Intro: How to Make a Travel Fork-spoon Out of Wood
I like the idea of portable utensils, but often they have long handles, too many features, or folding parts that make them too clunky for carrying day-to-day. I saw this great utensil in a blog about minimizing one's waste called the "No Trash Project." The author of the blog posted a photo of their trash free on-flight meal: a metal box of homemade food, and this wooden fork-spoon*. Each side serving as the handle when not in use, so simple and brilliant! I've been looking for a compact travel utensil like this for a while. Most of the handle doesn't get used anyway, and this is way better than the disposable plastic utensils I end up stashing in my purse and reusing out of waste-guilt.
I also like that they didn't try to add a knife. If someone's gonna carry their own eating utensil they probably already carry a knife they're happy with. Anyway, I couldn't find one online, nor instructions on how to make one, so I gave it a shot and made a quick version out of wood.
(*I say "fork-spoon" cause this isn't a "spork," which is a spoon with very small tines cut into it. I don't find that sporks work well as a fork or spoon.)
Step 1: The Tools I Used
These are the tools I used. Don't worry if you don't have all of these exact tools. This was easy on the hands and relatively quick, but it's definitely not the only way.
Besides switching out individual tools, other ways to make this could include carving it using knives, or cutting the handles off a regular fork and spoon and welding the tops together.
Step 2: Trace and Cut
I traced the head of a fork and a spoon onto this piece of wood. I used this wood because it was around, and I prefer making things without buying and making waste as much as possible. The original is made from bamboo, which is strong and has straight grain that suits fork tines well, but there are many good choices.
Try to position your outline so the wood grain isn't totally perpendicular to the direction of the fork tines. The more the tines are parallel with the "long grain" the more strength they will have and the less likely they will be to get chipped off ends later on. As you can see, the grain is going diagonally on the fork side. I decided to go with it since it wasn't totally perpendicular, and I was taking a mostly casual approach. Also there really isn't any long grain here since the long grain runs the height of the wood. I just made sure not to make the tines too long or thin in the later steps.
Next I measured down the height of the spoon and fork and decided what angle I wanted them to be at. I clamped the wood to the table, traced that line around the side of the wood, and cut it with a regular large hand saw (the one in the previous photo that has yellow plasti-dip all over the end.) The clamp in this step is probably the only tool I wouldn't know how to improvise.
Step 3: Cut and Shape
Keep on cutting around the traced lines. For this part I used that smaller saw in the first photo. Notice the flat blade with tiny teeth, that's the key here. It makes this a very easy saw to control. A jeweler's saw would be a great stand-in, too.
Next I took the sanding attachment for my flex shaft tool* and shaped the edges, depth of spoon, and angle of tines. As I did this I would check the thickness and shape by doing the mouth test. I found a good balance of comfortable size and shape, while also making sure it would be durable.
(*Flexible shaft tool is a handheld rotary tool with a hanging motor that is separate from the handpiece. A foot pedal controls the speed. I use it for everything and recommend it highly if you enjoy making things at home and are short on space. A Dremel or similar tool can be a great multi-multi use starting tool, too.)
If you don't have a flex shaft or Dremel tool, a power drill, carving knives, or even handheld files could be improvised for this step. If you are limited by your tools don't worry! Though we've come to expect spoons to hold mouthfulls of liquid they really don't have to. A flatter one like in the original design will be good for most foods, and the broth can be sipped.
Step 4: Tine Time
For this step I used that small saw again. I traced the spaces between the tines to determine where I would cut. First I cut right down the line, then I cut again inwards. I cut gently since I didn't know how this grain would respond, and I made sure to keep the area I was sawing very close to the table for support.
Step 5: Sand It and Carve a Heart
Getting close! Next I sanded it by hand with sandpaper and files. I used a thin, flat file and a narrow triangular shaped one, especially between the tines to get the burrs and most of the clumps out. I used relatively fine sandpaper on the rest of it. I don't remember what grit it was, maybe 400? My hands ache when I do too much small work, or work where they have to be tense for a while, so I had to skimp on the sanding. What I'd have done if I could just toss this over to my intern is start at 150 then move up to 400 grit sandpaper. But that's more for aesthetics; I'd gotten it to a safe and comfortable point with the rotary tool and a quick pass with the sandpaper.
At this point I decided that this marvelous creation would be a Valentine's gift for someone very loved, so I carved a heart in the bottom.
Step 6: Add the Finish and Be Done
Because this is repeatedly going inside your body the finish has to be food safe. I read up on it and there are many food safe finishes. I remember most being beeswax or plant based oils. The main thing is picking something that is safe but also won't go rancid over time. I went with coconut oil because I had some already and it got the go-ahead from a woodworking website. Also, I made this coconut oil myself from a real coconut, making this an item 100% handmade by me!
Just smear the oil on and let it sit. I read that it's good to sit it in the sun. It was night so I used a lamp and it came out nicely. It has a lovely smell and I was amazed to see how much the color was transformed from a cold peach color to a glowing orange!