Follow the Bent

I was not anchored to a house or farm, but could follow the bent of my genius, which is a very crooked one, every moment.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I can’t seem to locate my genius, but I have been finding some nice bent branches lately. I love roaming along the river and through pockets of woods this time of year. The deer ticks are frozen and the leafless branches have revealed their forms.

Between some heavy snow load in early winter and a trimming operation along the railroad tracks, there have been treasures to find. I carry a little folding saw in my backpack in the chance that I may find one or two to bring home for spoons or a bird bowl. The one pictured above is hawthorn.

I prefer to split crooks with my froe. Once the froe is driven into the end of the branch, the leverage provides a huge advantage to pop it open.

The two in the photo above (with a post-walk Chip napping in the background) are border privet. It is very fine grained and makes nice spoons. An invasive species here, it grows tangled and thick in areas beside the river. Crawling along deer trails is sometimes the only way through it.

Above, the blank has been split out and cleaned up with axe and adze, ready for more axe work.

I always split along the pith. The “bottom” half is normally unusable, containing the remainder of the broken branch that led to the crookedness to begin with, but I can sometimes split the upper half again to get two blanks, or more on a rare occasion. Sometimes I get really lucky as with the maple branch above from a couple weeks ago. The piece in the back was just under the piece in the foreground.

Here’s the split surface still untouched along the back side. We’ll see this again when it’s finished.

Keep your eyes open. Some of those spoon shapes don’t stick around long.

This entry was posted in finding wood, green woodworking, quotes and excerpts, spoons, trees, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Follow the Bent

  1. francedozois says:

    can’t wait to see the finished product–

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bob Dow says:

    I read the above line last night from Thoreau never having caught it before. Laughing to myself thinking what a great line in Economy. Thoreau had a dry humorous sense of himself that is hard to beat. Your fluid explanation of greenwood harvesting and doing could be a part in parcel with that chapter and Walden in general. Thanks David.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. steve says:

    Your last pic hit my “funny bone” — you must look out on the woods and see nothing but Bowls and Spoons! I see Windsor chairs and picture frames!


    Liked by 2 people

  4. Marco says:

    Interesting to see you carving privet, Dave. I’ve recently found some japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) to try, it carves surprisingly well and the fine grain takes a lovely finish. I cannot find any information about the toxicity (or lack thereof) in the wood of the privet family, so it’s good to know someone else is using it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      I hope we’re not just fooling each other! Privet leaves and berries are toxic, but I’ve never found anything about the wood itself. I’ll try to do some more digging. There are many things to consider. In many cases, the biggest problem with wood toxicity comes with inhaling fine dust created from sanding or power tool operations. Much depends on the type of contact. There is some excellent information and an expansive chart on this site Many species that are extremely common for even commercially available cutting boards, spoons, and bowls have issues according to the chart, but not in that context. Privet is related to olive, which gets three stars on the chart, but olive is another very commonly used wood for wooden utensils.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Six Spoons | David Fisher, Carving Explorations

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