Deciding on your first project when getting started with woodcarving can be a challenge. There are a variety of suggestions available for beginners wondering where to start.
One of the most common and most popular suggestions is to start with learning how to carve a wooden spoon. This is because spoon carving can be both simple and complex, depending on how intricate you choose to make your project. This makes it a suitable project for both beginner woodcarvers and more experienced ones looking for a challenging task.
How to Carve a Simple Wooden Spoon In 8 Steps
Before looking at more complex, you should learn how to carve a simple wooden spoon. This is not too challenging a task and can be undertaken once you know the basics of woodcarving.
If you’re wondering how to get started with spoon carving, read on for an easy step-by-step guide that will help you carve your own wooden spoon.
Step 1: Choose your wood
There are several considerations to keep in mind when deciding which wood to use to carve a wooden spoon. However, an easy rule of thumb to go with is to use a hardwood. These are not only easy to carve, but they hold up to use as a cooking utensil nicely. Furthermore, they can also withstand pressure on the handle, which means that they won’t snap when used.
Step 2: Draw the shape
Draw out the shape of the spoon you are planning to carve. Make sure to keep it simple to make the carving process easier. When drawing the shape, position the handle so that the length of the handle runs in the same direction as the grain of the wood.
Step 3: Start carving out the bowl
Use a gouge or a crook knife to hollow out the bowl of the spoon. Start from the south end of the bowl (which is nearest to the handle), and then do the same to the north end.
The depth of the bowl you carve will depend on what you plan on using your spoon for. A stirring spoon or a dessert spoon, for example, does not need to be as deep as a soup spoon. No matter which spoon you are making, however, make sure not to carve too deeply. If you do, you increase the chance of the spoon snapping. Leave at least half a centimeter of wood at the bottom of the bowl.
To make the carving process more manageable, you can clamp the spoon down to a table and then carve away with your gouge or knife. This reduces the chance of errors and injuries as a result of a shaky hand. You will know when you are finished with carving the bowl when you get small, curly chips of wood.
Step 4: Cut out the shape
Use the template you drew to cut out the shape of the spoon. You may want to leave some extra wood at the end of the handle so that you can continue to clamp the spoon to the table for future steps.
Use a pencil to draw the shape that you want on the sides of the spoon. This will help when you start shaping the handle. If you’re unsure of how to do so, you can easily find templates online.
Step 5: Define the back of the bowl and rough out the handle
First, use a chisel to take away wood from the sides in order to shape the bottom of the bowl. Make sure to push in the direction of the grain, away from the handle. Also, be careful to only take away small chips at a time. This will prevent you from accidentally carving out too much and ending up with a cracked spoon.
Then, use the chisel to shape both the tip of the bowl, as well as the back of the handle. Start at the bowl and work towards the tail end in order to slim down the shape.
Step 6: Carve the handle
Use a carving knife in order to refine and shape the handle of the spoon. Make sure to work from the neck of the spoon up to the edge of the handle. Ensure that you are making the handle as smooth as possible.
When carving, use your thumb for leverage, and start removing small layers of wood. Don’t cut too deeply, or you will be risking breaking the spoon.
Step 7: Sanding
Before sanding your spoon, you may decide to smooth it with a multi-tool like a Dremel. If you choose to do so, keep carving until all the hollows in the wood are smooth. Don’t apply too much pressure to the wood – the tool will do the work for you.
When sanding your spoon, start with coarse sandpaper. You can use sandpaper to smooth down your spoon as well. Once you’re done with coarse sandpaper, move to medium and fine grit. You can also choose to sand your spoon with a multi-tool for ease.
Step 8: Oil
Once you’re done carving your spoon, coating it with oil will help give it a shiny finish. It will also help protect the wood and bring out the color, grain, and pattern so that they stand out more.
Since you have carved a spoon, make sure to use a food-grade oil like linseed oil or walnut oil. You can apply it to the wood with the help of a lint-free cloth.
After application of the oil, let it cure. The time needed to cure is dependent on the oil that you use. Once it has cured, it is ready for use.
How to Improve at Spoon Carving
Once you have carved your first spoon, it’s natural to want to know how to improve at it. You have to practice again and again to master your skills with a spoon carving knife. when it comes to carving – spoons or anything else – the best way to truly improve your skills is by repetition.
By practicing spoon carving over and over, you give yourself the opportunity to recognize where you are making mistakes and then improve upon them. An effective way to do so is to try production carving.
Production carving involves the repeated carving of a single item – in this case, a spoon. When doing so, you can break down the bigger task into simple and smaller steps. Any insight you gain into the carving process during one step can then be applied during the next step.
Repetition allows you to gain confidence in your ability at spoon carving. It also boosts your skills. Once you are confident in your abilities, you can then move on to creating a unique piece. The skills that you have developed during your repeated efforts at creating a spoon will ensure that the piece does not go to waste.
Top 6 Woods for Spoon Carving
Before you decide on which wood to use for your spoon, there are a few things you should consider:
Function: If you’re planning on using your spoon as a sculpture or a display piece, you have a wider variety of woods available for you to choose from. Spoons that will be used for food, on the other hand, have particular concerns that you should keep in mind.
If you’re looking for wood for a display spoon, look for wood that has an unusual grain, color, or form. Spoons used for food, on the other hand, should be carved from hardwoods.
Hardwoods are more durable and can better stand up to the use that a “food grade” spoon is put through. They are also less likely to snap when used.
Furthermore, make sure that you choose a wood that is not very porous. This is because woods that are not porous stand up more effectively against moisture and staining and don’t retain any fats and oils from food.
Grain and Complexity: If you’re just starting out at carving spoons, you should pick wood that has a straight grain and no knots. This will make it easier for you to carve the spoon and will also make for stronger spoons.
More experienced carvers, on the other hand, may choose to try more complex woods. You may also consider experimenting with making a spoon out of a variety of woods.
There are a variety of woods that you can choose for your spoon. Some of the best options include:
Spoon Carving Birch
Birch is an excellent option for beginner spoon carvers. It is usually close-grained, which makes it an easy wood to work with and carve.
Using birch allows you to develop your carving skills. It allows you to showcase your ability at carving instead of relying on the pattern of the wood to impress.
Another advantage of birch is that it is a fast-growing species, making it an easy wood to come across. Furthermore, it is the perfect level of hardness for spoons – easy to shape with hand tools, but also tough enough for use in the kitchen.
Spoon Carving Cherry
Cherry is a favorite wood among spoon carvers. The wood comes in beautiful grain colors.
One major advantage of using cherry for your spoons is that you can easily achieve a two-tone effect. This is because the heartwood of a cherry tree – especially a black cherry – is a lovely pink. This contrasts with the sapwood, which is a pale cream.
Keep in mind that the heartwood and sapwood have different textures when carved. The sapwood is thicker and more elastic.
Spoon Carving Basswood
While basswood is a hardwood, it is a soft hardwood. This makes it an easier wood to carve with and an effective wood for beginners to use.
One risk that you run if you choose to use basswood is that it may be too soft. This makes it much easier to crack when used.
However, if you’re working on practicing your carving, it’s a great wood to work with.
Spoon Carving Maple
Maples have a beautiful grain to them, which adds to the beauty of the finished product. They’re also easy to source, which makes them an effective wood for spoon carving.
If you’re looking for a relatively soft hardwood to start with, you can also try silver maple. Though significantly harder than basswood, it is one of the softer maples to work with. As an added benefit, maple lends a sweet, fresh scent to the air, making it a lovely wood to work with.
Spoon Carving Walnut
Walnut is another wood that works well if you’re looking to achieve a two-tone effect. The heartwood is a rich, dark brown, and the sapwood is very pale in comparison.
This wood also has a lovely, strong scent. The drawback is that if you’re using a green wood, it can lend a bit of a flavor to the finished spoon. However, the flavor will diminish over time and can be quickly overpowered by using a finishing agent like linseed oil.
Spoon Carving Apple
Apple is a great wood for experienced carvers to work with. It’s a very hard wood and is usually full of knots and twisted grain. This can make it challenging for beginners to work with.
We have a separate article dedicated to covering apple, if you are ever going to carve apple wood you have to read that article! How Good Is Apple Wood For Wood Carving?
However, the beautiful color can make for stunning pieces. Also, the denseness of the wood results in heavy utensils that can hold up against a lot of rough use. Furthermore, the complicated wood can make the finished spoon feel like a real achievement.
One thing to keep in mind is that apple usually does not grow very large. This makes it an unsuitable wood for production carving. However, for carvers looking to create a special piece, this is a good option.
Is pine good for spoon carving?
When it comes to woodworking, pine – especially white pine – is a very popular option many people choose to go with. White pine an especially effective wood for carving and whittling with a knife.
This can lead to the impression that it will also make a good wood for spoon carving. However, pine is not a wood that many spoon carvers would recommend.
This is because pine is a softwood. Spoons that are used in kitchens can undergo a lot of wear and tear. Softwoods don’t often stand up to this use well and can crack and break easily.
If you’re looking to use pine for spoon carving, the end product should not be used in the kitchen. However, it can be effective wood to use if you plan on creating a spoon as a showpiece or for practice before moving on to hardwoods.
Spoon Carving With Green Wood v/s With Dry Wood
When it comes to choosing wood for your spoon carving, you can choose between green or dry wood. Green wood is freshly cut wood, while dry wood is another term for seasoned woods. If you’re unsure about that this means, check out this article to catch up.
Traditional spoon carvers will recommend that you use green wood for spoon carving. Wood that is green has a higher moisture content. This makes the fibers in the wood softer, making green wood easier to carve with hand tools.
An important thing to keep in mind when carving green wood is you will need to let your spoon dry during the carving process. When you will need to do so will depend on the moisture content of the wood. However, you will usually need to dry your spoon before smoothing and sanding it.
You can dry your spoon by placing it in a plastic ziplock bag along with small, dry wood chips. Leave the bag open at room temperature in order to release the moisture. Turn the spoon occasionally in the bag. It can take up to 3-5 days to dry naturally, depending on the wood’s moisture content.
The drawback of using green wood is that it can be harder to source it than dry wood. You can easily source dry (that is, kiln-dried) wood from a local store. Green wood, on the other hand, may not be as easily available. You may need to ask around and check with local lumberyards, lumber mills, and tree trimmers.
Another thing to consider when carving with green woods is that you are usually limited to the species of trees that grow in your area. With dry woods, you are more likely to be able to experiment with a variety of woods.
Green wood is a good choice for beginner carvers. Aside from being easier to work with, it also allows you to understand how to work with the grain. This is because it is easier to see the grain structure of the wood with green, split wood, as opposed to seasoned wood.
Top 4 Spoon Carving Projects to Try
For people looking to start carving spoons, there are a variety of patterns that are easily available online. However, some projects that you can try include:
Carving a Basic Spoon
This is where every spoon carving beginner should start. Again, there are a variety of templates that you can access.
However, before you do so, decide whether you want to start with green wood or dry wood. This will be heavily dependent on the accessibility of green wood in your area.
Once you have the wood you need, you can begin your project. Some videos you can refer to include:
Carve a Spoon with a Curly Handle
Once you’ve got a grip on basic spoon carving, you can proceed to carve more decorative spoons. One simple project you can try is to carve a spoon with a curly handle.
This allows you to create a slightly decorative piece while also not being too complicated for beginners to try. Once you feel you are ready to begin your project, you can refer to this video for a guide:
Carve a Lovespoon
A lovespoon is an intricately decorated wooden spoon that is most commonly found in Wales but can also be found in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. It is a traditional craft that can be dated to the seventeenth century.
Lovespoons were usually presented as a gift of romantic intent. Because of this, the spoon is normally decorated with romantic symbols. These spoons can be as intricate as you desire and are usually used as a decorative item.
You can use this video as a guide to carving a lovespoon:
Try Kolrosing a Spoon
Kolrosing is a Scandinavian decorative craft. It involves creating decorative cuts or incisions in the wood. These are then filled with a dark powder like charcoal, coal dust, or coffee grounds.
The result is “tattooed” wood. Essentially, the powder creates a contrast against the wood and darkens the cuts. This brings out the pattern, resulting in a beautifully decorated piece.
Kolrosing is a technique that can be used on any wooden item, including spoons. There are a variety of patterns available that you can use, or you can create your own. While you can use a regular carving knife when kolrosing something, try and use a specialty kolrosing knife for best results.
You can refer to this video as a guide for how to get started with kolrosing:
How to Finish a Spoon Carving
Once you are done with carving your spoon, it is time to finish it.
The first step will depend on the type of wood you have used. If you have used green wood to create your spoon, you will first need to let your spoon dry. This will protect your spoons from premature cracking or breaking.
Once your spoon has finished drying, you can start sanding. You do not need to dry your spoon if you have used dried or seasoned wood to carve it.
Start sanding your spoon with coarse-grit sandpaper. You can slowly move on to medium and fine grit once you are done with the coarse grit.
After you are done with sanding, you can finish your spoon. Choosing a finish for your spoon is dependent on what you plan on using the spoon for.
If your spoon is a decorative piece, you can use any finish that you prefer. However, if you plan on using your spoon for kitchen and food-related purposes, your finish should be food safe.
Some options that you can use for spoons meant to be used in the kitchen include:
- Cooking oils like linseed, safflower, poppy, walnut, and soybean oil. An added advantage is that these oils polymerize – that is, they harden on reaction to oxygen. This reduces the likelihood of an oily residue.
One drawback of using drying oils is that they can take a long time to dry and cure properly. If you do not let them cure properly before using, you will be left with a residual flavor.
If you plan on using a drying oil to finish your wood, all you need is a small, clean rag or cloth. Apply some oil to the cloth and then use it to rub-down the spoon.
- Milk can be used as a finishing agent. If you plan on using milk to finish your spoon, first dip your spoon into some skimmed milk. Then, bring the milk to boil and let it simmer for a few minutes.
Once the milk has simmered, you can turn off the heat and let the spoon cool. All that is left to do is to remove it from the container of milk and wipe it down.
Make sure you use skimmed milk in this process. This is because using milk with milk fats still present can lead to a spoiled milk smell.
Using milk to finish your spoons results in a faster drying process than using drying oils. However, it can lead to splits in the wood if not done properly.
Finishing your spoons will help bring out the color and pattern of the wood and help the grain stand out. If your spoon gets dry from use, all you will need to do is rub in some more finish.
A well-crafted wooden spoon can last for many years. In order to better maintain your spoon, it should only be hand-washed with regular soap and water. If you let your spoon soak for too long in the water or put it into a dishwasher, you may end up quickly deteriorating the wood.
You can continue to use your spoon until cracks develop in the bowl. At that point, you should retire your spoon and work on a new one.