I do a lot of traveling each summer. In the past, I often had to leave my woodworking behind because, well, it’s hard to fit a tool chest and a workbench into the back of the minivan along with all the suitcases and duffel bags. But now that I’ve picked up sloyd-style spoon carving, I can take my woodworking along practically everywhere I go.
Recently I took a business trip to another city, where I stayed in a hotel for over a week. I tossed my carving knives and a few bits of wood into my suitcase so I could do some woodwork in the evenings. After procuring an extra bed sheet from the hotel, I headed down to the pool deck, spread out the sheet under a chair, and went to work. When I was done, I gathered the shavings up in the sheet and easily discarded them.
Other evenings when the weather wasn’t as nice, I did the same thing up in my room. I even propped up my cell phone so I could video-chat with my family while I carved out spoons in the room. (My wife could tell which tools I was using just by their sound!) I had picked out some workpieces with curvy grain, which made for some fun handles. I can only wonder what the housekeeping staff thought when they emptied the trash, though.
On another summer road trip, my family and I stayed at the house of an acquaintance who was out of the country at the time. While cooking in her kitchen, I ran across some pitiful-looking wooden spoons in the back of a drawer. Fortunately, I had my sloyd bag along, and I had a couple finished spoons in there, so I left her a nice, handmade spoon as a replacement.
My “sloyd bag” is an old Land’s End satchel that I keep my knives in. I also like to keep a few bits of wood in it at all times–mostly black walnut, which carves pretty nicely even when bone dry. My tool kit is pretty simple: a couple sloyd knives, a hook knife, and some sharpening equipment.
I’ve also added some less traditional hand tools to my sloyd kit. I typically carry a low-angle spokeshave, which I use one-handed as if it were a carving knife. It works very well on end-grain, and I often use it to refine the profile of the bowl, as well as smooth down the underside of the bowl. Because it has a tight mouth, I also use it in places where my knives leave a bit of tear-out. It works extremely well.
The other non-traditional hand tool I regularly use is card scrapers. I understand that most spoon carvers either leave the surface as the knife cuts it, or they burnish the surface of the spoon with a piece of bone or antler. For myself, I’ve not been satisfied with my attempts at burnishing, so I typically scrape my spoons with a small card scraper. I use two, a curved one for the inside of the bowl and a straight one for everything else. The scrapers excel at smoothing rough surfaces without destroying the details. Like the spokeshave, the scrapers are used one-handed.
After scraping, I rinse the spoon in water to raise the grain. (Walnut grain gets really rough when moistened the first time.) Then I lightly sand the whole spoon, being careful to preserve the facets I want to keep. I have some sandpaper in my sloyd bag, but I really prefer to sand and apply a finish at home. So every time I travel, my goal is to return home with several new spoons in my bag ready to sand and finish.
This time around, I came home with five spoons–four mixing spoons and one eating spoon.