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, 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You'll notice the shiny surface has been replaced by a duller, scratched surface.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.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Spoon carving tutorial (How to carve a spoon)

 'Happy New Year'

First off I'd like to thank all of you that visit my little blog, 
we've reached 250,000 page views.
I never in my wildest dreams expected such support when I first started this blog.
Thank you.

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I thought I'd start the new year with a pictorial spoon carving tutorial.
I've been playing with a design of spoon that I really like the look of.
The spoon is small and delicate, it's not a tyre lever.
It's well suited to for use at the dinner table.
And my female friends love it....
So I'll be carving more for guests.

<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”kuksa carving-spoon carving” alt=”kuksa carving-spoon carving”/>

For this spoon I've used some seasoned apple.
It has been sat in my yard for a long time.
You'll need an Axe, knife, hook knife, sharpening and stropping equipment and a pencil.
I found it to be quite hard, but as long at my edge tools were sharp I had no real problems.
The first thing to do is take a split quarter and square it up.
The blank is approx 6 inches long and an inch or so deep.

<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”blanking a spoon-spoon carving” alt=”spoon carving”/>

I made a pair.
A good sharp axe is needed.

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Here you can see the blanks next to my carving axe head for scale.
The finished spoon will be quite short at 5 and a bit inches.

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Here's where your stop cut chopping practice will come in handy.
You'll need to add a stop cut both sides to define the bowl.
Be accurate, as the cuts will form the bottom part of the diamond/shield shape that appears before the handle.

<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”blanking a spoon-spoon carving” alt=”spoon carving-spooncarving”/>

Once you've done that, cut out the slope, down into the spoon bowl.
There is a sloped form on this spoon, but not much.

<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”blanking a spoon-spoon carving” alt=”spoon carving-spooncarving”/>

Thin the handle, one side at a time and with a slope that matches the curve introduced on the top of the spoon.

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<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”spoon carving blank-spoon carving” alt=”spoon carving-spooncarving”/>

So eventually it looks like a 'tick'.

<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”spoon carving blank-spoon carving” alt=”spoon carving-spoon carving”/>

You can see in this photo that I've started to chop the bowl shape.
Sloping from the bottom of the keel of the spoon up to the lip of the bowl.

<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”spoon carving blank-spoon carving” alt=”spoon carving-spooncarving”/>

You can spend as much or as little time with the axe as you require.

<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”jon mac spoon carving-spoon carving” alt=”spoon carving-spooncarving”/>

Cutting the back of the diamond/shield shape.

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A nice steady thumb push across the grain.

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You can just make out my right hand thumb underneath the spoon handle as I carve.

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The thumb push is often used in spoon carving.

<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”spoon carving tutoriaL” alt=”spoon carving-spooncarving”/>

Coming along.

<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”jon mac spoon carving” alt=”spoon carving-spooncarving”/>

After a while the blanks start looking good.

<img alt=”" src=”Image URL” title=”jon mac spooncarving” alt=”spoon carving-spooncarving”/>

The shape is set.
Now to hollow the bowl with a spoon knife.

spoon carving+spoon carving blanks

You can also employ your fingers on the back of the spoon knife.

hook knife+spoon carving+spoon carving hook knife

Don't forget to turn the spoon knife upside-down to access those tricky places.
You don't really need a left and right hand knife.

spoon carving hook knife+spoon carving

The bowl will need cleaning up later, it's symmetrical now so I can carry on.

spoon carving+spoon carving+spooncarving

I cut a small chamfer round the edge of the bowl.

spoon carving+spooncarving

For all this knife work, especially the next part, I needed a super sharp knife.
I fettled the knife on a fine natural stone gifted to me by my friend, Sean Hellman.
And lightly stropped on my stropping stick.

spoon carving+sharpening stone+spoon carving+spooncarving

Now the blank is close to being finished.
Needs a little sexing up.

spoon carving blank+spoon carving

For the next stage I used a very pointy MiniMac knife highly sharpened.
In the distant past I've used a craft knife or scalpel for this job.
A pencil is handy.

spoon carving blank+spoon carving

With the pencil, or the spine of the knife, I lightly draw a design.

spoon carving

Holding the knife in a pen hold.

spoon carving+jon mac+spooncarving

The cross section of these cuts are 'V' shaped.
I start by making a little stab stop cut.

spoon carving+jon mac carving

Then I draw the knife away to the end of the cut.

spoon carving+jon mac spoon carving

These cuts aren't very deep.

spoon carving+jon mac spoon carving

spoon carving+jon mac spoon carving

spoon carving+jon mac spoon carving

My carving wouldn't be complete without a sun wheel or two.
I draw an eight spot star.

chip carving+spoon carving

And then start chip carving.
You'll find a pictorial tutorial HERE !

Nearly Done.

chip carving+spoon carving+jon mac spoon carving

spoon carving+jon mac spoon carving

spoon carving+jon mac spoon carving+jon mac,

And we're done !
I learned today that although it’s fun to try to emulate a design, if it doesn’t come from your own heart, it has no soul. So instead of decorating this spoon with a design not mine, I decided to let the heart rule.

spoon carving+jon mac spoon carving

Enjoy !

spoon carving+jon mac spoon carving+spoons,