Friday, 28 September 2012

Wille Sundqvist spoon?...Ummm...No....

In a workshop at Spoonfest Steve Tomlin said that one of the best ways to improve your spoon carving is to copy someone elses. I began to implement his advice this week by copying a rather nice Robin Wood serving spoon. I used ash and was quite pleased with the results.

Then, when Ju called me up to inform me he'd managed to buy a copy of Wille Sunqvist's famous 'Swedish Carving Techniques' I remembered that I'd taken a picture of a page of Robin Wood's copy while at Spoonfest so thought I'd have a go at copying one of his spoons - not the same as actually having a spoon in my hand, but I'd give it a go.
The famous Sundqvist spoon
The Bible of spoon carving

Here's a step by step pictorial of how I got on:
A cardborad template, drawn onto a piece of ash.

Roughing out with the axe

A concealed not meant a lot of tear-out - I probably should have discarded the wood and started again
but woods at a premium.

Close carving with the axe

Cleaned up with the knife - bowl marked on

Bowl hollowed out
Sanded and oiled

Design drawn on in pencil
Carved and rubbed with cinamon - I'd like the spoon a little darker in colour and the design a little lighter - perhaps age will sort that out for me?

Not quite as good as Wille's (ok, nowhere near as good) but a fair first attempt, I thought.

To sand or not to sand....

When earlier this year a tornado tore unexpectedly across Leicestershire it pulled up or otherwise demolished a number of trees in a number of villages. One such village was Newtown Linford where some rather old trees in and around Bradgate Park (where the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey had lived before reigning for only 9 days and then loosing her head) were up-rooted and a friend from work, thinking to stockpile timber for his woodburning stove, took out his chainsaw and set about cutting them up. To cut a long story short, he brought me in a few sections of ash, which was very welcome as I had recently been bemoaning the fact that I had nothing to carve.

When I split a couple of these ash rounds I noticed that one had an unusual grain formation whereby, instead of the grain running striaght, it was in tiny waves. I decided to make a couple of spoons in the hope that I could show off this incredible wavy grain pattern.

I know this is not a very clear picture - I'd hoped to be able to show the wavy grain pattern - but you can see the rippling undulations on the right of the wood from where it split.

Any way, I drew a simple desert spoon shape on the wood, unsure whether I'd even be able to carve it as it broke along the grain really easily. I was actually quite pleased with the spoon, but there was no real sign of the grain pattern, so I decided to sand and polish it to see if that brought it out.

Ordinarily, I don't sand. On a knife handle, yes, but on a spoon I like to leave the tool marks as a sign that it's hand made. And now I think I may have been seduced to the dark side, because I actually really liked the finished result, grain pattern aside.
After first sanding - the spoon picked up
a little pink colouring from a paper napkin
I used to apply the oil.

With the addition of a little chip caving

I made a second spoon, in much the same style, but after looking at some spoons on Peter Follansbee's site, wanted to try a technique where a 45 degree bevel is cut on the outside of the spoon bowl that then follows around and up the handle - simple but very attractive, I thought. Again, I was quite pleased with the result. And, of course, I sanded this one too.
Not terribly clear, but you can just make out that bevel
round the edge of the bowl and extending up to my thumb

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Junior spoon carvers...

My 8 year old Jude loves to whittle and he has often sat by the fire pit with me, using one of my knives, and whittled a stick down to a tooth pick, for no other purpose than the joy of whittling.

When a friend called to ask if their 9 year old Joe could come and play, as he had previously shown an interest in my knives and tools, I thought it would be a great opportunity to begin laying the ground work for a new generation of spoon carvers.

Having hewn a couple of pieces of green ash (see previous post - I know birch would have been easier, but I don't have any) into nice slim sections, we drew around a Steve Tomlin spoon and I showed them how to rough out using an axe. Once I'd got the rough spoon in profile, they then took over with knives.

I know some might say that I should know better than give such young children knives, but I would much sooner they learnt from me the correct use and purpose of a knife than leave it up to Grand Theft Auto to educate them! Of course, we spent some time talking about basic grips and safety.

We didn't quite get Jude's spoon finished, we wanted Joe's done before he had to leave, but we all had a great time, chatting and whittling in the sun.

Jude and Joe - hard at work. No batteries or joysticks required.

Jude - taking no risks with that sharp knife by his legs,
employing the classic Swedish 'spatch-cocked chicken' stance
A brace of happy whittlers

Joe's power slices

Customized side axe...

Like everyone else with an interest in hand tools and green woodworking, I tend to 'need' things that I actually have very little use for (for example, the double bit axe that I bought from American Ebay and then made my brother who lives in Kansas bring in his luggage when he came to visit and which I have only used once). For a long time I have read posts about hewing green wood into planks and have coveted the rather wonderful side axes that are employed for this purpose. I have watched side axes and broad axes on ebay for a while but just can't justify the price they end up selling for, especially as I struggle to get wood enough to whittle into a little spoon let alone hew into log cabin sized timbers!

Any way, as I usually do, I got to thinking "the principle behind a side axe is not rocket science - perhaps I could make my own by modifying a regular axe" but never actually got round to it until I read a post by Peter Follansbee about just such a modification that Jennie Alexander had made to an axe.

I had a cheap mass produced axe that I'd had knocking around for years so I spent a couple of hours in the shed with my belt sander and ended up with this - sorry the photos are not too clear but I think you'll get the idea.

cheap Wilkinson's axe - rounded side
flattened side

view from edge - see the offset bevel

a couple of hewed ash battons - hardly cabin building material but nice and flat
 On the whole I am very impressed with how well it works. Obviously, with it being only small, it's only good for small pieces of wood. It's incredibly sharp and a bit like swinging a plane iron, but for all those out there who, like me, suffer side axe envy, it's a viable alternative!