Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Spoon carving and turning


"Made in the Woods" is a biannual event where traditional skills are taught and practised in a bush setting. I have attended three over the past few years and I find I am always drawn to spend lots of time with the spoon carver, Jeff. He is the one in the traditional terry towelling hat. He spends about half his time earning money from teaching spoon carving workshops in Australia and this year will be presenting at Spoonfest in England. Check him out at www.spoonsmith.com.au.
Anyway, the basic skill is to split a log into about four or more sections. This is shaped roughly with a very sharp axe or tomahawk. Finer cutting is done either with a draw knife on a shaving horse or pony or a sharp hand knife. I love the shaving horse so I tend to hog that for making my spoons. The horse is the device to the right where the guy is seated. His feet are pushing a slide that grips the wood near his hands so he can shape it by drawing the two handed draw knife towards him. For protection from these sharp tools he is wearing a leather apron.
The final part of making the spoon is to use a hook knife (one with a specially made curved blade) the helps to gouge the concave bowl of the spoon from the wood. This gives you blisters but makes the spoon come to life.
Another traditional tool used by Jeff is the pole lathe. Following my first time at "Made in the Woods" I returned to Opportunity Farm so fired up with enthusiasm I constructed my own shaving horse and a pole lathe. I haven't made much time to use it since so on this workshop I was determined to have a go.

The lathe is powered by your foot that pushes down on a pedal and turns the wood which is pulled back up traditionally by a springy pole (hence the name) or in a more modern way, an elastic cord. The trick is to scrape the turning branch with a sharp tool on the downward push and then ease on while it is turned back by being pulled upwards.  Here I made a ring by cutting in from both sides until the ring came clear but was trapped by wider wood on each side.

This is the wood after being removed from the lathe. The bolus has been sawn off above the shaft ready for gouging out with the hook knive. The ring is purely decorative but it was a good exercise in using the lathe. Since my return to Opportunity Farm I have set up my lathe and have a turn whenever I make the time.

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