Carve a Wooden Spoon

How to Carve a Wooden Spoon:-

This is a slightly more difficult project than the willow bark whistle (a “two plaster” job perhaps), and I’ve used a spoon knife in this example but the bowl of the spoon can be made with an ember from the fire instead.

You will require the following things:-

Equipment Required to Carve a Spoon
A good quality bushcraft knife
First Aid Kit
Decent folding saw (I use a Bahco Laplander)
Spoon knife (not essential, you can use a glowing ember from the fire)
Pencil or piece of charred stick from the fire
A few grades of sand paper from 150 to 320 or 400 grit
Carved wooden wedge
Baton (Stick)
Something to cut on (wooden block or log etc.)
Brown paper bag (if you’re using green wood)
A suitable piece of wood

Regarding the suitable piece of wood:- This can be freshly cut green wood or it can be seasoned wood (makes it a bit harder to carve), and MUST be NON-TOXIC. I’ve carved spoons from Sycamore, Ash and Birch which all grow in abundance in the UK and all are non-poisonous.

The first job is to choose a suitable piece of wood (I’m using freshly cut Sycamore as it grows in abundance in the UK and is also non-toxic), and carve yourself a small wedge (far left in the picture above).

Now choose the correct part of your piece of wood. You want to get the grain of the wood running as flat across the spoon as possible (for strength), so you want to use the area closest to the edge of the wood as possible.

Placing your piece of wood on a suitable chopping block (or improvised log) use the baton and knife technique to split the wood in the right place.

It’s important to carve the little wedge before you start splitting your log because; if your knife gets stuck in the log half way through you won’t have a knife to carve a wedge to free your knife!

Once you’ve split your piece of wood, carve one face of it flat. Sitting with your elbows on your knees is a very safe position to cut in as you can’t cut through you femoral artery.

Either using a pencil or a piece of charcoal / charred stick from the fire, draw the intended shape of your spoon onto the side you have just flattened out. This is an important step as “freehand whittling” rarely works out well. As I’m using Sycamore for the wood I’ve included an “attempt” at a Sycamore leaf shape at the top of my spoon (I’m not much of an artist). For your first spoon you might want to keep it a bit simpler or just give it a go and glue the bits back on later.

Now you want to remove the excess wood as quickly and efficiently as possible. Go back to the saw and make some cuts around the spoon bowl and the handle design if you’ve included one. Don’t go too close to the line at this point.

Place your spoon blank onto a chopping block or log and your knife at the edge of one of the saw cuts. Gently tap the back of the blade with the baton.

With any luck the excess wood should split away from the spoon shape.

Place your spoon onto your chopping block to one side of your body and using the forehand grip make a series of slicing cuts down to the lines you drew.

Trim off the slices with a series of cross cuts.

Now start thining the back of the handle.

Don’t make it too thin at this stage.

Now using the reinforced forehand grip, start trimming your spoon to the lines you drew.

Shape the back of the spoon bowl using small, controlled “chipping” cuts.

Keep checking the spoon isn’t getting too small.

In theory, if you cut to the lines you drew earlier your spoon should come out as you originally planned it too.

Ok, if you haven’t cut yourself already, this is where it will happen! The spoon knife takes a bit of getting used to and you use a reinforced backhand grip to use it (so you are cutting towards your thumb – one of the rare exceptions). Start by carefully taking very small cuts across the grain of the wood to form the bowl of the spoon. Work slowly and try not to loose concentration.

If you don’t have (or want to use) a spoon knife, an alternative is to hold a glowing ember from the fire on the spoon with a stick and blow on it. Eventually you will manage to burn out the spoon bowl.

Don’t make the bowl too deep or it will be difficult to eat with (if you look at a normal dessert spoon it’s actually quite shallow in profile).

Once you’ve finished carving your spoon it now requires sanding. Use a variety of different grades starting at around 150 grit and ending up on 320 to 400 grit.

If you’ve used freshly cut wood for your spoon, wrap it in some paper and put it in the paper bag for two to three weeks. This helps to stop the wood from drying out too quickly and splitting. Once it’s dryed out, put some oil on the spoon (food safe mineral oil is about the best as olive oil can go rancid quite quickly, and other oils can cause problems for people with allergies).

Good Luck.