out of the woodwork
August 18, 2014 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Hi, I'm interested in carving wood, specifically in carving my own kitchen implements (ladles, spoons, scoops, etc.). I have no experience in woodworking whatsoever (truly... zero) and currently have no carving materials. Do you have advice about tools, books, techniques? Where do I get tools?

I'd like to get into this because it looks like a great pasttime with such beautiful results. I recognize that people don't make gorgeous wood wares with away, but does anyone have any suggestions about what equipment to buy? What the necessary tools are? How long it takes to get real proficiency?

This is the type of stuff I'd eventually like to make: http://shop.herriottgrace.com/

posted by flyingfork to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The kind of carving you want to do is typically called "green wood" carving. There are tons of YouTube videos with instructions.

I was getting into it a couple years ago (but then life, etc., happened), and the general wisdom on tools is get a decent set of starter tools that you can afford, but don't break the bank on them. (You can get them on Amazon, even.) Practice a bit and make sure you're going to like the carving before investing in more expensive, long-term tools.

Lumberjocks and Fine Woodworking both have active forums that can be really helpful for novices. YouTube was what I found the most helpful, though.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:03 PM on August 18, 2014

To make those spoons, you'd need chisels, a drawknife, a spokeshave and sandpaper. Also a sawhorse, or some other system of clamping stuff down while you work on it. A lot of the other stuff on the site looks lathe turned. I made okay spoons under my father's guidance at age 10, so the basics are not super hard, but getting to that level of artistry will take some practice. I don't think I'd start with one of those big bulbous ones. Something thicker and shallower will be easier. Possibly a spatula type thing, even.

Also, after looking at that site I want cake.
posted by geegollygosh at 3:09 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since the proper approach has been covered, can I suggest that a naive approach is just to dive in and try before you get too invested in tools or technique? I remember Mark Frauenfelder (of MAKE/Boing Boing) has a section on spoon-carving in his hipster DIY book, Made by Hand.

Searching on MAKE, I found this, which pointed to these instructions.
posted by teditrix at 3:35 PM on August 18, 2014

Another approach is to use a crooked knife.
posted by mr vino at 3:50 PM on August 18, 2014

That etsy seller you linked to does very nice, highly refined work. I suspect some of those spoons and scoops started out as lathe turnings, which you probably aren't going to want to start out with.

At the very least you'll need an excellent carving knife and some sharpening stones. Knives, gouges, chisels and such have to be kept extremely sharp to perform well -- closer to a barber's straight razor than even a good kitchen knife. Sharpening is something you'll be doing very frequently.

My favorite book on such carving is Swedish Carving Techniques by Willie Sundqvist.

These Frost brand Sloyd knives are nothing special to look at, but they're really fine pieces of steel. You might also end up needing a curved knife for hollowing out deeper concavities.
posted by jon1270 at 3:59 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your profile indicates you're in The City. Have you looked into Makerspace? Lots of tools and other stuff are available and it includes safety info.
posted by X4ster at 6:42 PM on August 18, 2014

Your library has loads of wonderful books for beginner woodcarvers - and they're free!

If you check out a half dozen or more and find one that just really is IT for you, you can then order a copy for your very own. I'm an expert at this, believe me ...

Not at woodcarving, but at ordering good how-to books.

Have fun.
posted by aryma at 9:49 PM on August 18, 2014

That Herriot Grace stuff is beautiful. And ridiculously overpriced. I can walk across the street and buy a handcarved wooden spoon of similar quality for about 15 dollars right now.

So, lets talk about what you really want to do. If you want to do treen (the technical term for carved woodenware) in the Herriot Grace style-- ultra smooth, ultra symmetrical, perfectly balanced, etc., you'll need the following: a spindle sander (I would be willing to bet the spoons were shaped on a sander rather than carved, as it is almost impossible to get that degree of symmetry working by hand with a knife alone), a curved knife (Mora sells a decent entry level grade one) to scoop the bowl area, a scroll-saw (to cut the rough shape out of the blank--again, the traidtional hatchet is simply not accurate enough), a ton of sandpaper. And about 2-3 years of practice.

On the other hand, traditional spoon carving--the kind practiced by Willie Sundqvist, Peter Follansbee and the like, is a different beast altogether. For that style, you'll need: a hatchet, a carving knife (the Mora is what I use), a curved knife (Mora again), sandpaper (if you want a smooth finish, though many if not most serious spooncarvers tend to eschew it, preferring to leave the tooling marks), and a whole lot of time. Watch a ton of videos, get some good straight-grained wood blanks (birch or even basswood to start), and have at it!

Its a ton of fun, and more than a little addicting...
posted by Chrischris at 7:18 AM on August 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

You might be interested in this spoon a day project.
posted by firstdrop at 6:29 PM on September 9, 2014

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