Saturday Night Spoons

I’ve managed to fit in a few spoons from crooks that I found and couldn’t resist. I’ll post them below for sale, starting with the long cherry one on the bottom left and finishing with the little cherry one on the top right. If you’re interested, send me an email at All prices include shipping. Thank you.

#1: Cherry, 13″ x 2 1/2″. Sometimes, I’m able to split the usable split of a crook again, usually getting a thinner section. This is from one of those, and they can be good for handy stirrers/cookers/spatulas like this. They take significantly less time than more complex forms. $75 includes shipping. SOLD

#2: Apple, 13″ x 2 3/4″. When I saw the apple branches laying there in a pile, this curved section practically lit up. It provided this large server with a shallow bowl that would slide nicely along the bottom of a broad pan or dish. $210 includes shipping. SOLD

I lettered an old expression on the handle, a little reminder of the tree species.

#3: Maple, 11″ x 2 5/8″. This maple crook had a nice dark streak that now peaks up through the handle and the bottom of the bowl. The handle of this server has a little lateral curve brought to it by the branch. $140 includes shipping. SOLD

#4: Maple, 10 1/2″ x 2 1/8″. This petite spatula with a sharp bend would work equally well for flipping pierogies in the pan or lifting cookies from the tray. $75 includes shipping. SOLD

#5: Pear, 9 1/4″ x 2 3/8″. Another great fruitwood for spoons. This pear wood server has a lot of figure through the bowl. In fact, there are a couple tiny voids in the wild wood of the bowl, but they won’t let the beans through. I bent the line of chip carving around an area where the heartwood rises up to the surface of the handle. $155 includes shipping. SOLD

Below is a shot of the back side of the pear spoon, with a hook to catch over the edge of the pot.

#6: Cherry 7 3/4″ x 1 5/8″, This little crook could be a smaller serving spoon or a larger eating spoon. A little deeper bowl than I usually carve into an eating spoon, but some may like that for their cereal or soup. $100 includes shipping. SOLD

There’s another shot, below, of this little cherry spoon beneath the handles of three of the others.

Posted in spoons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Norm Sartorius: Spoons to Stir the Soul

Norm Sartorius has been making wooden spoons since the 1970s, and he decided early on to dedicate himself to exploring the sculptural possibilities in these small wood pieces. Norm’s spoons reflect his sensitivity to each piece of tree that comes his way. Each one is a wonder to look upon and a lesson in itself. I had the pleasure of meeting Norm a few years ago. He’s a great guy and he gave me a lot of encouragement for my own carving.

I just wanted to help spread the word about a new book celebrating decades of work by Norm, soon to be published by The Center for Art in Wood. Information about the book and various options can be found here, and there is a pre-order form here available through December 31st.

And, looking ahead, The Center for Art in Wood is planning an exhibition of Norm’s work that will open on May 6, 2022 and run through July.

Posted in Persons, Uncategorized | Tagged | 7 Comments

Mr. McInturf and the Card Scraper

As I relentlessly bore down on the vibrating sander, I peered through the cloud of dust and saw Mr. McInturf motioning me toward him. As I turned off the machine and maneuvered between my high school Wood Shop classmates, I could see Mr. McInturf was holding a thin rectangle of metal, a shiny steel card of some sort. I watched, mystified, as he laid it near the end of his desk and rubbed what looked like a triangular file with no teeth against the faces and edge. Next, like some sorcerer in a green smock, he pushed that card along a board, lifting wispy curls before it and leaving a smooth surface behind. Then he handed it to me with a smile.

That was over thirty years ago, but I’m reminded of that magical moment every time I pick up a card scraper. I don’t use one often, but it is ideal for certain situations. If I remember right, chair maker John brown said it would be the tool he would grab if his workshop were on fire. I’d grab my adze, but I did pick up my card scraper recently for refining the surface of a bird bowl carved from a maple branch.

The photo above is from the post that I wrote about that bird bowl.

Here’s a shot of a scraper I like for sculptural shapes like this. I bought it years ago from Lee Valley, and I see they’re still selling them. This one is the thinnest of the four in that group (.016″ or .4mm). I’m sure there are other thin options from other suppliers out there, and you can also use an old handsaw blade. I’ve ground one edge to a gentle curve to add some versatility. I wrote a post a few years ago about using curved edges on scrapers for bowls.

The flexibility of this thin scraper allows it to conform to a variety of shapes and makes it light and nimble to handle. Thicker scrapers are better for heavier cuts and other situations.

honing/polishing the face of the scraper.

There are tons of articles and information out there on how to sharpen a card scraper. I’ll add to the confusion by showing you how I go about it.

Regardless of the specific method, the main idea is to hone the edges and face and have them meet at 90 degrees. Then, using a harder piece of polished metal, deform that edge a bit to form a small burr toward the face.

Above, I’m honing the face of the scraper to remove any of the old burr. I just lay the stone flat on the scraper and go back and forth near the edge. Then I clamp the same sharpening stone in a hand screw clamp.

Honing the edge of the scraper.

I don’t remember if I’d seen this exact method somewhere before, but there are lots of ways to achieve 90 degrees. Diamond stones are ideal for this, since they won’t be gouged by the narrow edge of the scraper. Clamped like this, the stone is held at 90 degrees to the side of the adjacent surface of the clamp. I keep the scraper flat and go forward and back on the stone. In the case of the curved scraper, I just rotate slightly as I move the scraper. I progress quickly to the finest stone on face and edge.

To create the burr, I usually use a burnishing rod, but you really just need any polished steel that is harder than the scraper. Here I’m using the backside of a carving gouge. Cover the tip of that gouge first for safety, or better yet, get something like this. I hope it goes without saying that I have no connections or deals with Lee Valley Tools, but I’ll make that clear anyway.

Put a drop of oil on and rub it along the edge.

Using a little pressure, run the burnisher along the edge smoothly, at 90 degrees a couple times. (I forgot to take a photo, but I rub the burnisher flat on the face a couple times before burnishing the edge.) Then tilt it a few degrees and run it again, then a few degrees toward the other face for one last time. Now both faces are ready to go. You can always use more pressure to make a more aggressive burr, but that is not necessarily better. Experiment and see what best suits your preferences and the situation. You can re-establish a burr a few times by burnishing before going back to the stones.

Typically, the scraper will be pushed with the thumbs supporting from behind, but all sorts of grips (and pulling) are possible, especially on oddly shaped pieces.

Then make magic like Mr. McInturf.

Posted in Persons, sharpening, teaching, tools, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Maple Branch to Maple Bird

A blank canvas can be daunting. I like how the peculiarities in a piece of tree focus the possibilities for me. I just finished this bird bowl from a twisted maple branch and I thought I’d share some photos I took along the way.

Above is the piece after splitting the branch in half and roughly shaving the bark off. It was a tough split, and I probably should have relieved some of the tension by cutting along part of the pith with a rip saw first. Notice that area of torn fibers on the left side; we’ll revisit that spot later. I sketch a line on to get an idea for the flow of the piece.

One of the first things I do is to hew with the axe across the grain at the bottom of the crook to establish the general attitude of the bird.

In the shot above, I’ve shaped the parts of the upper surface with a drawknife and a very course rasp. The rasp works well across the grain especially in highly figured hard wood like this maple crook. I’ve also sketched on a rough outline and have chopped away some excess with the axe.

Now that the bird is taking form, I refine the foot by working across the grain with a plane. I go across the grain because the fibers are climbing from opposite directions as it approaches the foot.

Now a big jump to this photo. The shape is there and the bowl has been hollowed with gouges and hook knives. I left the hollow of the bowl and the flutes under the wings straight from the cutting edge. For this piece, I decided to make the other surfaces smooth beginning with a card scraper.

Here is a shot of the wispy shavings cut by the edge of the scraper. A sharp scraper can actually do some significant shaping and leave a smooth surface. Rather than make this post too long, I’ll follow up with another post soon about scrapers. On this piece, I followed the scraping by sanding with just very fine,400 and 600 grit, sandpaper.

Remember that ragged split I mentioned at the beginning? Those hairline splits in the back of the wing are the remnants of that — there since work first began on this piece. I let a little CA glue wick into them and they are solid, but dang. Oh well, I have a few scars too.

The perspective above gives a good idea of the wind that was present in the branch.

The surface of the hollow is left from lots of light cross-grain cuts from a hook knife.

This bird is 13″ long, 8″ high, and has a happy home waiting.

Posted in bird bowls, figure, layout, tools, Uncategorized | Tagged | 12 Comments

Round Walnut Bowl Underway

The plan is to carve a deep round bowl from black walnut with a wide surface below the rim for a lettered inscription. Here, I’m refining the hollow with a crooked knife after having done the rest of the hollowing with a little adze work and a lot of bent gouge work. In order to accommodate the outer shape I want, I carved a substantial undercut below the rim on the interior.

Laying out a round bowl is pretty straightforward. I wrote about it in this post. Sometimes I tweak that process as I did with this bowl. It may be hard to tell, but in the photo above, the “circle” is wider across the grain than with the grain — by about 3/8″ (10mm). I just use two focal points to strike the compass arc on each side of the center line — each focal point is 3/16″ (5mm) away from center. You end up with two semi-circles with a narrow gap between them to just bridge by eye.

Before drying, fibers/grain running perpendicular to the ruler

I stuck a ruler up to it while the bowl was still green. The shot above shows the inside measurement across the grain at about 9″.

Before drying, fibers/grain running parallel to the ruler.

While the measurement with the grain is about 8 5/8″. I know the bowl will shrink across the grain as it dries, but not in the direction of the grain. So the idea is that the bowl will start out as a bit of a wide oval but shrink to round. It’s not that important, but it’s really no trouble to do. You could look up expected shrinkage percentages on tables based on species and such, but I just took a guess since it’s not critical that the bowl end up absolutely round. Plus there are too many variables at play to predict with certainty.

After hollowing the inside, I hewed away all of that excess from the outside with the axe. Just finishing that process in the photo above.

I followed up with a drawknife at the bowl horse. A spokeshave works well to fair these surfaces too.

To mark the guidelines around the bowl, I lay it on the bench and, using whatever is convenient as a spacer, I do a combination of spinning the bowl and sliding the pencil/spacer stack. You can accomplish the same thing with a pencil compass, a stack of books, or whatever.

After drying, fibers/grain running perpendicular to the ruler.

After roughing, I set the bowl aside wrapped in an old sheet for a for the first few days. After that, I removed the sheet and let the drying continue. It has now been nearly three weeks of drying. I’ve been weighing it periodically, which is unusual, so I might as well report the results. It is just about done losing weight, losing a third of it’s weight at this point — dropping from 3 lb. 4 oz. (1474g) to 2 lb. 1 oz. (934g). So that’s 1 lb. 3oz. of water evaporated, or, in terms of volume, about 2 1/4 cups (540ml)

It was able to move as it dried, resulting in the dimension across the grain decreasing from 9″ to 8 5/8″. It may end up around 8 1/2″, so I underestimated a bit. Close enough.

After drying, fibers/grain running parallel to the ruler.

With the grain, the bowl actually gained 1/8″, going from 8 5/8″ to 8 3/4″. Maybe it was the combination of the flexibility of the shape and the forces as it shrunk across the grain — sort of like squeezing a plastic cup. I guess.

That’s just the beginning. It’s waiting for the next stage when I get a chance.

Posted in bowls, drying, layout, proportions, Uncategorized, walnut | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Frost and Form

You know, I’ve often said that every poem solves something for me in life. I go so far as to say that every poem is a momentary stay against the confusion of the world. But, of course, any psychiatrist will tell you that so is making a basket or making a horseshoe. Giving anything form gives you a confidence in the universe, that it has form.

Robert Frost, A Lover’s Quarrel With the World (1963 documentary film)

More about the bowl underway in the photos in the next post. . . .

Posted in bowls, quotes and excerpts, Uncategorized, walnut | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Moon Spoons?

A fellow carver directed me toward this short film documenting the traditional making of spoons from boxwood in Spain. Filmed in 1994, it features a man named Pascual Mairal who had been practicing this craft since he was a child.

There are many things to consider in this short film, beginning with the harvest of the boxwood. Pascual explains that he cuts the trees only during a waning moon. I’ve heard of this before, and seeing it here refreshed my curiosity.

In Woodworking in Estonia, Ants Viires writes: “In felling trees not just the season was important, but also phases of the moon and wind direction were born in mind in the interest of the quality of timber, such as was done also in the case of many other chores. The respective regulations derived from a very old idea that life on earth grew and developed during the new moon but everything grew old, dried and died during the waning moon.”

Folklore or not, there are at least some modern companies that support the notion that harvesting according to the moon phases matters, including this architectural firm. And a Swiss tonewood supplier that supports the notion of moon harvesting as well. Or is it mainly advertising hype?

I have no idea. Just about all of the chunks of wood I use come from trees that have been cut down by somebody else for some other reason or were blown down by the wind. Tree trimmers and removers aren’t concerned with moon phases any more that the wind is, I suppose. Whether the moon matters or not, there are some interesting techniques shown in the video, including a cool sawing method, use of a stock knife, work holding, and working with rasps, scrapers, and burnishers. The channel has lots of other traditional craft videos posted as well. I’ll look forward to checking them out over time.

Posted in finding wood, green woodworking, historical reference, holding, spoons, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

That Line on the Outside of the Bowl

Mullet, D.A., rattail, fade, French braid — there are many options for what to do with the hair on the back of your head. Likewise for the outside of a bowl. Maybe it’s because my own hair situation provides me with so few options that I get creative with the bowls. Ridiculous theories and connections aside, on bowls with oval feet, I often carve a raised curved line that flows from one handle to the other, as seen on the cherry bowl above that I finished a few weeks ago.

Another cherry bowl, above, was ready for the final dry carving of the surfaces when I took the photo recently. It sits there after drying, with the overall form already established during the green carving stage. The line is just sketched on in pencil, descending there from the lower corner of the near handle. I snapped a few more photos as I went about carving it.

As usual, at this stage, I secure the bowl on the bench with holdfasts. Then, with body pressure, I use a shallow gouge (a #3 16mm in this case) to carve a flute to each side of the pencil line.

As I near the handle, I switch to a steeper and wider gouge (in this case a #8 25mm) to merge the flute into the concave area under the handle without the corners of the gouge digging in.

These are the gouges. The specifics aren’t important. Lots of other combinations would work, and much depends on the form and proportions of the individual bowl.

So, at this stage, the line is now established and it’s time to merge the raised areas to either side with the surrounding surfaces.

Here, I’m doing that with a wide double-bevel chisel, keeping the corner free of the wood in the previously carved flute. You could do this with a wide single bevel chisel as well, I just prefer the touch and control of the bevel geometry provided by the double bevel in this case.

Same on the other side.

Then it looks like this. Could be refined more, depending on the final surface texture. In this case, the final gouge surface cuts will do the final blending of the form just as in the example in the first photo.

By the way, these recent bowls have all been for commissions, but I’m gaining on it and hope to finish up some other pieces soon that I’ll be able to post for sale.

And I’m still searching for a good name,for ease of reference, for this design feature. Something less cumbersome than “Curved line flowing across the outside of the bowl from handle to handle.” Suggestions are welcome!

Posted in bowls, cherry, layout, patterns, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 32 Comments

Otis Tomas and The Fiddletree

Maybe art is not a quest to conquer the secrets of perfection, but rather it is the revelation of that which is personal and unique, and which defies the very concept of perfection. This old tree has its own story to tell — of it’s singular and incomparable life on the hillside above my house. So I am listening for a voice that will sing of this here and now, of my own life and of this land and forest that I have come to know so well.

Otis Tomas, The Fiddletree

When I wrote about a carved spoon a couple weeks ago, my friend Scott reminded me of Otis Tomas‘ book The Fiddletree. In it, Tomas tells of his harvesting of a venerable old sugar maple near his home on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and recounts, in thoughtful detail, the making of a violin from its wood.

The description of the process is full of practical woodworking advice, along with Tomas’ insights and experienced reflections. It’s a combination of woodworking, design, music theory, history, and philosophy — beautifully written.

Then it gets even more special. The second part of the book features a collection of tunes composed by Tomas, wonderfully annotated. I can’t make much of the musical notation, but many people will.

Then the icing on the cake: Tomas includes a CD, in a neat envelope inside the back cover, recordings of an ensemble of Tomas and his friends playing the songs. There are some samples here. And their instruments — violins, viola, cello, mandolin, guitar, and a harp — were all made by Tomas from the Fiddletree.

I’ll end this one with a quote from Tomas that accompanies his song Handle with Care:

What more advice need be given? In this rough and tumble world, care and compassion in all things. It’s that simple.

Otis Tomas
Posted in books, finding wood, publications, quotes and excerpts, trees, Uncategorized | 17 Comments

When Life Hands You Hickory

Along with some walnut logs I was collecting a couple weeks ago, there was a bonus hickory log. When I split it, it was clear and straight. The new edition of Make a Chair From a Tree by Jennie Alexander has had me itching to shave some posts and rungs, and this log provided the perfect opportunity. At around 28″, not long enough for the back posts of a full chair, but I thought of the one-slat truncated version that I saw in some photos in the book. I had to get to it; hickory isn’t decay resistant, so it wouldn’t be good to keep it green for long. So the idea was to get the parts shaved down so they could start to dry.

It was nice to be back at the shaving horse I built way-back-when based on JA’s instructions. Another piece of equipment that comes in handy is the folding sawbuck. The upper arms don’t need to be that long, but I just haven’t cut them off for some reason. I had found the plans online and made mine from former playhouse pieces.

I usually use the sawbuck for crosscutting logs, then fold it back up. I rarely rive any pieces long enough to require a riving break, but this folding sawbuck actually does the trick decently.

The stock can be placed in the gap at the top and pressure applied downward to flex the stock while levering the split open with the froe. This hickory didn’t require much finessing anyway.

Three posts ready for shaving.

With some of the odd leftover bits of the hickory log, I roughed out a few gluts to help split that walnut.

The chair posts and rungs are shaved and are airing out a bit until I get back to them sometime. No rush now. I think I’ll have enough parts for two chairs.

Some of the green shaved hickory rungs on the left with some split-out pieces to the right. I use the straight 3/4″ piece laying on top to help check the rungs for straightness and thickness as I shave. I can strike pencil lines from it onto the rung blank as well.
Posted in chairs, green woodworking, holding, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 5 Comments