This is a series of photos that I thought might help folk wanting to understand spoon carving forms.
Below is a spoon I did for Norman Stevens’ spoon collection, it is carved in almond wood – which is so dense I did not need to use a bent branch to make a strong spoon. The flecks are medullar rays, which all hardwoods have, but are especially clear in some woods.
Notice how the front of the bowl comes out nearly flat – this makes it comfortable to eat with, (just like a metal table spoon) and is much stronger than curving the tip up – which would mean weak end grain.
Note the thicker wood at the back of the bowl – this is for strength because, being curved up it has short grain fibers – thus it needs extra thickness here.
The spine or backbone is of course for strength where a spoon is most challenged by leverage.
To give definition to the forms I like to use ‘curved ribbons’ as I call the twists the forms take as they move from side, to back, to front.
These forms I learned in my winter spent in northern Sweden, much of it with my mentor Ville Sundquist. There wooden utinsels are not a decoration, but a much richer wonderful and normal part of everyday’s life. They are made to feel beautiful to the mouth, lovely to the eye, a pleasure to the hand, and engineered to last well with many years of daily use.
I was sent a good question about spoon design, here it is and my answer:
What is the purpose for the bend in the bowl of your spoon blanks?
What a great question, and in 20 some years I have never been asked it!
Common metal eating spoons range from as little as 5 degrees to as much as 25 degrees – handle to bowl angle. In our eating spoon blanks I chose about 15 degrees, however they are considerably thicker than is needed for a finished spoon – giving much latitude to the carver. There has to be some angle and drop to the spoon bowl – relative to the handle – in order to dip down into a bowl or plate and still lift something up. Take a good luck at the metal spoons you are perhaps used to eating with to observe both the drop and angle. Also, most metal spoons can be bent, so try bending one to different angles to gain an opinion of what angle to use for which type of spoon. Serving spoons can have as much as 70 degrees, cooking spoon as little as 5 degrees. Of course, as soon as one gets much past 15 degrees its especially preferable to use a bent branch so the grain follows the curve.
The series of photos below is of a 12″ Birch spoon carved by Jogge Sundquist for us when he visited us a few years ago. It has had constant use since then, countless times stirring tomatoe sauce, dark fruit sauces like berry and currant – yet it still looks new! This is because of 3 things: his careful attention to the bent branches’ grain, limiting end grain, and the flaxseed oil treatment.
Pay attention to the same important design considerations spoken of in the almond spoon, the essentials are all here of course, he’s one of my teachers – the important internal engineering is still the same, even when the style is different.
Notice the grain lines in the top and bottom view of the bowl – how they go to the end of the spoon as nearly straight lines – this tells something very important about this spoon! It says there is no end grain on the most important part of the spoon’s bowl – the bowl follows the bent branch’s grain exactly. This means it will never break from weakness, it will not absorb stains from food, nor absorb excess water (which leads eventually to cracking in less well carved spooons)
His inscription? This is Jogge’s wonderful quirky twist on an old tradition of personalizing a spoon for someone. In this case he knew I like hot spicy food.
In Jogge’s lifetime of carving he has mastered many styles of work – from refined and polished – to direct from the axe. In this spoon Jogge wanted to show decisive, bold, strong, direct form – straight from the knife. Very little of this spoon was ever sanded. Wood is never smoother than directly from skillful cuts with a very sharp knife.
This spoon proclaims: Use me every day! and we surely do.