Spoon Carving on the Road

Sloyd Spoons on the Road 6-2015 - - 1I 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.  Sloyd Spoons on the Road 6-2015 - - 2

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.

Sloyd Spoons on the Road 6-2015 - - 4

I left one like this as a replacement.  I hope she likes it.

Sloyd Spoons on the Road 6-2015 - - 5

Mass-produced spoons with turned handles often warp like this, rendering them even more useless than they were before.

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.

Sloyd Spoons on the Road 6-2015 - - 3I’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.

Sloyd Spoons on the Road 6-2015 - - 6After 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.

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3 Responses to Spoon Carving on the Road

  1. I think you have a great ideal. But could we get a picture of the contents of your traveling kit. I think it would help those who are just getting a start in spoon carving. Nice spoons by the way.

  2. nickgibbs says:

    Would you care to write about this for Living Woods magazine? I agree that it would be good for us to show what tools you use.

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