With Lots of People, in Particular Aaron Schreiber-Stainthorp, for Donna Rae
This all started with jet-lag. It all ended with a blister on my right hand. Unable to sleep my mother and I streamed the “wood-wright shop” from her temporary abode in Georgia. Evidently she likes hand carved spoons – as her excitement grew a series of events was set in motion eventually ending with particularly well-stirred pasta noodles. I ordered my mom her own set of hook knives, so expect more spoons to come. Given a big chunk of the work can be done in the house, rather than in the shop, this may be a good hold over hobby until the deep thaw lets go of my un-insulated shop space.
Froes and Axes
This was the first spoon – carved from a hornbeam tree and than finished with a tung oil. Hornebeam is a disaster to sand as it set off my sniffles,but its tough grain make it ideal for wading through thick soups and porridge. The curved spoon follows the arc of the tree.
First, me and this lady, found a log abandoned by a trail crew in the woods behind Monticello. I am just saying while Jefferson’s pen was the voice of America; his kitchen grubs might have given nourishment to this mighty mallet. I spent 45 minutes with a carpenters ax and 15 minutes with a broom to get a rough-cut tool to drive my froe.
Next, I spent a weekend exploring the antique shops, breweries and ski trails of Vermont with Anne Eschenroeder, Tom O’Dowd, David Rae and Marcie Neil. Don’t be fooled by Tom’s friendly demeanor – this guy is a tree-identifying guru. After a prolonged search for a hickory tree, we eventually settle on a hornbeam tree. Under his tutelage I can now identify about 10 types of trees based on their bark alone. Hornbeam lumber has a tight grain, but is also a fairly tough wood – which will work as both the stock for spoons as well as handles for the tools used create them. Unlike oak there aren’t open pores which would act as a breeding ground for bacteria – ill leave that job to my kitchen in general.
Next, David Rae, Aaron Schreiber-Stainthorp and I, fastened the hornbeam tree into a handle for a froe. Than we split the tree, and used a carpenters ax to rough cut the dimensions of a couple of spoons for Aaron’s brewing. The froe has a long straight blade which is driven into the wood with a wooden mallet. By levering the tool you can control the split of the wood and get straight boards out of logs (pending your grain is straight) . Okay it was dark – so these photos aren’t great – but Aaron and David are taking short hits of the ax to slice the wood along the grain (and not their fingers). You can see the ax chipping away wood to the pattern.
After getting the rough shape, we let them cure for a week, that also gave me a chance to re-consult the philosophical and technical approach of Peter Follansbee in this woodwright shop episode. We used a straight knife to give the spoon its curve, and than a hooked knife to dig out the inners of the spoon. Aaron’s mighty brewing spoon is taking shape – like a good beer what it lacks in symmetry it makes up for in character.
Finishing and Bandages
As I attended to my various blisters Revati put a coat of tung oil on the spoons. My ever growing collection of unmatched socks lost a member to act as a rag for the oil. Of all the woodworking that I do, spoon carving poses special safety challenges, in order to hold the spoon and use the knife, you can’t place both hands behind the tool.
Lastly I tested the spoon for deliciousness. All passed.