Spoon #2 In Oak

Here are a few photos from my second attempt at spoon carving. This one is from the same piece of Oak as my first one-this was my attempt to replicate the traditional Swedish Spoon that appears in Willie Sundqvist’s book, “Swedish Carving Techniques”.

One benefit from using Oak is that you end up learning how to sharpen your tools rather quickly. This guy ended up being a birthday present.

Right now I’m sticking with “rough cut” shaping and leaving the tool marks, rather than smoothing out with sand paper or card scraper. I like the look that gives.

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3-Legged Tall Walnut Stool

Last week I managed to break the left tilt assembly on my table saw. As it happens, that part is obsolete and no longer available to purchase, eBay or otherwise. So I found a machine shop in town to see if they could replicate it and sure enough, they made a perfect copy, but….I overlooked one tiny detail, i.e. the worm gear, which I thought was secured via set screws was in fact held in place by a very small roll pin that had since broken off (possibly as a result of me over-tightening the tilt assembly in an attempt to get it to 90 degrees). The lesson here being that proper maintenance of all tools is absolutely necessary and required. So back to the machine shop to get a very small hole drilled into a very thin piece of tool steel.

As it happens, it’s actually been a really positive experience, both in learning how the table saw is engineered and also in the beauty of old Delta tools when everything is made of steel and can be rebuilt with some elbow grease and know-how.

Anyways, to make a long story short, the original project (shoji screen) I wanted to start involved of course, using the table saw, so while that’s out of commission, I decided to build a 3-legged walnut stool, which I can do more or less entirely w/handtools. (full disclosure-I used a portable sawmill to dimension the log-as soon as I find a suitable Maebiki Nokogiri, I will go full handtool)

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Ergo, this fine piece of 2″ black walnut that I milled over 18 months ago and that I “kiln-dried” in my attic for about 2 months. MC is at 9.1%. I’m interested in making a piece of furniture out of 1 slab. It has a way of forcing me to pick and choose which parts of the board are best suited to the parts of the piece and I get to see the tree, the log and the board in that order progress into a piece of furniture. It’s a long, varied process and in a way, one of the most perfect sequences of events I’ve come to experience. Down the road, I’d be interested in designing an entire set of furniture out of 1 tree, like a table and chairs and sideboard or something along those lines.

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Once I sectioned out the board into Seat, Spindles, and Legs, I started by jointing one edge of the “Leg” section to get a reference face.

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Notice the contrast between the rough milled edge straight from the sawmill to the planed side. Pretty remarkable and a source of enjoyment every time.

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Now for the long rip. So I was trying for two legs here. What I ended up with was 1 leg, and two pieces of broken wood. Turns out 30″ rips are pretty darn tough. But I was able to take the two broken pieces and plane them down to be used as spindles in the undercarriage. Nonetheless, I took my time cutting the last two legs.

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Indeed, you can see the SEAT. But the TOP SPINDLES board was pretty wonky and since I was able to use the broken leg for the spindles, I’m thinking of turning the board below (TOP SPINDLE board) into a cutting board given the nice figure in the corner.

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And here are the rough cut legs and spindles. I want to let the wood rest a day or two and then plane to proper dimensions. For the seat, I’ll hand drill the leg mortises and then cut the final seat form out of the square-it’s easier to drill the mortises out of a square blank. And then the fun of using the travishers to shape it.

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One last parting shot-I’ve got a basic shoji I made a few years ago that I’m going to hang in the shop window, prying eyes, diffuse light, etc. Over and out.
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Step Into My Office

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Today I tried my hand at spoon carving courtesy of a birthday present of a Mora 106 paring knife and 164 hook knife from my special lady. I have a big box store hatchet that I bought maybe 12 years and so I sharpened that the best I could and grabbed a piece of recently split oak (Red, I think) from the wood pile. For fun I checked the moisture content and it was somewhere upwards of 35-40%, plenty green for this go-round.

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Working with green wood is a totally new process for me and for some reason, I’ve been hesitant about going down that road. I have no idea why. Maybe since I’ve spent the past 7 years working with only dry wood and dealing with movement, etc., I was overly worried about what would happen with completely green wood. Who knows?

To split out the blanks, I just looked for a seam and setting the hatchet in line with it, took a whack with the mallet and voila.

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It’s nice to split with the grain and in this case, this is some pretty straight grained stuff.

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There’s a few steps missing here…after some exploratory hatchet work, I took a hand saw to the 1st blank and cut it to rough shape-my hatchet skills are still in the nascent stage.

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With the basic shape down I drew out the general outline of the spoon and started carving from there with my new Morakniv 106 and my M-164 Hook Knife, also from Mora.

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A bit more progress. There’s a point at which the blank all of a sudden becomes a spoon. All these subtle transformations, large amounts of material removal, and then out of seemingly nowhere, a spoon.

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The neck is too delicate-try, live and learn. At this point the handle is essentially done, just the bowl left to refine.

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And here’s a side profile-the Red Oak has an attractive grain from all angles. There’s kind’ve a wavy handle thing going on here. I’m sure I had something creative in mind-whether that was realized, well, hey it’s my first spoon.

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And from the top.

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Here’s the nearly finished piece. From here I cured it in boiling water for about 12 minutes and it’s been drying in a brown paper bag for the last two days. I’ll put a coat or two of linseed oil on it and start my spoon collection.

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At this point I prefer the tool marks from the hook knife in the bowl. Not sure I want to call it “rustic”. I just like the pattern left behind.

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For my latest project I had a couple rough pieces of walnut hidden away on a shelf in the garage from two different trees. Both were quite dry and looking for a new home so I thought I’d work on some chair building skills but with the forgiving nature of a small end table. This piece was destined for the legs and so some hand planing was in order.
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After a few hours of flattening and smoothing-a nice piece of Walnut emerged.

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And the process of ripping, squaring, and then rounding on the saw horse. A nice progression of steps and always fun to see a square turn into a circle. You can see the rather curious piece of walnut underneath the soon-to-be legs. One of the weirder slabs I’ve worked with.

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Not sure where the soap opera dream lens came from but here’s a shot of test fitting the legs to the top. I eyeballed the compound mortises which meant that they didn’t end up exactly symmetrical but it was a good lesson in working by hand and eye.

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And because of the numerous seams/checks in the table top, I elected to add several butterfly keys. I’m using a rather basic method to shape them but fun all the same and in this case, using Ash, which has a strong tensile strength and contrasts nicely with the walnut. You can see the relief cuts I made with a hand saw to facilitate chopping out the waste, before paring with a chisel to the line.

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Test placement of the keys.

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Once I set the keys, it was time for wedging and glueing up the legs. For the leg wedges I used some white oak that handles the hammering into place quite well.

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Happy face? Sad face? Pretty neutral it seems…

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Detail shot after the first coat of oil & wax.

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Finished piece. One interesting note-the legs are quite darker than the top. I think part of this is that I slabbed out the walnut for the legs myself and they air dried for about a year and then spent a month or so in my makeshift attic kiln, so a rather gradual drying process. The table top on the other hand was purchased from a sawyer who kiln dries only-no air drying (about 5 years ago, as it happens) and to me some of the richness of the walnut faded out compared to the legs. Totally anecdotal on my end but my sense is that air drying first for a year or two depending on thickness, helps to preserve the overall color profile of the wood.

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The Brute Squad Serving Board

Sometimes the simplest projects are the most enjoyable. Getting back to the basics with some hand tools and a quiet morning.

We cut this walnut last fall and after nearly a year of air drying, I put a couple slabs in the attic this summer for some experimental, ad hoc kiln drying. So far, so good.

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