Last Updated: Aug 28, 2016 @ 10:35 pm

When my second-favorite century oak fell at Hawk Hill this spring I was devastated. I’m not exaggerating to say that I grieved it as I would the loss of a pet- that tree was special and so characteristic of Hawk Hill. While I am slowly adjusting to sunshine in a space that was always gently shaded, I am making the best of my new landscape- tucking tomato plants into a newly sunny spot, using fallen limbs to start a mushroom patch, and using a few logs to create some very special gifts and keepsakes in the form of handmade wooden spoons.

While I will confess to an educated history in woodcarving, I don’t think it’s necessary for this project. A basic assortment of tools, lots of sandpaper, and the kind of common sense required to preserve your fingers from accidental amputation are really all that’s required for a basic project like this.

Would you believe my Junior High, in the mid-90’s, offered wood-carving classes? Far from today’s zero-tolerance policies that ban anything that could even look like a weapon, even basic art classes for 7th and 8th graders at my Junior High included courses on woodcarving- complete with regularly sharpened knives and gouges- thanks to a particularly Mountain-Man-esque male art teacher. I really appreciate that chapter in my art education, as learning my way around wood and knives opened up a different media to me.

 

To make my spoons, I first selected a few healthy, thick logs, and sliced them lengthwise into 1-2″ thick slabs, with the grain running down the slab lengthwise.

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Normally, I’d want to try and avoid knots and imperfections in the wood and contour my spoon’s bowl and handle to accommodate the movement of the grain, however since I was working with a very hard wood, oak, accommodating the grain was less important.

I did start working on my logs right away, though, knowing that as my wood dried it would become increasingly hard to carve. Fresh, wet wood is slightly softer.

 

After I had slabs of wood I made a rough sketch of a spoon and cut that design out with a bandsaw. Ok. Confession. I don’t have a bandsaw. I wish I had a bandsaw- but I don’t. My dad does! So I convinced him to cut my oak logs with his not-meant-for-wood bandsaw and we managed to almost complete the project and only ruined two blades in the process!

Once I had my rough cut spoons I put them in the freezer.

Yes. The freezer.

Not because that’s vital step, but because it’s exceptionally hot outside and I don’t do woodworking in the house!

 

The freezer kept my wood from drying while I waited for the weather to cool enough to make outdoor projects a reasonable pursuit.


When I started back to work, I designed my actual spoons. Using paper and scissors, then transferring the design onto the wood.

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Then I carefully used a saw to begin roughing out my design:

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When I had a spoon shape, I began using a spoon gouge to start making the dip in the spoon’s bowl:

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Chipping away on my clamped wood until a spoon shape emerged:

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Kreg clamps helped a lot to keep the spoon blank steady

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It was a careful balance knowing how deep to go before I risked ending up with a slotted spoon! I used a larger, flat chisel to shape the back of the spoon:

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And gradually a spoon emerged!

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The final result of my first attempt at would carving is not, it would be fair to say, the prettiest or most functional spoon in my kitchen- but it holds a memory and it’s exceptionally sturdy. My caution around my lack of confidence in knowing how thinly I should scoop out the bowl of the spoon or how narrow I should make the handle has resulted in a sturdy, robust spoon.

my handcarved spoon made from the oak tree that fell on my property

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