Friday, March 1, 2013

Spoons from Tree Branches

Hi Everyone,

I've just finished several spoons out of tree branches. Here's the photo:

The two spoons in the top of the photo are Norwegian maple and the bottom spoon is out of box elder.

I've never carved a wood as hard as the maple-it was like carving a rock. The box elder on the other hand was so soft it tended to tear rather than cut cleanly.

I enjoy carving quite a bit and I'm glad I've found a use for tree branches, which are readily available but tend to be small in diameter. Here's a few thoughts:

Begin by cutting the branch in half length wise and then remove the pith of the branch. It's the soft, crumbly center of the branch and it's often a different color from the rest of the wood. This area is too soft for a spoon and leaving it in will cause the spoon to crack.

The branch needs to be wide enough to accommodate the bowl. A good rule of thumb is to start with a branch the diameter and shape of your lower arm.

If the wood is fresh, it will be easier to carve but prone to cracking. A good thing to do is to take your fresh branch and let sit for a month or two before you begin carving it. Some carvers recommend putting a partially carved branch into a plastic bag while the carving process is on going. I find that this promotes mold growth on the wood. Give it a try and see how it works for you.

A good source of spoon wood is cut firewood. Here in Minnesota it's common to see bundles of birch firewood for sale outside of supermarkets. This is hard wood, dryer than fresh wood, and it cuts very easily. Try giving this a try.

Make sure the point where the bowl and the handle meet is thick enough to support the bowl of the spoon when it's being stirred in a pot or full of food. There's a tendency to whittle this area down and if it gets too thinned down, it will break.

I use flax seed oil to finish the spoon. It dries and it's more durable a finish than mineral oil.

And be careful while you're carving-always pay attention to the direction of the blade.

And have fun.


Ok, enough about spoons. We have several projects down the road:

A bowl out of some of that walnut that has been drying in the shop. The flower vase that I made out of this really came out well and I'm anxious to see what a bowl will look like.

Also, I have several tea boxes to make, one out of laminated wood and the other out of solid wood. Those should be interesting so stay tuned for that.

And I've decided to tryout a square plate again-yes, this again. And I may try the coffee scoop project again.

So stay tuned-we've got more adventures ahead.


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