Craft Wood?..Craft Metal!

It strikes me that as with industry most craft hobbies have taken the same route - more machines = less skill. Now i am not naive enough to think that this is always the case but i am certain all woodworkers of any kind would gain much from learning how to sharpen a knife and carve a spoon. The beauty of spoon carving is the simplicity of the tools and the availability of the wood, it truly is a folk craft.

Spoon carving is a real challenge, although i do teach spoon carving on day courses there is much scope with spoons. It takes a day to learn the very basics, but a lifetime to perfect, a hobby for the woods or for the living room, projects that can be completed in 20 minutes, aesthetics and function that takes a lifetime to perfect.

Without the use of machines, work benches and jigs there is no room for excuses, just the wood you and a sharp edge, this is where true understanding of the properties of wood comes from. It is no surprise that the once beautiful and functional lovespoons became increasingly made on machines, and the skill used to make the simple and elegant functional spoons was replaced by complexity.

I started this post in response to seeing Robin Wood's Post on Knife sharpening, i think this kind of course is massively useful to the spooner enthusiast especially after a bit of experience using and sharpening knives, all the crafts people i respect use razor sharp tools. Mike Abbott might suggest you don't need a sharp axe for cleaving and i'd agree, and he might even suggest using a blunt drawknife for "sheaving", this too makes sense, but whenever he did a babies rattle demo when i was working for him, he would go to the six or so pole lathes and see where the sharpest skew chisel was, incidentally he would sharpen his turning tools on a tormek and then use japanese waterstones to hone them, he still does not strop his tools (though i have tried to persuade him) but does use a very light touch and fast action with the fine waterstone. Fritiof also used a tormek on his knives and then japanese slip stones, i would hollow grind my knives too if i had a nice wetstone, but i no longer have a tormek ideally i'd have a grinding workshop with a great big electric waterstone like Robin.

So like the post title says if you want to craft wood, you need to know how to craft metal. Then you can craft a razor sharp edge, not only does this make the carving easier but it also leaves a beautiful finish.

When i used machines i would order exotic timbers from catalogue, cut them on a fretsaw (noisy/dusty), abrade them using grits from 80-400 with belt sanders and dremel like machines (noisy/dusty), then by hand 1500, 2400, 3200, 4000, 6000, 8000,  i would use the finest grade i could find 12000 micromesh this did leave a beautiful mirror image finish, with practice you could get the desired shape without losing the crispness of edges like beginners do, but any sign of human touch, of deftness was gone.

But now i source my own materials locally, i use hand tools that are beautiful in their own right, there are no whirring engines of machines or dust extractors, and i can get a hand carved finish in an instant with my knife and if that knife has been honed to 16000 then the finish is even smoother.
Barn the Spoon