Spooning With Style

It’s not always about the big, complicated, detailed, historical carvings around here. Sometimes when I’m between projects, I pull out a scrap of wood and carve something that I can finish in an hour or so. Last night was a good example. All the projects that I’m either working on or about to start are quite large. One requires more research. One requires cutting and laminating together a bunch of yellow cedar. One requires a consultation with the client. At about 9 pm, I wasn’t about to start on any of these. But I didn’t want to waste an hour, either. So I grabbed a 6″ x 1 3/4″ x 3/4″ piece of walnut out of the off-cut bin and started carving a spoon.

First, I found the middle of the board, and drew a line down its length. I used a compass to scribe a circle with an inside and outside edge, which would form the bowl of the spoon. After that, I clamped the board in my vise, took out my #7 – 14 mm wide gouge and started carving the bowl. Once I had the bowl scooped out, I switched to a 5a – 7 mm spoon gouge to clean up the bottom of the bowl. Then I drew the handle and cut the outside shape on my bandsaw.

After the shape was cut out, I cut a strip of double-sided carpet tape, flipped the spoon bowl-side down and stuck it to the tape on a piece of scrap wood which I clamped in my vise. Double-sided carpet tape makes a wonderful “vise” for things that are difficult to clamp due to their shape. I took my #3 – 25mm gouge and shaped the outside of the spoon bowl. A quick switch to a #7 – 14 mm gouge, flipped over so I was primarily carving with the inside edge of the gouge, helped me shape the handle in a few strokes. Once all that was done, I worked it free from the double-sided tape, made a few passes with my round rasp and smoothed it with a large double-cut file before sanding it with several grits of sand paper. It requires a little more sanding as you can see from the photo, and them some foodsafe oil to finish it.

I really like the shape, and it fits very nicely into my hand. It will make a nice coffee scoop or something similar.

I’m trying to decide whether to put my maker’s mark on it or just leave it smooth. Got any recommendations for me on that? Leave a comment and I’ll consider it!

Hope Chest Build Continued

Last week I showed you some of my early progress on building a hope chest for my daughter. In that post, I said I would start carving a tall ship in a contrasting colour of wood. My daughter drew a picture of the tall she sailed on last summer, and I found an appropriate piece of American Black Walnut and got to carving.

Tall Ship Drawing
Tall Ship Drawing
Tall Ship Cutout
Tall Ship Cutout
Tall Ship Beginning
Tall Ship Beginning

My next job is to finish up the tall ship carving and then separate it from the backing plywood and prepare it to be glued onto the front of the hope chest. That will be a challenge to do without breaking it.

In other news, the sun was out in the Lower Mainland of BC this weekend. Bulbs are coming up all over the place. Soon we’ll have snowdrops, crocuses and tulips blooming. I like spring!

Progress on Fireplace Mantel Carving

I’m making progress on the fireplace mantel carving. I’ve finished all the bows as well as all the flower drops and flower swags. I’ve started on the end medallions but must first touch base with the client about some of the finer details regarding them. In the meantime, I’ve started the large flower leg drops.

Large Flower Leg Drops
Flower Leg Drops

I can see some light at the end of this project. All that’s left to complete is these two leg drops and the two medallions. Then I can begin on the next project, which is a mahogany version of this carving, but with the addition of a fruit bowl. That should be an interesting challenge.

Local weather in Langley, BC is rainy today. That’s ok as I need to stay inside and carve! The garden is growing like a wild thing. We’ve fought off the slugs and have been eating lettuce and radishes for some time now. The strawberries are finished. Next to harvest will be peas and carrots, maybe a few beets.

Back to stabbing wood with pointy, sharp things!

Grant

Carving an 1890’s Style Fireplace Mantel

I received a commission from a local couple to carve the decorative elements for their fireplace mantels. These two mantels are rather large in size and are situated in two very beautifully designed rooms. One is made out of American Black Walnut, the other is made in Mahogany. The decorative elements will be attached to the face of the mantels and stained and varnished to match.

After several meetings with the owner and looking at numerous drawings and designs, I decided to start by making a photocopy of each piece to be carved including the elevation marks and design notations. Then I spray-glued the paper to the wood and cut each piece out using my band saw:

Image
American Black Walnut mantel pieces to be cut out.

 

I started carving one of the more challenging pieces – the ribbon bows. They are challenging because they are to stand 3/4 of an inch tall, but also must be pierced through and must look like a ribbon, with all the curves and creases and folds of a typical ribbon bow. The results are as follows:

Carved Ribbon Bows
The ribbon bows carved in American Black Walnut.

 

The next pieces I’ll focus on are some flowers. This walnut seems to be old wood, tight grained and very, very hard. My tools have taken a beating and I’ve spent quite a bit of time sharpening them. The walnut finishes up beautifully directly from the carving gouge, with that glossy, burnished glow from razor-sharp tools and good quality wood. I know when I must resharpen my tools when I no longer feel like the tool is doing the work and I’m getting tired from trying to force it too much.

On the home front, the weather in Langley has been unseasonably wet and cool and our garden plot in the Walnut Grove Community Gardens has taken a beating as a result. In spite of the weather we’ve had a couple of crops of strawberries already, although we’ve lost a few precious berries to rot and the odd slug. The next things to harvest will be lettuce and rhubarb.

Our garden
Our garden in the Walnut Grove Community Gardens.

 

Fruit
Strawberries

 

It was a rare day without rain yesterday and I was able to move my carving station out to the sundeck (a wishful term around these parts). We had friends drop in while I was carving and Scott was able to try some of my carving gouges on some scrap wood. He was a natural and has a potential future as a wood carver!

Until next time,

Grant

Spooning

If you were to sign up for a beginner carving course, chances are you would learn to carve a spoon. It’s the perfect project for a beginner because it involves many carving techniques, yet it is relatively easy and requires only a knife and a gouge. Everyone knows what a spoon should look like, so the shape is non-threatening. The shape of a spoon means that there are some parts that are fragile and require extra care to ensure that the direction of the grain in the wood will support those parts to the best advantage.

Walnut Spoon

Carving the bowl of a spoon teaches students how to hold a gouge, especially when to carve with or across the grain. Carving the neck of the spoon will show how to give the illusion of a thin, delicate neck, while actually leaving it heavier and stronger than it looks. Carving the handle will teach you how to use a carving knife while dealing with grain direction, splitting, and how to shape a gentle, comfortable curve.

Walnut Spoon 2

Finally, finishing the spoon also teaches some important points of carving. Sanding is tedious, and the better the carving technique, the less sanding is required. And the choice of what finish, if any, to use on the spoon is very important. If the spoon is purely decorative, any finish will do: varnish, wax, oil, or unfinished is fine. But if the spoon is to be used, the finish needs to be food-safe. This limits the choices down to a few, and most of these are oils or special waxes that do not contain mineral spirits or other toxins. Mineral oil, 100% natural tung oil, beeswax, or salad bowl wax are the most common choices. It’s possible to use walnut oil, but it’s a bit hard to find. Some people use olive oil or vegetable oil, but the problem with these is that they can go rancid.

Walnut Spoon 3

Why don’t you pick up a gouge with a #5 sweep, 10 millimeters wide, and a pocket knife (or carving knife), and give it a go?

About the carving:

The wood is Black Walnut. It was carved in about an hour, and finished in a natural oil finish. As you can see from the last picture, it’s about 6 inches long by an inch and a half wide.