A few days ago, a package arrived in the mail from an old family friend. Inside (along with her annual family newsletter) was this poor spoon:
Her note called it her “butter spoon,” which she had used for butter making for many years. It had finally broken, and she asked me to make a new one.
This was an interesting challenge. I’m not used to copying another spoon maker’s work. Plus, the bowl of the original spoon had been worn to an asymmetrical shape by years of use. So should I make an asymmetrical replica of the spoon as it came to me, or should I try to replicate what I thought the spoon might have looked and felt like when new?
The first step, though, was to get a better sense of the original. I super-glued it back together so I could hold it and trace it out.
It’s black walnut and incredibly thin, and thus very light. I’m kind of surprised it lasted so long.
I really prefer to make handles more robust, but this project isn’t about my own preferences. Still, I think this spoon might have lasted even longer had it been left a little thicker in the handle.
I rummaged around in my wood pile and came up with a narrow piece of straight-grained black walnut, which I had given up for firewood. It was long enough to get two spoons out of, so I decided to have it both ways.
I would make two different copies, one as near a replica of the original as I could reasonably manage, and the other a (slightly stronger) reconstruction of what the spoon might have originally looked like. I went to work with my gouge, saw, spokeshave, and carving knives. This is the result:
On the left is the replica. There are a few minor differences, but it’s very close to the same shape, thickness, and weight as the original. (I’m not into making forgeries.) On the right is a symmetrical reconstruction of what the original probably looked like when new. The handle is a little thicker than the original, but it’s still a very light spoon.
So, if you were wondering: yes, I do now make copies and replicas of old spoons. My contact info is on the “About” page.