Pacific Yew spoon

I once saw a piece of driftwood shaped perfectly like a little hammer, or a gavel, or tomahawk.  The wood had eroded away at the intersection of branch and trunk, and the natural intersection gave me an idea for a project: get a piece like that and carve it into something!

This piece was left over from a bow making project.  It is the trunk and branch of a Pacific Yew.  Pictured below is the approximate location of the branch.  All I did was split the “log” part in half and started hacking away at the branch piece.

This shows approximately where the branch met the trunk of the tree.

This shows approximately where the branch met the trunk of the tree.

When I first started, I had to learn how to use the spoon knife.  Having a finished wooden spoon to practice on was very helpful.  Studying the geometry and the cut was crucial, and with careful application of the tool, the shape of the cut took care of itself.  As a hint, the orientation of the tool while working is as pictured below, the handle along the same axis as the length of the spoon cut.  I also found it helpful to hold the spoon knife like commando fighters do in Hollywood movies, with the blade sticking out from the pinky side of your fist.  Cutting into a knot was difficult, but as long as material is being removed, progress is being made.

The spoon knife is tricky.  It was helpful to have a finished spoon to practice on.

The spoon knife is tricky. It was helpful to have a finished spoon to practice on.

I realized that the spoon knife can only be sharpened on the inside of the curvature of the blade.  Smoothing out the workpiece and placing sandpaper over it produced an excellent cylindrical surface for sharpening the blade of the spoon knife.  Once sharpened, I was able to do a little finish cutting on the spoon bowl.

A sharpened spoon knife and 60 grit sandpaper revealed the bowl of the spoon.

A sharpened spoon knife and 60 grit sandpaper revealed the bowl of the spoon.

When I began to reduce the handle, I found that twisting the workpiece as I pulled it past the knife blade prevented the knife from gouging in deeply and or peeling off splinters of wood.  In fact, the wood really started flying off the piece and I sank right into the work, peeling away the growth layers, going back a century in time.

Only knives were used to whittle the wood, no rasp needed.

Only knives were used to whittle the wood, no rasp needed.

Yes, a century.  This tree was 140 years old, this branch was its largest.

Twisting the wood as I pulled it across the knife prevented splintering

Twisting the wood as I pulled it across the knife prevented splintering

This wood is complicated and deep.  There’s a tiny pin knot coming right up the side of the bowl and breaking out at the rim, here.  Of course, some wood putty is likely, but there’s a chance I can fix it another way.

A pin knot complicates the rim of the spoon

A pin knot complicates the rim of the spoon

There’s a lot of space in the spoon end for a deeper cut.  I’m not sure if I’ll try to shave off the pin knot complication first, or dig out the bowl first and then decide.  This is one of the ways I am learning to work differently.  Very little is fast and easy.  This tree was harvested a year and a half ago.  After sawing off the piece I wanted, I didn’t touch it again until I started working on this spoon, and the spoon, so far, has taken about 10 hours of work.  It isn’t really finished.  I could probably work on this spoon for another 20 hours before I was really happy I’d either perfected it, or gone too far and ruined it.  That’s the joy, really.  The wood has been dissected in the reverse order of how it grew, but altered with a dished out place where I can serve myself peas and soup.

Plenty of room for a deeper cut, just needs more time.

Plenty of room for a deeper cut, just needs more time.

 

The transition between sapwood and heartwood was maintained.

The transition between sapwood and heartwood was maintained.

This will be one tough little spoon.

This will be one tough little spoon.

The material at the intersection between branch and trunk is complicated, hard, and absolutely gorgeous.  I highly recommend it.

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