Wood carving has been on a crafty renaissance during COVID lockdowns and quarantines. People have found new hobbies to stay busy at home, like learning a foreign language, whisking the popular dalgona coffee, and home gardening. Intrigued by the simple wonders of wood carving, both the youth and adults discovered the joy of handmade freedom at their wooden canvas. They also found online marketplaces like Etsy to showcase handmade crafts and launch their first online businesses in the face of a global pandemic. Way to turn a quarantine hobby into an entrepreneurial success!
Kitchen utensils make a good starting point to learn the basics of wood carving. DIY woodworking projects offer exciting challenges that teach you artistic focus, precision, and creative techniques. The handmade items can be used at home, kept as souvenirs, or sold on Etsy. Spoon carving, for example, is a small-scale activity that ends with something you get to use every day – or expand your online catalog with. Beginners can dive right into the art, and the first thing to consider is the type of wood.
Best wood for spoon carving
Fine-grain hardwoods are the best choice for spoon carving. Diffuse-porous wood is ideal because it helps the utensils withstand moisture and stains. You should avoid softwoods, like pines and spruces, and ring-porous trees such as oaks and ashes. They tend to stain easily and wear away faster.
The term “green wood” refers to freshly cut wood and is very conducive to the art of wood carving. It has more moisture and so the soft fibers are tool-friendly. Woodworkers often carve spoons into a rough shape, allow it to dry, and then resume their finishing touches.
Seasoned woods, or kiln-dried woods, can be bought from stores. They are easily accessible but do require power tools rather than manual carving tools as they are more difficult to carve compared to green hardwoods.
Paper birch, with its signature white bark, has just the right texture to carve spoons or any utensils. It is quite malleable under wood carving tools, which makes it easy to contour shapes and designs. Paper birch spoons are durable enough for daily use.
Carving through maple saturates your workshop with a distinct, sweet scent. Silver maple is a soft maple species that is popular for its ripple-grain effect. You will need a lot of patience and perseverance to achieve a good finishing touch, and the end-product is totally worth the effort!
The pink-reddish brown heartwood (central core) of a black cherry tree is lined by pale-cream sapwood (outer circle). This creates a contrasting aesthetic in wooden spoons. Textural differences between the heartwood and sapwood also add to the carving process. Thick sapwood against the more brittle heartwood allows you to experiment with techniques to highlight the individual effects of both textures.
The semi-ring porous wood of a black walnut species is an interesting exception to the general rule of avoiding ring-porous trees. A black walnut’s dark brown heartwood sits within the pale contrast of its sapwood. This gives you two different colors in your walnut carvings, and the spoons appear naturally artistic.
Fruitwood species like apple and cherry are ideal green wood choices. Applewood is among the hardest tree species and often has twisted grain. The dense wood is not the easiest one to carve, but it definitely results in tough and heavy spoons. Its humble monotones deliver a beautiful color palette to your handmade creations.
The brown-orange hues of butternut wood make its swirling grains and patterns stand out. The finished spoons, therefore, have a great aesthetic appeal. Butternut is very malleable under carving tools, so you get a more user-friendly experience compared to black walnut wood. However, butternut wood can be difficult to find in stores.
Spoon carving tips
Get the right tools
Decide on manual and power tools that you can use confidently to carve a spoon. Basic tools like carving knives, hook knives, clamps, sanding drum, wooden chunk, and mineral oils are often used. Power tools include belt sander, scroll saw, and table saw to target the tougher-grain variety.
Draw outlines and carve away
Take a marker to draw a rough outline for your spoon on the wood. A table saw helps to carve out an approximate shape, refined further by a miter saw. You can then use manual carving tools to chisel and contour the desired shape. This allows you to really enjoy an authentic woodworking experience. Alternatively, a scroll saw can be used to power-cut the spoon’s outline.
Once you obtain a workable spoon blank, it is time to celebrate with some wood shavings confetti! At beginner levels, it is a good idea to carve away from yourself in an outward direction and work along the surface in deliberate consistency.
Detailing is where you focus on the spoon’s functionality and ergonomics. Is it a spatula, soup ladle, or a multi-purpose spoon? By shaping features like handle and spoon width, you get to customize your creations by adding signature curves and contours. This also includes shaping the convex and concave look by rounding the surfaces into seamless precision.
Make sure to sand the marks
Sanding is essential to smooth out the final product by removing splinters and imperfections. You can use sanding attachments and grit paper to refine your carved structure into more professional-looking craftsmanship.
Apply food-safe finishing
The sanded spoon benefits from a food-safe protective coat. It increases the overall durability and does not react with food. Mineral oils also make great substitutes for finishing touches.
Aim for green woods whenever possible
Freshly cut woods are friendlier options than seasoned varieties. This is because they still retain a lot of moisture which speeds up the carving process. It also makes a good excuse to combine your woodcutting and woodworking interests into one hobby.
Refer to tutorials and guides
Any DIY project works well when it follows tutorial videos or books for direction. There are expert tips and techniques to acquire, along with creative shapes and designs you can use to upscale your spoons.
Spoon carving essentials to buy
PRUGNA Wood Carving Tools Set for Spoon, Kuksa, etc. Carving Kit Contains 3 Knives, Sanding Sponges, Whetstone, Strop and Polishing Compound – with Exquisite Portable Case
This woodcarving kit is a one-stop solution for your DIY endeavors. It includes a hook knife, a whittling knife, and a chip carving knife. You do need to verify the complete contents in the portable case to check for the gloves, sanding sponges, and spoon blank. Designed for beginners and experts, the ergonomic tools are equipped to carve various wood species like maple and aspen. You can detail your spoons with clear concave and convex shapes and ensure splinter-free results through sanding.
The Artful Wooden Spoon: How to Make Exquisite Keepsakes for the Kitchen
Joshua Vogel’s The Artful Wooden Spoon is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to the vintage art of wood carving. The book is almost a portal right into the author’s workshop, where all the magic happens. Photographs from his gallery are combined with instructions that will encourage any beginner to dive right in. It takes you on a resourceful journey that teaches the timeless craft by using minimal tools to maximize your effort. The Artful Wooden Spoon, with its exquisite photography, helps you appreciate the meditative escape of working on handcrafted kitchenware.