Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Spoons! A Love Affair with Wood.

I've loved wood since I was a child. I got my first pocket knife when I was 7 and for the following years I spent a lot of time carving wood. There is a zen in it for me. It's an interesting combination of the freedom of thought and intense focus that draws me in. I love the smell of wood, I love the texture of wood, I love the feel of wood in my hands.

Spoon at the
end of the class
Since I was very young I've loved watching "The Woodright's Shop" with Roy Underhill on PBS. It's the longest running PBS show and is all about traditional woodworking, the kind of thing that is 100% devoid of electrically powered tools. There is a romanticism in traditional woodworking. You can see in the traditional tools the evolution of man's relationship with it's environment. The burst of activity in the Industrial Revolution changed the landscape of our relationship with the forests. In many ways we turned our back on them. We tore forests down to make room for other enterprises and insulated ourselves from that connection with our ecosystem even further.

Finished Spoon
 from the class
Like many things in life, the struggle of a young family and developing a paying career led me to put aside my love affair with wood and focus on keeping a roof over my head and food on my table. Now, however, good fortune has allowed me to dip my toe back into the waters.

My Second Spoon
There is a very talented woodworker and teacher who has been featured on a number of episodes of the "The Woodright's Shop" named Peter Follansbee who did an episode on traditional Swedish spoon carving and I was very intrigued by them. I started following Mr. Follansbee's blog and keeping an eye on his spoon work. It seemed a cheap and easy way to get back into woodworking without too much expense. I didn't take the plunge till I saw a meetup posted on the Greater Denver Urban Homesteaders page about a spoon carving class taught by Drover through the Sarquit Outdoor Living School. The class was fun and gave me the bug to give it a try. Drover was a great guy to learn from and very enthusiastic in his work. When I got home, I decided to order a hook knife for carving the bowl of the spoon and finished the knife. The bug for carving is strong for me so I ordered two more knives a short bladed and a long bladed strait knife. I also grabbed a cheap hatchet for doing rough out and splitting chores.

The Third Spoon
I needed wood for more spoons and when driving by a nearby location I saw what I though was an apple tree, saw a brush pile of wind fallen branches and hiked up with my middle daughter holding a hand saw to see if I could get some good carving wood. Turns out it was a pear tree and we had fun picking some fruit and collecting some branches.

The first spoon that came out of the wood ended up a little more utilitarian looking than I'd hoped but I really enjoyed how easy green pear is to work with. I timed my first 3 spoons to see how long it took to completer using an android app, like a true geek and found it takes around 4 hours to produce one.
Baby Spoon Traded
 for More Wood

My next spoon still didn't turn out to be what I wanted but it was better than the first. With this spoon I really started figuring out more of the techniques and rebuilding the muscle memory for carving. By the third spoon I'd gotten most of the technique down and was really starting to enjoy the art of it all.

The "Haul" and
 My Handsome Nephew
After finishing the third spoon I had a mishap with the hatchet splitting out the blank for the fourth and did some pretty decent damage to my left hand, in fact I couldn't close my thumb across my hand for almost 2 weeks afterwards. By this time I was pretty much out of wood to work with and needed to source some more. I put out a call on social media but didn't turn up anything. So a quick Google search turned up the nearest tree trimmer to my house and I sent as concise and polite an e-mail as I could. Sure enough a few days later I got a response saying he'd trade all the wood I could handle for a spoon for his soon to be born first granddaughter. I set to work with some of the last of the pear wood making my first baby spoon. After marking it out and showing it to my wife, the expert in all things baby, she suggested some changes to the size and shape of the bowl and I went ahead with carving it out. I think it turned out fantastic, in fact maybe the best thing I've ever carved. After a few phone converstions setting up a meet time we got together at a time I could bring my nephew along. He was a great help loading up all the wood and when we got it all back home we both worked on some spoons.

I'm having a great time carving and I think cute baby spoons might be my current muse for carving. I can't wait to crank out a few more to give to new or soon to be parents in my life.
My Latest Spoon