Spoon Stages

I’ve been finishing up several spoons that have been sitting around, partially carved, for months.  For me, spoon carving breaks down into these stages:

  1.  Finding and collecting the crook
  2.  Splitting
  3.  Axe and adze work
  4.  Green knife work
  5.  Dry knife work
  6.  Possibly decorative carving/lettering/painting
  7.  Oiling and curing

Here’s what that looks like in a little more detail:

DF photos spoon blanks from cherry branches

Good crooks are harder to find than it might seem.  Sometimes I find crooks here and there in fallen branches when I’m walking.  Sometimes I’ll come across a bunch at a time where trees have been trimmed or from treetops in recently logged areas.  Rather than risk end grain checks and the loss of the piece, I partially process these crooks right away.  Above, you can see some cherry blanks that have been split.  I could put them in a plastic bag at that point, but I like to get rid of even more excess before pausing.

DF photos spoon blanks maple firewood 1

Keep your eyes open when splitting firewood too.  I often find nice crooks within larger logs like the Norway maple above.

DF photos spoon blanks maple firewood 3

Some further thoughtful splitting can yield some wonderful crooks.  And that could be split again to make two.

DF photos spoon blanks

So I take those splits and get to work with axe and adze, making decisions on the design of each spoon based largely on what the individual crook brings.  Above are some blanks that have been axed and adzed out.  The adze is used across the grain in this case for shaping, but not so much for hollowing.

That is an ideal stage for storing for later carving.  I place them in a plastic bag, and, if there’s room, into the freezer.  The freezer is only necessary for long term storage when, otherwise, you may get a bit of a science experiment going on in the bag and the wood could get stained.  Most of the excess wood has been removed from the blanks, which leaves more room for ice cream.  Of course, if you’ve got time and only one blank or two, don’t store at all, go ahead and keep carving.


Whenever I get back to them, I do some knife work while they’re still green, including hollowing the bowl.  I want to remove all the wood I can, but still leave a bit for the refinements and surface clean up after drying.  I then leave them to dry for at least a couple days, but sometimes I don’t get back to them for a couple years.  The point is, they’re totally stable at that point and I can come back to them for all of the final carving whenever it works out.  The one’s above are dry and waiting for the finishing knifework.


It’s nice to have a few hanging around in that state; it’s easy to grab one to take with you somewhere, along with a knife.  You can casually carve while hanging out with a friend or just sitting by the river.  No need for chopping blocks and such at this point, and the chips are small and relatively few.


Here are a few above done with the dry knife work and ready for the possibility of decorative carving.  The final lines of the spoon have taken shape and the surface is cut cleanly.


Here, I’m doing some lettering with the pen knife, but there are all sorts of possibilities.


The final step for me is oil treatment.  I submerge the spoon in pure linseed oil (flaxseed oil) for a day or two.  Then I put it in my little lightbulb kiln at around 120 or 130 degrees Farenheit for another day or so.    Then it’s ready to serve.  The one above is one of the spoons from the Norway maple firewood chunk.  I’ll have some others to share soon.

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24 Responses to Spoon Stages

  1. Philip Green says:

    Hi David

    This is the answer to my dreams (well, at least one of them)!

    Keep well



  2. John Koch says:

    Hi David – I am very much a beginner to carving. I appreciate your posts, they are a wealth of information & inspiration! I am wondering what the purpose is of letting the partially carved spoon dry before final carving? Is it purely because of movement, so you can correct for some warping before it’s too late, or are there other reasons? Thanks,


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Hi John,
      Movement is a part of it, John, but the main thing is the superior surface quality achieved from the final cuts in dry wood. You get cleaner, more polished cuts. Also, as the wood dries, the surface oxidizes and discolors. The dry carving removes that and reveals fresh wood. If that doesn’t matter, one certainly could choose to finish a spoon while it was still green, let it dry, then oil it. Experiment with your own spoons and see what you like. But it is typical to remove all of the wood possible while it’s green and easier to carve (and then is also relatively thin and likely to dry without cracking or other issues), then do the final stages after drying.


  3. Skip Florey says:

    Great process David…all aspects of the process seem relaxed…now, back to that ice cream 🙂


  4. Kent Townsend says:

    Dave thanks for your information it is good as always. I took a spoon carving class last year from Fred Livesay at Vesterheim Folk School in Iowa. At the end of the day he had us put unfinished spoons in water over night. Next day we were able to finish them and by that time they were dry with no cracking and ready to finish.


    • graemeu says:

      That’s interesting Kent, I just bury them in my shavings in a cardboard box or plastic bag with no problems.
      However soaking them like that would remove the sugars at which point the wood would be cured even though it’s saturated. Where I am, cured and dry are different things, in fact lumbermen would say that wood won’t dry until it’s cured and curing is sped up in this damp part of the world by leaving lumber stacks uncovered.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dave Fisher says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Kent! I would love to meet and learn some things from Fred some day. Do you know what the purpose of the water was? When you say “by that time they were dry” do you mean shortly after you removed them from the water the next day?


    • Kent Townsend says:

      The water keeps them wet so they don’t crack and by the time you finish carving they are dry. I use to put them in paper bags for a couple of days and lost several to cracking .I don’t lose them any more.


      • Dave Fisher says:

        Thanks. That’s a good tip. It seems the water bath takes the place of the plastic bag I use before the green carving stage is done. I’ve been fortunate I guess that I just leave them sitting on the bench after the green carving and they dry with no issues typically. Could be differences in local humidity or wood species. Still, I’m curious and will have to give Fred’s technique a try.


  6. sorornishi says:

    This was an excellent post, very instructive, I may actually get going on one or two…. we’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. forwoodnesssake says:

    I have been continuing to improve my new shop these last couple of months. I have also been finishing some spoon and ladles I stated as log ago as last Fall. This is mostly a matter of less to do with everything pretty much shut down this year. We are coming up on the date of the 9th event we will not be participating in. I also dislike expending effort and not being able to get return on the work
    I have redeemed the time however. My tools are as sharp as they have needed to be, including all my saws. I have developed a few techniques and rebuilt my home lathe by getting rid of the sloppy fitting threaded tail stock mechanism and installing a sliding pin and wedge. I am developing discipline in my new shop also; cleaning up and putting tools away regularly. Today I have got caught up enough that I am back to making more inventory items so the wood get used up before it becomes a fungus garden.


  8. Ken says:

    When I’m sat, uninspired and wondering what to do with myself, I can always rely on a quick read through your blog get me motivated into my shed and cracking on with another bowl or spoon. So thanks for that 🙂


  9. Dave Fisher says:

    Wonderful to hear that. Thank you.


  10. Scott Ward says:

    Hi David. First I want to thank you for a wonderful website filled with priceless information. Second, I have just signed up for the bowl making class with you and Elia. I’m very excited. And third is my question regarding this post in term of finish carving. I am now to the point where I rough out with an axe and then green carve with my Sloyd knife, but I have yet to fully understand finish carving. Is there a specific knife that works best? How long do I allow my spoon to dry before finish carving? Thanks again. —Scott


  11. Dave Fisher says:

    Hi, Scott. Thanks for signing up for the bowl class. I’m looking forward to it.
    If you green-carve thin enough, a spoon can be ready in a day or two for finish carving. Certainly ready within a week. The spoon should feel dry and warm to the touch. Really, there is no hard and fast rule. You can do the complete carving while the spoon is green, then just leave it to dry, then oil it. It is just harder to get a good cleanly cut surface with no lifted fibers in valleys and such. But much depends on the type of wood, it’s hardness and characteristics. The knife that works best for finish carving is a sharp one. Really sharp! I use the same sloyd knife that I did the green carving with to do the finish carving. Make sure the bevels are flat and the knife has a truly keen edge. It takes practice to get a good clean knife-cut surface. Don’t give up, but also don’t rule out experimenting with some scraping or sanding some areas that are giving you trouble. No need to pull the shades down! Use whatever methods make you happy.


  12. Hello David and Everybody, Thank you for all the beautiful info. on seasoning, water, converting wood to ice cream in the freezer. Two questions please; After removing wood from the freezer do you immerse them in ice water to let them thaw out slowly to prevent cracking due to the wide temperature difference? Have you in the past froze thicker material than spoons (bowls) and if yes, did they ever crack due to this process? Thank you, Andras


  13. Juri says:

    Dear Dave,
    it all starts with a crook – which I think is fascinating, since most people use straight grain. As an absolute beginner I would be interested in how you split that crook. From both ends? Or does the split you start at one end just find its path too the end? Do you use an axe?
    By the way: Your great blog is very helpful, inspiring and helps to keep sane these days. Thank you!


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Some crooks split more easily than others. An axe driven with a wooden club will work for the cooperative ones, and the split will indeed find its path along the crooked fibers to the other end. However, many crooks take a little more leverage to pop open than does a typical straight piece, so I usually use a froe. I still drive it in at the handle end, then lay it on the ground with my foot over the froe head, then I lever up on the handle to pry it open. For the few that are too tough for that, I pull out some wedges to drive in from the side to move the split along. Sometimes a cut of a couple inches at one end with a hand saw is enough to get things moving as well.


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