The Ukulele Spoon

Did you ever have one of those odd bits of wood hanging around the shop that is pretty useless but just nice enough not to throw away?

For example:

Quite a few years ago, I brought this little piece home in a load of salvaged offcuts. I think the previous owner had planned to make a small stringed instrument but never got around to it. (I’m just going to assume it was going to be a tiny ukulele–hence the title of this post–but I’d love to hear other ideas.) It originally had a screw on the fat end and some tuning pegs.

I kept running across it whenever I cleaned up my shop space, and I nearly threw it away a couple of times. But I could see it was mahogany, and I figured one day I might want a narrow bit of mahogany for something.

This winter, I decided it needed to become a spoon. I could see that, with care, I could carve around the screw holes and make a fine little coffee spoon from it.

First step: cutting around the screw holes, so I can see where to lay out the spoon.

As I had hoped, once I cut past the screw holes, there was just enough stock left to lay out a narrow spoon using my template. I switched back and forth between a gouge and a hook knife to shape the bowl, which didn’t take long. It’s a small spoon.

The wood was dry, but it carved well with a straight sloyd knife. I had shaved the blank pretty thin, so I tried to remove as little stock as possible from the underside of the handle.

A spokeshave, card scraper, and sandpaper refined the shape and smoothed everything out. Here is the finished spoon with some water on it, just to show what it will look like oiled. As you can see, the wood still has a couple black marks left from the steel screws. I don’t mind. They are a reminder of the spoon’s origin.

After oiling, this little spoon will live with our other coffee spoons in the kitchen.

There are two take-aways from this little project:

  1. Don’t hold onto special pieces of wood forever. Make something–anything–out of them. And when in doubt, make a spoon.
  2. Mahogany very carves well, even when bone-dry. The next time somebody asks “If I can’t get freshly-cut spoon wood, what’s a good wood to carve dry?” I’m going to tell them to head down to the best lumberyard in town and pick up a narrow piece of mahogany. It won’t be cheap, but you can get a lot of spoons out of a single board. Or, you can get one spoon out of the neck of a tiny ukulele.

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1 Response to The Ukulele Spoon

  1. acandlewick says:

    This was super encouraging to me! There’s a piece of briar in my shop I’ve been wanting to make a tobacco pipe out of for some time and I haven’t touched it for fear of ruining it. But a special piece of wood isn’t so special if you don’t make anything out of it. Thank you!

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