Introduction: Spoon Carving for Beginners
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Step 1: Choose Your Wood
For a cooking spoon that will be used you will want to choose a hardwood so that the utensil will hold up to potential daily use. Woods like hickory, maple, ash, oak, walnut, and cherry make very good cooking spoons. I typically use Pecan wood (a species of hickory) because it is readily available to me here in South Louisiana and I think that it is beautiful wood. All of my spoons come from fallen trees and limbs that I pick up myself and make spoon blanks and other things from. You do not have to make your own blanks, you can simply buy untreated hardwood lumber from your local lumber yard and cut many blanks from it.
Step 2: Choose Your Shape
I use this cheap wooden spoon that I got some time back from a local dollar store to get the basic shape for many of my spoons.
Step 3: Trace Your Shape
I really like the shape/design of the spoon that I use as my template because it is simple, but offers many options for choosing what type of spoon to make in terms of depth and intended purpose.
Step 4: Trace Complete Bowl Outline
This particular spoon will be a basic cooking spoon, so I added a curved line to outline the perimeter of the shallow bowl to be carved.
Step 5: Rough Out the Bowl
Using the largest gouge from the set previously pictured, begin to gouge out the bowl of the spoon. Work from bottom to top and top to bottom of the bowl (the direction in the picture and its opposite), not side to side, as this will prevent splitting and tearing of the wood.
Step 6: Rough Out the Bowl Depth and Shape
Depending on the depth you are trying to achieve, it will not take long before you have your bowl roughed out. P.S. I suggest waiting to cut the spoon's shape out after carving the bowl to allow for compensation for potential errors. It is not uncommon to get a little too ambitious with the gouges and cut past your bowl outline or get some tear out. With extra wood on the side of your outline you can almost always compensate for your miscues.
Step 7: Clean Up the Bowl
Using a spoon gouge you will finish defining the shape and contour of your bowl to the final depth.
Unlike the wood gouge, the spoon gouge should be carefully used in all directions to clean up any previously made tool marks as best as possible.
Step 8: Carving of Bowl Complete
All that is left for the bowl is sanding.
Step 9: Cut Out Your Spoon From Blank
I typically use a bandsaw to cut out the spoon but for the sake of this post I used a hacksaw. It comes out just as good, it just takes a little longer. A jigsaw or handsaw could be used just as well.
Step 10: Use Many Small Cuts for More Control
To cut out the spoon without cutting into the curves and contours of the piece simply make a series of cuts horizontal to the spoon up to the spoon's outline.
Step 11: Cut Opposite Direction From Your Smaller Cuts to Get Shape
After you make your horizontal cuts, cut along them to remove each block of wood from your previous cuts. Be careful not to cut into your spoon. Do not worry if your outline looks super rough and uneven, we will address that in the next step.
Step 12: Rough Shape the Back of Your Bowl
Use your wood rasp to rough out the shape of the back of the bowl and the handle. The rasp will remove a good bit of wood so be sure that you begin with a blank that is thick enough to lose some wood in the later shaping process.
Step 13: Rough Shape Your Handle
A half-round file (pictured closest to the bowl) is a good substitute for the rasps when shaping the curves and contours of the handle and the area where the handle meets the bowl.
Step 14: Finely Shape Back of Bowl
After shaping with the rasp and file, use the coarse sanding belt to finish shaping the spoon to its final form. For the back of bowl and handle you will want to use a two-handed "flossing" method to get a nice rounded contour. By "flossing" I mean take one end of the belt in your left hand, the other end in your right, and pull down with your right hand, then pull down with your left, and repeat. Your sanding belt will glide back and forth across the work piece while being oriented like the belt in the picture.
Step 15: Finely Shape the Curves and Contours Where Handle Meets Bowl
You can see how much nicer the shape is after the "flossing" sanding method when you compare this picture to the previous one.
Step 16: Finely Shape Your Handle
Repeat the same sanding method used on the back of the bowl on the handle to get your final desired shape.
Step 17: Finish Sand Entire Piece
After the last step you should basically have your final shape, all there is left to do is some progressive finish sanding. Starting with a coarse grit paper (60 grit), sand away all previously made tool and sanding marks from the handle and back of bowl. Once all previous marks are sanded away progress to a slightly finer grit paper (100 grit). Continue progressing to finer grit papers, sanding out all marks left previously, until you get to a 300 or 400 grit paper. Since it is a cooking spoon that will be used often, there is really no need to progress to a sand paper any finer than 300 or 400 grit for the handle and back of bowl unless you just want to for some reason. I personally do not progress to a paper finer than 220 on the inside of the bowl for the same reason just mentioned.
Step 18: Front View of Finished Spoon
Front view after final sanding.
Step 19: Rear View of Finished Spoon
Rear view after sanding.
Step 20: Sealing the Wood
There are many different food grade oils that can be used to seal the wood. I personally use whatever I have on hand in the kitchen which is typically vegetable, canola, or olive oil.
I used vegetable oil to seal this spoon. I typically apply a liberal amount upon completion of the spoon, let it dry for a day, then apply another coat of oil and let it dry for a day or two before use.
I have used coconut oil in the past and it looks great, but coconut oil is solid at room temperature and leaves a heavy residue feel to the spoon once the oil re-solidifies after being applied.
It always fascinates me how sealing Pecan with oil completely transforms the color of the wood. It takes on a much darker, rich look compared to the lighter color of the unsealed pecan.