions I cut my wood to allowed me to have 1.5 inches on either side of both pieces. Also, the reason you want to cut the wood in half at all is because wood can bend, so working with a 15 inch piece is much easier and safer than working with a 30 inch piece, simply because a shorter piece of wood deflects less under a given pressure than a longer one. The less your wood deflects, the faster you will be able to cut away wood, and the less likely your work will fly off of the lathe.

After I octagonal-ized my wood and cut it to length (meaning 3 inches longer than 'to length'), I put it on the lathe and started cutting.

I made the 10" spoons first. Basically, starting 1.5 inches from one side, I created an 8 inch long shaft that was about 1 inch in diameter. At about 8 inches, I widened the shaft into a bulb that was about 2-2.25 inches long, and about 2 inches in diameter.

For the 14" spoon, I did basically the same thing, except my shaft was about 11 inches long and my "bulb" was about 3 inches long. I also added a little decorative sphere at the end of the shaft just for fun. 


Step 3: Band Sawing and Belt Sanding

Those 1.5 inch sections on the ends of both pieces also come in handy for this step.
To get two spoons out of the 13" piece that I lathed first, I band-sawed the whole thing in half, giving me two spoon-ish looking shapes. Typically, a shaft with a round bulb on one end is difficult to cut on a band saw (if you want a straight cut, that is). However, the 1.5 inch pieces on either end still had flat sides that were aligned with each other, giving me a nice surface to rest against the band saw table and the fence.
After this band saw cut, I had two spoon-ish shapes, with the spoon handles being semi-circular in cross-section with a radius of about 1/2". After cutting the now useless 1.5 inch pieces from either end, I turned to the belt sander to do the rest of the shaping.

For the 14" spoon, I only wanted one spoon, so I didn't want to cut the shaft / handle in half. However, I did want to cut one side off of the bulb, because thats what spoons look like. In face, I also shaved a bit off of the opposite side of the bulb with the band saw as well, because otherwise the spoon bowl would be super deep. 
Anyways, after I made these two cuts on the band saw to shape the bowl, I trimmed the 1.5 inch pieces off the ends, and headed over to the belt sander.

For the 10" spoons, with the belt sander I took material off of the semi-circular handles so that they were more or less circular again, and cleaned up the 'bowl' dimensions a little. On one spoon I tried to shape a spherical bulb at the end of the handle as an interesting feature. It ended up looking more like another spoon bowl, but smaller. Ah well, we learn from our mistakes! I also put a little bit of natural thickness variation in the handle of this spoon. On the other spoon I just shaped a regular, straight, cylindrical handle.

The 14" spoon didn't need any work done to the handle, so I just touched up the bowl shape a bit.

Now its time to carve out the spoon bowls!

Step 4: Carving the Bowls

This process is a little time consuming, and if you can think of a better way to do this, please let me know! 

To carve out the bowls, I just used a rotary Dremel tool with a coarse sanding drum bit, and slowly sanded out the inside of my spoon bowls. This generated a ton of saw dust, so make sure to wear a mask or set up a vacuum to remove dust as you work. This process also burnt through a lot of sanding drum bits, so make sure you have some extras! 

Step 5: Fine Sanding and Finishing

When you are happy with the overall dimensions and look of your spoon, its time to start sanding! 

I started with a pretty coarse grit (80 or so) to even out all the ugly burn marks, angular faces / ridge, and other unwanted protrusions. Once it was rid of all those 'manufacturing marks', I progressively moved to higher grits, stepping up about 60-100 grit each time, spending only about 2 minutes per grit. 600 was the highest I went up to.

To prep for the finish, I used a tac-cloth to wipe down the spoons, removing any left over sawdust. If you have a compressor or compressed air canisters, I would recommend using these to remove dust as well, as they can sometimes remove the dust from deep crevices better than a tac cloth. 

Once your spoon is super clean and dust free, it's time to add finish!
I was going to use a "salad-bowl finish" to finish and seal the spoons. Salad-bowl finish is non-toxic, and dries really hard when it seeps into the wood, so it's great for food-grade woodworking. You can use it for sealing basically any wood kitchen products, from cutting boards to cooking spoons. However, the store I went to didn't have the specific version that is heat-resistant, and since these are cooking spoons, they need to be able to get hot. So, I ended up using a cutting board oil, which still brings out the grain in the wood, but doesn't coat the spoons in a protective layer. This means they may need a little more maintenance, but at least they will hold up to the heat!


Step 6: Cook!

.... at least 72 hours after applying the finish, try it out! 

Comments

author
a random puppy (author)2016-09-02

Cool

author
Corinbw (author)2015-01-31

And this was a great instructable. I haven't used a lathe for this purpose yet. So excited to try it

author
Corinbw (author)2015-01-31

I use these attachments to carve the bowl of spoons. They work great to take away a lot of material

These are made for metalworking and cleaning up welds but they work great on dry woods.

image.jpg
author
cbrooks02 (author)2014-04-10

Hey Sam. I'm totally with you. I did my first spoons with the drum sanding attachments and found it really difficult to work with the drum shape. The screw attachment that protrudes from the middle of the sanding disks doesn't help much either. Try this -- Proxxon 02829 sanding discs and flap wheel. The pads adhere to the wheel, so you can drop straight into the bowl shape. Haven't tried it yet, but ordered it on Amazon for my next attempt. Thanks so much!

author
Sam DeRose (author)cbrooks022014-04-13

Thanks for the suggestion! Will definitely try on my next spoons :)

author
solarbipolar (author)2013-01-25

I didn't see the attached photo you mentioned of the "witty emails". Most spoon carvers cut a limb for their first spoons and usually ALL their spoons, not spend a fortune online. And I'm continually amazed at how many people don't know the difference between "then" and "than".

author
Sam DeRose (author)solarbipolar2013-01-26

I totally forgot about adding the photo! (I just put it up, thanks)

I'd love to 'harvest' my own wood sometime for a project, it would definitely make the whole process seem more 'from scratch' and overall more meaningful, but I really dont know how to go about it. Do I just cut off a limb and wait for it to dry out? Also where do you find hardwood trees that aren't protected by parks or private property?

author
Klem67 (author)Sam DeRose2013-11-28

I regularly get wood for my projects from the dump. My city (I think like most) has a spot at the dump where people bring logs from felled trees. The idea is that other people can come pick it up and use it for firewood. It is the same place you dump off your yard waste, etc. I have found cherry, apple, walnut, some beautifully figured maple, boxelder etc. And it's FREE.
I also understand (though I have not tried this myself) that most landscape companies are happy to give you cuttings from trees if you just ask nicely (and perhaps a gift of a hand made spoon or something wouldn't hurt!).

Also there was a great video I saw on the PBS show "The Woodwrights Shop"
The guest was Peter Follansnbee. Here is a link.
http://www.pbs.org/woodwrightsshop/featured-guests/peter-follansnbee/
He advocates using green (wet) wood and only certain softer species like apple, birch, etc. I learned a lot. Thanks for the instructable!

author

There are two ways you can go about this; cut a limb and carve the wet piece (must keep it wet the whole time). This will not work well with power tools and during-process sanding because of the moisture. Or you can harvest it and let it dry out.

The best way to dry it out is to cut it into the board size you want to use and allow it to sit (on top of small holders so air can circulate around the surface) in a dry area for several months. If you keep the entire length of the board at the same height it is less likely to crack and warp due to uneven drying or temperature changes. It will still warp a little, so just straighten it out on a jointer or planer before working with it.

I would guess your best bet for wood is a friend's backyard or wood from a felled tree. If you are just looking to save money though, shop at a hardwood dealer and just cut their stock down to size.

Beautiful spoons by the way! Envious of your skill with the dremel, I never imagined that a spoon bowl could be made with a sanding drum.

author
spikolli (author)2012-12-31

The traditional method for hollowing out the bowl of a spoon was to use a hook knife or crooked knife. This would speed up the process leaving the sanding for finishing. Thanks for the Instructable. This is a project I've often thought about.

author
solarbipolar (author)spikolli2013-01-25

The hook knife is the traditional way of carving a spoon but it sure wouldn't speed anything up! It would do the opposite.

author

I think it might speed things up....sanding is a very inefficient way to remove material. I think a chisel or hook knife would let you take away bigger pieces of material than using a sanding drum.

author
Basement_Craftsman (author)2012-12-30

Curved chisels work exceptionally well! When I first started i used a regular 1/4 chisel followed by a whole lot of sanding. After i got a few curved chisels the time needed was about 1/3 of the original amount.

author

The Woodwright shop TV show had an episode this year about making traditional Swedish wooden spoons. The guest on the show used a scorp to hollow out the bowl of the spoon. I've been looking at buying this one and trying to make one myself.

author
solarbipolar (author)JmsDwh2013-01-25

What's a scorp?

author
JmsDwh (author)solarbipolar2013-01-26

Look at the link...

author

yes! i have seeen thos before! im very interested as well

author
Servelan (author)2012-12-30

Two things: always check to see if the wood you use is appropriate for food-related stuff, and also check for the toxicity of the shavings/dust resulting from the turning process. Wear protective gear if in doubt!

author
solarbipolar (author)Servelan2013-01-25

The safety patrol always shows up.

author
JmsDwh (author)Servelan2012-12-31

I found this website a while back that has great information about every type of wood including it's toxicity. The website is http://www.wood-database.com/. It looks like Walnut is ok, but can cause allergic reactions in some people.

author
solarbipolar (author)JmsDwh2013-01-25

There are people that are allergic to everything known to man. Actually, walnut oil is one of the best finishes for spoons and cutting boards.

author
oldmicah (author)2012-12-30

I've had luck on a similar project using the edge of a grinder wheel and a carefully placed tool rest. Not perfect, but faster than a dremmel if you have one.

author
tstens (author)2012-12-30

You could probably use a router to rough out the majority of the bowl, then use the Dremel sander to neaten it up. As commented below, chisels would work well too.

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Bio: I'm a senior at Harvey Mudd in Claremont California. This past summer I worked at Make Magazine. I love working out and eating well ... More »
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