The Most Neglected Part of a Wooden Spoon

The other day I was using one of my big wooden spoons to mash up some avocados for guacamole and reflecting on wooden spoon design.  In discussions of spoon making, we carvers focus a lot on the profile and texture of the inside of the bowl, as well as on the shape of the handle, but we don’t give much attention to the back of the bowl.

That’s a mistake.

Spoon Backs 4-2015 - 1The back of the spoon’s bowl is useful in many mashing and squeezing tasks around the kitchen.  The butter spoons I featured here a while ago are not used to scoop but to squeeze the buttermilk out of freshly-churned butter.  I use the backs of my own mixing spoons to mash lumps of flour left in batters.

That’s why a good mixing spoon should have both bowl that is smooth on the inside and nicely rounded on the outside.

I know a lot of spoon carvers like to leave facets on the backs of their spoons.  I don’t, in truth, know whether this makes them less useful for mashing and squeezing, but I prefer to smooth out the backs of my spoons fully, removing any facets left from the spokeshave.

Spoon Backs 4-2015 - 2I also find that a deeper spoon is better for mashing than a shallower one.  I have a few flatter spoons that are excellent for stirring sauces or pancake batter, but the deeper ones have a bigger curve on the back, and hence a broader surface area.  They are even more useful for mashing and squeezing.  And if the back of the bowl more or less matches the inside of your mixing bowl, all the better.

Use a well-made spoon, and enjoy your guacamole.

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4 Responses to The Most Neglected Part of a Wooden Spoon

  1. My neighbor came over the other day, asking for help sharpening a couple of Frost Sloyd knives and a hook. The knives were easy, the hook nearly impossible. I did what I could, showed him a couple of tricks, and steered him to Robin Wood (he’s watching YouTube, anyway). My spoon-carving techniques evolved in the 70’s & 80’s, before there was this wild proliferation of advice on everything conceivable. (Do you remember the Dan Dustin article from the old Fine Woodworking? I probably had it memorized at one time.)
    Anyway, the hook knives have always seemed clumsy to me. I prefer a small, short gouge that I can direct away from my fingers (it’s also a lot easier to sharpen), seasoned wood even though it’s much harder than green, and a spokeshave with the handles cut off. My favorite knife is an old farrier’s knife that I accidentally broke the hook off of (it was useless anyway), and I use a scraper for the inside of the bowl (quicker than sanding).
    Practically, I found that if I traced patterns and cut out blanks on the bandsaw, I could carve spoons almost fast enough to make minimum wage. Starting out with the hatchet and chopping block, moving on to shaving horse and French-pattern drawknife, I learn something every time.
    The small spoons that we use daily (maple, plum, pear, some of them more than twenty years old) have become so familiar that I find myself offended by the coarseness of restaurant spoons. There’s something a bit vulgar about sticking stuff into your mouth when you don’t know whence it came or from what ingredients it was made.

    • That FW article was probably before my time. Hook knives are excellent, especially for deep bowls. In green wood, they can work nearly as fast as a gouge. I’ve never tried to restore one, but I can imagine it would take a great deal of patience.

      Thanks for sharing.

      • If they can work “nearly as fast as a gouge”, why not just use a gouge?

      • Because the gouge is impractical when you’re carving outdoors, sitting under a tree. I do most of my spoon work at my workbench, where vises make gouge use practical. There are ways to use a gouge freehand for lap-carving, but I think a hook knife is far more practical for lap carving.

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