Michael was raised in the Ozark Mountain region of Missouri and has always enjoyed woodworking, wood carving, and writing.
Wooden spoons have been around a very long time. While they serve a practical purpose, many of them are purely decorative. It is enjoyable to take a piece of wood and see what is hiding inside.
This particular spoon is a simple design that I've seen pop up here and there. With the handle being shaped the way it is, it gives you a chance to put a little embellishment on it. You could chip carve something on it, or you could simply paint something on it.
If you are new to woodcarving, this will prove to be an easy project for you. Even though the design is simple, it still is a nice-looking wooden spoon.
Selecting the Wood
This is a very simple spoon to make. When I made this one I used a band saw, some gouges, a carving knife, and sandpaper. You could also use a scroll saw, hand coping saw, or even a saber saw instead of a band saw, depending on what tools that you have access to. No matter how you go about this, we all start at the same place—selecting the wood.
Because of this spoons flare on the handle, you will need to have wood that is about 1 1/2" thick. The bowl part of the spoon is about 2 1/4" across at the widest part. This spoon is more of a "stylized" carving, and the wood grain will really be noticed. Stylized means that there is very little ornamentation in the carving itself. Instead, you are allowing the wood to "show off" its beauty and grain a little more.
Different woods will work in different ways. Pine is pretty easy to work with. You could select a nice piece of hardwood, but keep in mind that hardwood is exactly that—hard wood. It might take you a little more time.
The wood that I selected is a piece of pine that came out of an old door. The door came off of a mansion in Detroit that was built around 1900. The drying process was different then, and this piece is rather brittle and can split easily.
With your wood selection made and in hand, let's get started!
Step 1: Cut the Excess Wood Away
As mentioned earlier, this wood came off of a very old door. If you look at the photo above, you will see the screw holes from the hinges that are near my thumb. I made sure that the holes wouldn't interfere with the carving, and I also made sure that there weren't any splits in the wood before I invested much time.
When working with wood like this, the method of drying the wood was different than it is today. The wood was dried at a very high temperature, crystalizing the resin in the wood. This is what made it brittle. If you select newer wood, you won't have this concern.
Step 2: Make the First Cut
In the photo above, the spoon has been cut out or "relieved" from the board. There will be more wood to be removed, but the bowl part of the spoon needs to be hollowed out while there is still a flat surface to clamp to the bench top. The cutout length of the spoon is 7" long, and the width of the handle is about 3/8" wide.
If you were to saw the extra wood away first, it would put you in a position where you would have to hold the wood with one hand while you were pushing sharp gouges toward your fingers. I think you get the point!
Step 3: Hollow Out the Bowl of the Spoon
In the photo above you can see that the spoon is securely clamped down to the bench top. You can now use both hands to hold and control the sharp gouges. You can also see that a Kevlar glove is used on my left hand. I highly recommend this. This will keep woodcarving an enjoyable hobby and not a dangerous one!
Step 4: Make the Spoon Emerge From the Wood
When you hollow out the bowl of the spoon, take your time. Use a gouge to carve the concave surface by going halfway across and then gouge the chips out from the opposite direction. Keep working the wood chips out until you have a nice inside shape.
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To save yourself some work when you start sanding, you will want to gradually scrape the bowl surface to get rid of all of the chisel marks that you can. It is quicker than sanding all of the unevenness down. In the photo below, you will see the hollowing out process finished.
Step 5: Remove More Wood
At this point, you are ready to saw away the rest of the wood. Draw good lines on the wood for a guide, sawing slightly on the outside of the lines.
After you cut the extra wood away, you will be ready to do the final shaping.
Step 6: Take off the Square Edges
In the photo above, the spoon is ready to have the finishing touches done with the final carving and sanding. I use a carving knife to shape the convex part of the spoon. Next, I take pieces of old sanding belts that are 80 grit to start doing some of the shaping. The sanding belts have cloth backs and conform to the shape well. I tear them in 3" squares to use them. You can also just use 80 grit sandpaper to do the same.
After you are happy with the shape that you have created, progress to a 100 grit sandpaper. Once you have smoothed out all of the scratches from the first stage of sanding you are ready to progress to a 150 grit sandpaper. Once this is done, you are ready to choose your finish!
Step 7: Choose a Finish
When it comes to selecting a finish, you can choose many different options. If the wood grain is beautiful, you could finish with three coats of Tung oil. Tung oil will really accentuate the grain and give a natural look.
You could do an "aging" process to the wood by applying a coat of black coffee; letting it dry: then coat it with a solution of vinegar that has steel wool in it that was allowed to sit overnight. This brings out a very nice, old-looking patina in the wood. You can follow this by a coat of Linseed oil, which brings out the luster of the wood.
With this spoon, I simply used a penetrating oil stain in a honey color. I followed with three coats of lacquer. I will be doing a "personalization" on the handle, and the lacquer is a good base to paint on. Using acrylic paint, this spoon will be customized for my Granddaughter. The paint is sealed with a light coat of lacquer on the handle.
Step 8: Finish up
The spoon is completed at this point. You can do some painting if you want to make it special for someone or leave it as is. Whichever way you choose to finish the spoon, it will look very nice. If you hand this to someone as a gift, you are sure to get a big smile. After all, you have just created a keepsake!
Michael Higgins (author) from Michigan on April 04, 2015:
Hi Patrick. I would use a tight grained wood like maple and use several coats of butcher block oil, (a type of mineral oil), to finish it. Butcher block oil is food safe. it will also enhance the wood grain. Vegetable oil has been used, but it can turn rancid. I hope this helps. Thanks for stopping by to read the hub!
Patrick on April 04, 2015:
If you were to make a spoon for actual food use what type of wood and finish would you use?
Michael Higgins (author) from Michigan on January 13, 2015:
Thanks for the kind words, Jan. I appreciate the vote up and for you taking the time to stop by. Thanks again!
Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on January 13, 2015:
Wow! This is very interesting; amazing to see the spoon emerge from the piece of wood, taken from an old door built in the 1900s! Your steps and pictures help provide a visual understanding of how the spoon is made. It's a lovely form of art. Voted up, useful, and interesting.