Friday 20 December 2013

Spoon carving from the Catskills....

This is a spoon carving story from my good friend Oliver Pratt.
I have asked some of my friends from around the world to send me some photos detailing where they carve and what they carve.
Oliver has been kind enough to send a story with photos.....
Enjoy. J
Here are the photos for your blog Jon.
I've followed and loved it ever since I started carving, and your work, help, and kindness has been a big inspiration to me. 

I live in the Catskill mountains in New York state in the US. I've called this area home for most of my life, and though I've lived in a few other places there is nowhere I love more than here. I haven't been carving for very long, less than a year now, but it took hold fast in my life and quickly became something that I do everyday, most days for many hours. In the first photo you can see my shop in the foreground and the small house that I live in with my partner Kaela in the background. My shop used to be the milk house of the barn it's attached to, and the house we live in was once the calf barn.

spoon carving by Oliver Pratt

I carve my treen using only hand tools. I don't think that there is a right and a wrong way to carve, but for me the process of carving by hand without any "power" tools is something I really love. 

spoon carving by Oliver Pratt

spoon carving by Oliver Pratt

The connection to the wood and the shape that I am carving is much greater for me when I use tools that I power with my body. I also find that, for me, the use of hand tools allows me feel the grain and nature of the wood, and it guides me to making shapes that are not only more pleasing to the eye, but also stronger in use. 

spoon carving by Oliver Pratt

I know it sounds a little like what my mother would call "woo woo", but the wood does really let you know what's a good idea and what's not such a good idea, if you are listening.

spoon carving by Oliver Pratt

spoon carving by Oliver Pratt

Most of the wood that I carve is from the mountain I live on, and I'm lucky enough to be able to harvest it as I need it by taking a walk out my back door. Something I'm quite thankful for. 

spoon carving by Oliver Pratt

spoon carving by Oliver Pratt

spoon carving by Oliver Pratt

The last photo in the set is of my two most used spoons. One I made out of birch from the hill, and one by the incomparable Jon Mac. I must admit that I don't use Jon's spoon as often as I'd like because it's quite hard to get to it at dinner time before Kaela does. It's her favourite too.

spoon carving by Oliver Pratt

There you go, a glimpse of what carving looks like in my little corner of the cosmos. I know that Jon is trying to get a few other folks to give us a peek into their's, and I look forward to seeing those when they come about. Thanks again Jon, and thanks to all you folk who make things by hand, I think it's a very important part of being human and it warms my heart that there are people out there who care about it too.

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday 10 December 2013


I started this project in the spring.


It has sat in my 'to do' basket for months


I have spent the summer learning new skills and traveling around the West Country.

kuksa+canoe cup

Last week I finally sat down with my MiniMac knife and finished him off.


I've just taken multiple orders for more.
Looks like I'm going to be busy for a while.


Sunday 1 December 2013

Spoon carving.... Where do you carve yours ?

Bag packed with sandwiches, drink, warm clothes and tools.
Out the door and cross the stream.

Up the hill to the wooden gate...

Through the stand of Birch...

And a step over the stile...

Up through the woods,
higher and higher...

And stop... !

At the top...
See, hear, smell, touch, taste....
Where do you carve yours ?

Feel free to send me some photographs of your carving and carving spots.
Email me at...

It will be good hearing from you, I'll even post your stories and pics here...


Sunday 17 November 2013

Spoon carving. With a pinch of bushcraft.

  Now we've settled into our new home and filled every nook and cranny with our belongings I thought it was about time I went out for a look round, I was looking for a spot where I can sit quietly and carve in the outdoors, preferably with a view.
Well, I found such a spot last week.
The day started chilly, with a frost, but that didn't last long.
At the moment the temperature here is around the 8 to 10  C mark.
However, we've been promised snow later in the week.

Dartmoor. Devon. Jon Mac.

I climbed up through the woodland that skirts our home and eventually came across a Tor overlooking the valley with a view toward Haytor.
I carried a small Bergen with a bite to eat, a drink, some spoon blanks and tools.

spoon carving

When I first started writing this blog back in 2010, I wanted to share with folk how to make useful and beautiful folk art with only the minimum of tools.
An art that could be carried out at camp or on the trail.
I carry my carving tools in a small bag so they dont rattle around my Bergen.
They are either sheathed or wrapped with material for safeties sake.
I usually carry some sort of first aid kit, to cover any nicks and scratches one may collect on the way.
I also make room for my trusty camera.

Jon mac. Lumix G3

The thing about sitting quietly in the wilds is quite often the animals you disturbed making your way in, will return over time. 
Much like dropping a pebble into a bucket of water, the rings move out then bounce back from the lip of the bucket. 
Everything settles again after a while.
The reason I mentioned this is because a small band of deer visited whilst I was whittling.
Along with a gang of Long tailed tits and birds small various.
I'm pretty sure I saw a Goss hawk as well.
Quartering the woodland, fast, looking for lunch.

The tools I take with me are pretty much the ones I use in the studio.
From left to right.
One of my MiniMac knives. A two sided water stone 1200/6000 grit, cut down for easy packing.
A piece of non slip matting.
A small bundle of silicon carbide paper, grits various. A thin dowel covered in leather along with a piece of polishing compound.
A hook knife. A Leuku knife. Spoon blanks and a leather belt, cut in half with cord loops each end.

spoon carving tools

You'll no doubt recognise these tools from earlier posts here at First Steps.
I've noticed there has been some chat about the efficacy of stropping on forums and the like.
I like a bit of a strop on my knives, nice and light, it works for me just fine.
I don't over do it, and I make sure the bevels are flattened out regularly on a stone.

spoon carving tools

For my camping strop, I loop one end over my boot, or something suitable, pull taught and strop.
You can see where I've rubbed a little compound on the strop.

spoon carving tools

 Replace the Leuku with an axe if you prefer.
I've taken to carrying the Leuku due to it's light weight.


My friend Mark Baigent from Mark Baigent Photography sent a Manfrotto tripod down to me last week.
I'll need to buy a head for it, then I will be spending more time out on the tops, carving and practicing low light photography at sunset.
I may even try it at sun rise.
Those that know me are laughing just now. 

Dartmoor. Jon Mac

By the way.
I'd like to thank all the folk who follow this little enterprise.
I appreciate your support.
The visitor counter is ticking away nicely and I hope a new carver starts his or her journey every turn of the ticker.


Saturday 9 November 2013

Spoon Carving Alliance.

Alexander Vincent Yerks.
We have been in contact for a few years now.
He writes a blog.
The Axe is Bold as Love.
You'll find it on Tumblr.
He's a New York Woodsman who cuts kuksa and spoon.
His work is right up my street.
Minimal tools, maximum vibe.
His new Web page is under construction.
I'll be sure to post a link here when it becomes live.
Mr 'A' is a super photographer as well.
He'll have a dedicated photography page on the new web site.
In the meantime head on over to

Alex and his compatriots
They have started a gathering over north America way.
I wonder if the idea will grow ?
I know it will...
Check out what they got up to in the wild woodland.


Saturday 2 November 2013

Spoon Carving Knife...

If you're looking for a versatile and stylish spoon carving/bushcraft knife.
Look no further.
Chris Grant has taken my MaChris Bushcraft/carving knife design one step beyond.
Our mutual friend J. P. Woodlife asked Chris if he could make a special.
Chris is always looking to push the envelope so he took the job on.
The result.....

spoon carving knife.

Some beautiful leatherwork and stylish wood/antler work.

spoon carving knife.

As usual for the MaChris and MiniMac, Chris has employed some tough 52100 bearing steel for this custom knife.
The Scandinavian grind can be kept razor sharp by employing a 'King' or 'Ice Bear' water stone with a fine light strop to finish.

spoon carving knife.

Chris used stabilised poisoned Yew and Reindeer antler for the handle, all kept in place with copper pins.

spoon carving knife.

I'm hoping J. P will post a few words in the near future about his new MaChris.
You can find out what J. P gets up to here on his web page.

If you would like Chris to make you a MaChris Special, why not give him a shout at....

Click 'HERE' for tech spec.

Don't forget.
The Scout Outdoor Adventure Manual would make a great gift for those dark winter nights.
Available through Amazon and other good book dealers.


Friday 18 October 2013

We've moved.

Sarah and I have moved further out into the countryside.
I've settled into a new studio space.
We are nestled in an intimate hollow on top of a high spur with far more sunshine than the old home.

Dartmoor. Devon. Sunset.

Sarah had a birthday the other week.

portrait photography. photography.

After a fine breakfast...


We drove down to Cornwall and spent the day with our good friend Valda.


Walking on the cliff tops.

photography .Boscastle. Cornwall.


Friendship. Boscastle. Cornwall. Photography

We stopped by our favourite hotel for a great fish 'n' chip supper.

Still life. restaurant. Boscastle. Cornwall. Photography.

I thought I'd carve her a 'welcome to your new home and happy birthday' spoon.
Most of the spoons I have carved recently start off looking like this.

MaChris bushcraft knife. Bushcraft knife. ball bearing steel 52100. Jon Mac. Chris Grant.

So I thought I'd stick with what I know to start with.
Then perhaps add a little something different later.

Love spoon. Spooncarving. spoon carving. spoon. spoons.

It went down well.

Love spoon. Spooncarving. spoon carving. spoon. spoons.

I think it's now safe and sound in Sarah's treasure chest.
I carved it from a crooked bower of a walnut tree.
I used the other side of the split log for a serving spoon.

Serving spoon. Spooncarving. spoon carving. spoon. spoons.

I'm looking forward to capturing some great sunsets up here.

sunset. dartmoor. devon. Jon Mac.

All the best.
Jon Mac.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

French ( Jerry can ) wine carriers.

 like me,
 you like your outdoor experience to be comfortable and genial,
you may be interested in an item that came to my attention over the weekend.

French wine carrier ( jerry can )

If you look carefully at the above photo, you'll notice an important small word.

French wine carrier ( jerry can )


French wine carrier ( jerry can )

As you may know.
The British go nowhere and do nothing without a brew of tea.

French wine carrier ( jerry can )

Well, the French are the same,
 but there favoured tipple is
" Un petit rouge"
A little red.

French wine carrier ( jerry can )

These wine carriers are made from aluminium and are lined so the wine doesn't taint.
They are available from 

If you want more information then why not give the chaps at Trinity Marine a call ?

01647 253400

Or drop them an email.

The price ?

Approximately £25.00

The volume ?
10 Liters.
Thats 2.2 Gallons approx
or 13.3 bottles of wine.

They are a big professional outfit who will post pretty well anywhere in the world.



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