Spoon carving from a Bushcraft perspective with Jon Mac...
I am a spoon carver who lives and works on Dartmoor in Devon.
I carve spoons and Kuksa from green wood, using the three principal bushcraft tools. The knife, Axe and hook knife. I find spoon carving gives me a greater understanding of these tools as I can demonstrate a precision of craft in the finished spoon. I have developed my own spoon carving knife 'The MaChris' which is made by 'Chris Grant' a fantastically talented bladesmith.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Spoon carving adventure.

Sarah and I have been on a small adventure on our recent vacation.
We loaded the car for a trip to Scotland.
Chris Grant has been asking if I could run a few spoon carving courses up in his neck of the woods. Well, finally we managed to get something sorted.
Chris has a friend, Peter, who runs Skillshare Dundee.
You'll find an over view by following the link highlighted above.
Peter organised a course at their HQ in Dundee and another at Chris's home.

spoon carving+lacquered design+wooden spoon+sloyd+slojd

We organised the spoon carving course at the end of our visit to give Chris time to make up a batch of MiniMacs especially for the occasion. 

spoon carving tools+spoon carving tool set

The MiniMac's are all  handled in Walnut with workshop sheaths.
The Westermann hook knives also sport a walnut handle of my design.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Nic Westermann of nicwestermann.co.uk for making and delivering five of his finest hook knives in time for our course. Nic is an absolute star who makes what I consider the best hook knives for spoon carving.
A fine set of top quality tools for our students.
Chris's mother Kit has promised a tool roll for the set, I'm looking forward to trying it out.
The visit wasn't all work though.

Lunan bay+fishing boat+wooden fishing boat+wooden boat

We spent an afternoon at the coast, taking photographs and picnicking.
Lunan bay is a beautiful place, we'll definitely visit again in the summer when the sun fully returns.

Lunan bay+dunes

Chris and I spent time chatting, on the second day, in the wee hours after a fine dinner and a sip or two. It wouldn't be a MaChris design vacation unless we designed a new knife... so we did. 
I'll let you have a peek sometime this summer. We're a bit busy with MiniMac and MaChris production at the moment, so on the back burner it goes.
The Macs and Grants love a bit of history so we took in the castle at Dunnottar.
Such a fine castle, ruined in battle....

Dunnottar castle

However, the highlight of our visit, save for the designing, making, eating, teaching, walking .......
was a visit to the
It's a must !
Especially if you're interested in bronze age history.
We were given a talk and a guided tour of the Crannog, which is a thatched roundhouse built on stilts out in the loch. 
As you can see, it's a large affair, timber built from the round with wattle walls, doubled up, with insulating material stuffed between the walls.

Crannog+Scotish crannog centre+loch tay

I had a chat with the management about carvings found at various Crannog sites throughout Scotland and thought it would be a good gesture to leave one of my ale hens with them for safe keeping, plus a spoon or two.

Scottish crannog centre+crannog+mrandmrsmac

I'm hoping to organise a course at the site in the summer school holidays.
I can't wait !

Loch tay+bronze age dug out+dug out canoe+crannog

We visited a Pictish fort with vitrified walls.
No one knows as yet how this came about.
A mystery wrapped within an enigma....

vitrified stone+pictish fort

We had a sit down and a chat to try and work out the why's and how's.....
To be honest.... It's still a mystery.

Pictish fort

However... What we did know was that at the end of the week we had two groups of folk hungry for information on how to carve a spoon and perhaps more importantly, how to safely use an axe, knife and hook knife. These tool handling skills are interchangeable. What you learn carving a spoon can be moved across to the kitchen or to the world of hunting and camp craft. It's all about familiarity with the edge tool one might take out on a wild camp adventure.

Skillshare+skillshare dundee+spoon carving+jonmac

My first course took place at Skillshare Dundee.
We decided to run the course on the lawn as the weather was being kind.
We have the capability of doing the same indoors so a winter course becomes possible.
We started with the axe.

spoon carving+skillshare+dundee

I had a fine mix of folk of all ages with different interests.
I was able to take them through the whole process of spoon carving mainly focusing on edge tool techniques.

axe carving+spoon carving+jonmac

I kept the class size down to a manageable amount so I could keep a weather eye on my students.

spoon carving+knife techniques+sloyd+slojd

spoon carving hook knife+westermann hook knife+spoon carving

The MiniMac knives went down well with the students.
Good and sharp with superior edge holding they went for two days with nothing more than a light strop. Chris has certainly mastered the heat treatment on the 52100 bearing steel. It takes seven separate stages until he is truly satisfied the crystal structure is correct.

spoon carving course+Jon Mac spoon carving course+spoon carving

We had an indoor course as well, my word, it took some hoovering after I can tell you.

spoon carving course+spoon carving+skillshare

All of my lovely students managed to finish up with a spoon after just one day of tuition.

spoon carving+spoon carving students+sloyd+slojd

I'm now in talks with the management at an estate with plenty of woodland, so perhaps I will be able to offer a camping/bushcrafty type course up in Scotland in the near future.

I'd very much like to thank all the folk I met this visit. My students were Wonderfull and full of questions, the stewards I met at the historic sites were full of answers and so accommodating.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Spoon carving tip.

I've been in the wood shed working on a few spoons and a new kuksa.
I had to curtail roughing out the kuksa due to my axe head becoming loose, the rest of the day was spent sorting out the issue. 
Now I have a few spoon blanks from green Apple I need to ask some questions.
These questions have come up within the spoon carving community lately.
Will I cook the new spoon in the oven to force dry it ? ----- No.
Will I be putting the spoon in a microwave to force dry it ? ------ No.
Will I boil the spoon in salt water ? ----- No.
Will I leave the spoon for a few days to day out naturally ? ----- Yes.
Will I pop a thin coat of food safe oil on the spoon once dried ? ----- Yes.




I have however made a small discovery.
Many folks in the past have asked if one needs to boil a kuksa in salt water once carved.
I have read that this is done with bur kuksa in Scandinavia and for the life of me I have no idea why.
Now, I have used a straight grained birch kuksa from which I drink my morning coffee for many years.
Recently I stopped adding sugar, you know why....
Any way.... after a while the coffee became very bitter.
I washed the kuksa, still bitter. One morning I remembered the boiling in salt water trick so added a small pinch of salt to my coffee.... 
hey presto ! 
No bitter taste !!!

Now, I wouldn't go boiling a straight grained kuksa as I'm pretty sure it would crack, but give it a try on your next bur kuksa and let me know how you get on.

Until the next time....

Jon Mac.