It Took a Crook


An oak crook, more specifically, was the origin of this rooster-inspired bowl that I’ve just finished.  The flow of the grain is evident in the top photo in the line between the light sapwood and the darker heartwood.  I first saw him months ago in a big oak branch left behind after a nearby woodlot had been timbered.  After some tough splitting along the pith, his half was freed from the lower portion.


There he is, waiting in the upper half of the branch crook, tail to the left, head to the right.

I also went with the flow of the grain laterally, so his head is, well, cocked a bit to the right.  Reminds me of how a robin will tilt its head slightly while on the hunt for worms.  That can be seen in the slide show below showing a few more views of this guy:

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He is 14 inches long, 5 1/2 inches wide, and 8 1/4 inches high.

While on the subject, here are a couple other smaller pieces I’ve recently finished that are also crook-dependent.  Starting with a big cherry ladle (14 3/4″ long and 3 1/8″ wide).


It came from the lower half of this cherry crook.


It’s the front piece in the photo below.


A branch headed from the right to the bottom had broken off years ago and the tree had grown over and around it, leaving beautiful and strong grain through the bowl of the ladle.


Exploring and shaping the split surface a bit by working cross-grain with an adze.  Turned out there was enough wood at the bottom of that hole.


And this next piece definitely relies on crooked grain.  I must not have photographed the crook, but I carved this pie server from a red maple crook that had a unique shape just right for this.  11 1/4″ long and 2 5/8″ wide.




This entry was posted in bird bowls, bowls, cherry, finding wood, green woodworking, paint, trees, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to It Took a Crook

  1. Barry Gordon says:

    Dave-Outstanding work as always- It’s almost redundant to link your name and that compliment.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Tate Hewitt says:

    Thanks for the idea of exploring the crook with the adze. That way you don’t waste too much time on shaping the blank just to find out there is a secret knot at the bottom. Going to have to carve one of those pie servers too.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      It’s good to find those surprises in a blank early. I use the adze cross-grain on a lot of spoon blanks, especially around the top of the bowl and bowl to neck transition. Thanks for the comment and best wishes for the pie server. The right crook is out there.


  3. sartorius2015 says:

    That rooster is a stunning and expressive piece Dave. Wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ken Renard says:

    David, I am very new to carving. How do you get the bowls so smooth?
    I can see all my cuts. Is it just practice or do you have other ways of smoothing like sanding or scraping. Learning lots watching your videos and reading your posts.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Seeing all of your cuts isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Ken. The surface texture on a piece is just another one of those design choices that we can make. Depending on the lighting sometimes the texture may not be obvious in a photo, but on nearly all of my pieces I choose to leave the surface from the cutting edge and the cuts can be seen and felt. That is the case with all three of the pieces in this post. Depending on many factors (e.g. the character of the wood, the design, the intended use) the surface can show vigorous tool marks or, by degrees, be worked more carefully and with finer facets.

      Regardless, as your skill develops you’ll be able to more closely achieve the results you intend. And whether cuts are big, small, short, long and sweeping — work to make them crisp and clean. There are many factors that contribute to achieving that, including truly sharp tools, learning effective grasps and tool control, and, as you’ve suggested — practice. There is no substitute for time cutting wood and finding out what works for you. For a clean, relatively smooth surface on the inside of a spoon bowl make sure your hook knife is very sharp and use light cuts for the final surface. I typically rough hollow the bowl with one hook knife, saving the more perfect edge of another hook knife for my finishing cuts.

      Although there are advantages to a cut surface, I also want to point out that sanding is another technique that you may want to use. It’s just another option, and, like knife finishing, it can be done well or poorly. Although it’s not my usual practice, I’ve sanded parts of some pieces as a design choice. It’s another tool that can be used thoughtfully and with skill.


  5. John Reed says:

    Inspiring to say the least! Looks like you cocked the tail a little opposite the head, creative! And again just like a bird in nature.


  6. Kineret Dekel says:

    Fantastic! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience (-:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Owen Lowe says:

    I can’t express how appreciative I am for your years of blog posts. They are wonderfully informative and inspiring.

    It appears the rooster is created from the upper half of the crook whereas the cherry spoon is from the lower half. What factors go into determining whether to use the upper or lower section of a split crook? Are there any differences in the working qualities in general?


    • Dave Fisher says:

      No major difference between working the upper or lower half of the crook, other than the split surface being on the inside or outside of the bend. However, many crooks have or had a branch extending from the lower portion (the outside) of the bend, rendering the lower portion useless for spoons often. That would have been the case with the crook for this cherry spoon, but the tree had grown enough wood over the old broken branch stub to provide enough usable material on that half as well.


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