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.
-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
-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!