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.

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Woodcarvers Gazette.

Sarah and I have had some time to ourselves here on Dartmoor.
We've had some super weather, a welcome change after the constant wind and rain of the previous three months.

Gull cottage+Boscastle+jon mac photography

We've taken time out to visit some of our favourite places both here in Devon and further west into Cornwall.

jon mac photography

Just before our break I was contacted by Jason Townsend, editor of 
Jason was interested in interviewing me and finding out a little more about my carving and the ongoing MaChris/MiniMac carving and bushcraft knife project I am involved in with 

Woodcarvers gazette+Kuksa

Inside this spring issue you'll find a five page spread highlighting our work.
It was a pleasure to work with Jason and he did a wonderful job putting it all together.
And a big thank you to Chris Grant.
We're working on another project at the moment.
I'll have a working prototype very soon.
I'll keep you informed.



Monday, 10 March 2014

Sharp spoon carving knife.

In this post I thought I might point out a way of using light to help tell if your spoon carving knife is nice and sharp.
As a user of the 'Scandinavian' type of bevel you'll understand that the two bevels on your knife need to be nice and flat across the grind, culminating with a good sharp cutting edge.
Now, in an ideal world our sharpening stones, whatever your choice, will be absolutely flat.
Mine aren't.
However, we carry on reguardless.
If I look at my bevel, in the sunshine, prior to sharpening, it has a uniform shine from tip to handle and from cutting edge to sholder.
It has a polished look about it.

sharp knife+sharp spoon carving knife+spoon carving knife

When sharpening, starting with a course stone (1200 grit), the flat ground face or bevel is presented to the stone and held as flat as possible onto the sharpening stone during the sweep from one end of the stone to the other.
When a few sweeps are completed, I have found it worthwhile to wipe the blade and flash the blade under a lamp, or in sunshine.
You'll notice the shiny surface has been replaced by a duller, scratched surface.
You can use this affect to tell if you have managed to keep the bevel flat. Have a look across the bevel length from tip to handle. What I look for is a uniform replacement of the shiny surface with a dull surface.
If any shine is left, then it indicates that I have not been successful in keeping the bevel flat.
This next photo shows a slight shine at the cutting edge toward the halfway point from the handle end.
This can be rectified by paying closer attention to the sharpening process at this point.

sharpening process+spoon carving+spoon carving knife

This next photo shows a nice uniform dull surface.
The whole bevel has received the attention of the stone.
The polishing process on your finer stone (6000 grit) is the same, but reversed.
Moving from a uniform dull surface, to a uniform polished surface.

sharpening process+spoon carving knife

If you're inclined, a little light strop will give it a keen edge.
And were back to sharp once more.

sharp+ spoon carving knife

I hope this little top tip will help some of you who are newer to the whole sharpening process.
You can find a whole raft of sharpening tips if you follow the link below.


Friday, 28 February 2014

Spoon carving knife holds movie.

It looks as if Spring may have a finger-tip grip on the Westcountry.
Since the winter solstice, we've had terrible storms, high winds and rain, one after another rolling in from the Atlantic.
We are hoping things will settle down soon.
Folks who live and work on the Levels have been underwater for months, so it was good to get out in the sunshine last weekend.
I've even managed to get out into the forest for a spot of spoon whittling.

spring flowers+dartington+westcountry

I packed a bag and headed down toward an old abandoned metal mine not far from my home.

kelly mine+dartmoor+devon mining history

Just above the old mine I found a patch of woodland bathed in sun light, and a wind blown Birch tree.


I had earlier packed my Gransfors Bruk small forrest axe.
Not my favourite axe, and I use it little, but it stands up well to the grit and grime of the forest.

gransfors bruks axe+small forrest axe

I chopped out a couple of useable rounds.
One with a slight crank or curve.
The other I would use as a mallet.

MaChris bushcraft knife+bushcraft knife with mallet

It didn't take a moment to carve a rudimentary handle.
Then a few wallops on the round I wanted to use for a spoon.

small forrest axe+gransfors bruk small forrest axe

You can split rounds from one end, or ...
Lay the round flat.

gransfors bruks axe+small forrest axe

I blanked the spoon out

spoon carving+spoon carving knife+MiniMac

Leaving the bowl for later.

spoon carving blank+lumix camera

And packed up for the stroll up the hill.

Bushcraft knife+MaChris bush craft knife+spoon carving blank

I wanted to have a walk about on the tops while the sun started to set.


The next day I spent some time finishing the spoon off.
Working the hook knife in a reverse hold, saves money on buying more hooks.

spoon carving+hook knife

One of the fiddly parts of spoon carving is managing the grain direction change on the back of the handle. If you're not careful you end up with a rip or ridge where the grain from the bowl end hits the grain from the handle end. If you are carving a flat handle this issue probably doesn't arise.
But, as you know, I like a bit of curve on my work.

spoon carving+spoon carving knife+knife holds

I've had a few novice whittlers ask how we can get round this.
I had a look at my Lumix G3 camera, and found that I can film movies with it.
Now I get a lot of satisfaction from my photography, but film making isn't something that rings my bell. However. I'm always up for a challenge, so I came up with this short movie.
The movie shows how to use two types of knife hold that allows the carver to change direction without changing the aspect of the item being carved.
Have a look, it's not too long...

Be careful with these holds, keep a sharp knife and sharp wits.
The thumb on top of the blade acts as a brake.
The end result ?

spoon carving+spoon whittling

A nice Birch soup spoon for a friend up country.

Spoon carving+whittling spoons

A slightly deeper bowl than I've carved of late.

spoon carving+whittling spoons

bushcraft knife+machris bushcraft knife+spoon knife

All in all a good carve

whittled spoons+carved spoons+spoon carving

Thank you.