This will keep you up to date with what i am doing, thinking, and working on. For example "right now i am listening to Fleet foxes - Helplessness Blues...an album that almost feels as if it were written for me" or "Spoon greatness is always just a little dance away, maybe this time the spoon gods will bless me" if you wish to hear such drivel on a regular basis click on the link below and follow.
My twitter account is here and is what many of you are looking for. https://twitter.com/barnthespoon
For those of you interested in my real work (Spoons) the best way to be involved is to visit my shop. It is hard to filter my customers, it isn't difficult to sell spoons, what i want is the best for my spoons that they will go to households where they'll be well used and loved. An increasing number of people come to the shop to meet me because they think I've got a cool story and aren't really interested in spoons, this immediately puts them in conflict with me as this is quite the opposite to how I feel...filter yourselves out now.
We are witnessing a remarkable "Wood Culture Renaissance" as an established worker within this field I forget quite how new this is to the wider public. It is my plan that at the vanguard of the Wood Culture Renaissance should be Axes and Knives brandishing hand carved wooden spoons with all their woodlore splendour. It is a fact that if you can do great work with an axe and knife you will have no problem working with the more modern tools such as planes, scrapers etc, cutting a dovetail is just primary school maths and moving a saw in a straight line! It is no coincidence that courters of yesteryear would carve spoons to impress their courted (i am still waiting for a woman to try her spoon on me!), i am now laying down the gauntlet if you can't make a good functioning spoon with an axe and knife in less than an hour you're not a woodworker!
I am a fan of positive competition, and have not kept secret one of my main aims in setting up Spoonfest with my good friend Robin Wood (we're at the start of the video below splitting the woood) was to greatly increase the knowledge base in my craft, I encourage competition because it drives me higher and without sounding too weird and pretentious i think the spoons deserve it, I got bored of having to look in museums to see woodwork that impressed me, now i really do believe the greatest woodworking cultures are ahead of us!
It really was an amazing summer and i am hugely grateful to those that made Spoonfest such a great success. It is a beautiful thing to have so many spoon lovers all in a field together. Thanks also to Jogge and Beth for inviting me over to Sweden for Taljfest it was awesome.
Favourite memories of summer:
In a late night spoon conversation confiding in fellow spoon nut that sometimes i stand my spoons up and pretend they're like little people pushing their proud chests forward, he replied that frequently he bathes with his spoons and has them dipping in and out of the water like dolphins.
On talking to one of my closest spoony friends i told him of my embarrassment at how crap the photos i took for my talk at Taljfest were, i was really worried having been asked to talk at such a prestigious craft centre in Sweden, he said that it would be fine and anyhow he was sick of going to great talks with their beautiful photos (i understand what he means).
The original idea behind this post was to get rid of the waste material, the city farm 50 yards from my shop always used to take them but now have enough!
They make for great BBQ starting, mulch, pet bedding etc etc, if you'd like some please come along to the shop and see what we have, I hate to see it go to waste, and when I lived in the woods every last bit was put to good use.
You'd need to be someone who is planning on carving spoons professionally, someone who will work very hard at being a good carver, you need to have a love of trees and wood, you need to want to make useful spoons, you need to have a good awareness of what you think is beautiful. You should be able to hammer a nail without hitting your thumb every time, and good at drawing or neat handwriting will also help you.
I am looking for someone to come to me for a maximum of 3 days a week to work in exchange for learning, I will not be paying your national insurance etc but there will be perks. This role can be flexible for you as long as you can be flexible too.
My 6 day residential course "Spoons from the Wood" is now fully booked, but please get in contact if you would like first refusal on the next course and I will email you as soon as I have the dates fixed (cost of this course is £420). (email@example.com).
The photo is dawn from the "veranda", on the edge of the wood where I will be running this course, and is a beautiful view of the Malverns. I can't wait to be back there again.
I have just bought myself a laptop and a bicycle pretty much doubling my number of possessions. I now have no excuses for not replying to your emails!
I saw this poster at a tube station a few months back and it made me chuckle.
Obviously David has cottoned on to how cool spoons are, I tend not to be openly critical because it is more useful to speak positively for what you stand for...but David come on! this is my open invitation for a free carving lesson.
In my opinion you will never be able to create something out of wood that is more beautiful than the tree it came from. I think this is obvious, and therefore even when they are trying to make something beautiful an artist is not trying to "outdo" what was there before, but rather to highlight and impart a feeling or message unfortunately this can very quickly turn into messy beds and cut up cows.
You could argue an Artist has it easy as all he has to do is make something beautiful whereas a craftsman has to make something functional and beautiful. On the other hand if you don't like the way my spoons look at least they still function and are a real bargain at £15 not £15,00000.
I do appreciate some large sculptures but they are the opposite end of what I am passionate about. I am not slating Nash, he did some work with an axe before I was born- it wasn't done that well, but he did bring a public awareness to my favourite tool. And my first woodwork classes at the age of 6 were in a workshop with posters of his and other Similar sculptures of big wood. A lot of my woodwork in my early teens was emulating that kind of work, and is how I got into creating small sculptures that you can hold in your hand shaped with bandsaws, fretsaws, chisels belt sanders, if only someone had been able to show me then how to use an axe and knife, but back then even the experts didn't know what they were talking about.
If my work has a message it is that people exist as individuals and not just part of a group, that axes and knives are part of being human though somehow we have almost completely lost their use from everyday life.
I should ally myself to these artists though it pains me to. To me wood sculpture shouldn't be something expensive we just visit in a park, but something that we all engage in, well perhaps not everybody. But there would be outrage if knitting had died out, and although we don't all knit we all at least know of someone who does, I suspect carving with axes and knives will become like this. The least you could do is sharpen your pencils with a knife.
We are missing something, there is a big hole left by the mass produced paraphenalia we try to fill our lives with. People crave making things particularly hard objects that exist in 3D the things that you need in your home like spoons, bowls and chairs.
I fear 3D printers will prove to be a Red Herring, if you desire to bring manufacturing into the home why not try something you were designed for, holding something in your hands and twisting it around will always give you a greater understanding of 3D than manipulating a drawing on a computer screen, this is because when you hold something you are "seeing" with your hands also. Wood is a beautiful robust material by far superior to plastic, why waste hundreds of pounds on a 3D printer when you can buy a knife for £15 and get wood for free?
I don't want to be a hippocrite (it is enevitable) some of my spoons are much more expensive than others, regardless of that side of my work I will always produce good quality kitchen spoons at a price that people will want to use them. And what could be more lovely than a beautiful little sculpture dancing round your kitchen.
This is my axe. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My axe is my best friend, it is my life, and I must master it as I must master my life.
My axe, without me, is useless. Without my axe I am useless. I must swing my axe true. My axe must swing more sweetly than my cousins' so that they too are lifted higher.
My axe and I know that what counts is the risk of each throw, the sound of every chop, and the shavings made. Most of all we know that form is created and as such is a way of life. We create and so are created.
My axe is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus I will love it as a cousin, I will learn its strengths and weaknesses. I will know its warm haft and cold steel, and the shape of its bevels. I will keep my axe sharp and ready, as I am sharp and ready. We will become part of each other.
I swear this creed before the Heavens and the Earth, which gave rise to the trees and ore. As I stand with my axe I am not alone in the forest, I stand with my cousins, we are the saviours of my life. So be it, until we realise there is no enemy, and restore the greatest wood culture to Glory.
To get to where I am today has been a long and eventful adventure for which I feel incredibly fortunate. And today I have had a beautiful day in my shop carving spoons (the link is to a fantastic blog called Spitafields life).
The Shop has come about because I needed to rent some workshop space as there is no room in my new flat, as most of you will know last winter in Bristol I was living in a House that had space for a workshop and a garden - London is different.
The major shift has actually come about because Mike Abbott has given me a Tormek, it is a funny what an impact that has had on my life but it really has. To be completely honest the hollow grind I now have on all my tools has turned them into completely different tools, greatly increasing the speed at which I can sharpen and the level of sharpness too. Needless to say this has had a massive impact on my work, not least as I now need a workshop with electricity to run the water cooled grindstone. I have also changed the way I view my craft, I shan't ever stop learning but my "self taught" apprenticeship is complete, and my focus has changed from learning and finding my spoon carving groove to providing a high street service to my customers, though first and foremost I will always see myself in service of the "Wooden Spoon".
I really didn't think I would like having a shop but I adore it, and I am not missing the street selling as much as I thought I would, though I miss waking up in the woods terribly that is the only compromise I am struggling with. I have to say though I really enjoyed street selling last winter it never felt as right doing it from a house in a city as it did from the woods, and I will always spend time doing that.
Right now I am doing my best to fill the shop with as many spoons as possible, this is proving hard with Christmas round the corner, but I am making progress. The aim is to be able to provide all spoon needs, if the shop doesn't have the type of spoon you want I will make it. I am starting a waiting list for Bespoke bent branch eating spoons which come with a lifetime guarantee, if you would like to be considered for one of these please get in contact via email and I will let you know when you can come to the shop for the first "fitting" these will be very special spoons and only for the truly dedicated spoon enthusiast. If you are wondering whether or not there is a spoon for you in my shop wonder no more! There is a spoon for everyone and you need to find time to come down and get one. My Shop is Located at 260 Hackney Rd and is the only one with me carving in it. Most of my spoons sell for £10 and the shop is open from 10:00 -17:00 Fri-Tue (i.e. the shop is closed on Wednesday and Thursday).
I Still have 3 places left for my Course "Spoons From the Wood" May 21st-26th 2013 if anyone would like to buy these as a Christmas gift (£420) I will post out a presentation "Ticket" and one of my spoons so you have something to physically gift.
Wow, well it certainly happened, and it wouldn't have happened if you didn't all come along so a big thank you for that. It seems like a long time ago now, a lot of people worked very hard, most of us for the love of spoons and quite rightly so. There were a few however who just got caught up in all this because of Robin and I who deserve a special thank you.
I Loved SPOONFEST!
I would have paid £40 just to go to listen to Jogge, he headlined our festival and was fantastic. I can be forgiven for being apprehensive that Jogge might have a bit of an ego, turns out he has an alter ego called
! I've heard that Beyounce has an altergo for "onstage", apparently this allows her to perform with
without being a complete premadonna off stage. I wish someone had told me about all this before it was too late.
Within a few minutes of meeting Jogge we had got his spoons out! and he was so excited to show us the new wooden cases he'd carved for his engraving knives, great attitude - along the lines of "look what i've made!" love that, what an amazing sharing person. This behaviour was at the heart of Spoonfest it was amazing to see so many people, new and old, sharing their passion for carving spoons.
Over the next few weeks i'm going to do some posts on the spoons I got from the "Lineup" which i thought would be a nice way to talk a little about spoon design.
We are also making arrangements for SPOONFEST 2013...watch this space!
We have been going through the final designs for my Spoonknife, and I am really happy with how it has turned out, when you try something new you can never be sure how it will turn out, but this has surprised me how much better it is, I think I'll put a video up at some stage explaining all it's features and why it really is so much better than what I was using before. I hope to get some smaller ones made too that will be good for beginners, and certainly will by the time "Spoons from the Wood" comes round.
I have really enjoyed working with Ben on this, it is very helpful that he is a proficient spoon carver because when I explain to him what I want he can understand why, although even he was dubious about some of the ideas I had. Ben is a much better tool maker than I am, give me an Axe and a Knife and i'm happy, I do not use a hammer and grinder day in day out but Ben does.
Essentially the Blade has been forged from some 3/8" round bar EN43, it was quite quick with the power hammer, but I can understand why some other makers use thinner section bar or even just flat section. The thicker round stem is more comfortable on the levering hand and much better than flat section steel. The extra thickness in the blade is also useful for big cuts, any flex is energy lost! One of the massive benefits of using round section bar is that you can drill a hole straight into the handle without messing around trying to create a slot at the correct angle, these blades are already slightly set back so you don't need to drill wonkey! The bend in these first blades have a continuous 60 mm radius, this is a fantastic all rounder, and the size I carry in my pack. This knife is ideal for those looking to add a different design element to their spoons, those looking to get a cleaner smoother finish to the bowl of their spoons, and those looking to speed up the hollowing process.
Here's an endorsement from a fellow spoon carver who bought a spoon from me recently:
"your bowls are so good it makes me sick"
Which is hilarious (they don't actually make you sick I promise). The fact is that although there is a touch of skill involved and certainly a technique to using this knife it is the knife giving the good finish not me.
"After seeing how easily you create a really smooth interior with that big open hook I find myself desiring one quite fiercely. That is one of my biggest battles; achieving a smooth finish on the inside of the bowl without sanding".
Here's one from someone who had tried the type I made for my courses last year and was so impressed he went off and made his own:
"I have to say the symmetrical curve and long handle are brilliant. Almost feels a little like cheating".
The beauty of my new Blades is that they are extra agressive in terms of removal of wood but are even better at giving a good finish. The agressiveness comes from the new design, a combination of the cross section of blade and the special way they are bent. As a result I am hollowing my spoons at an even faster rate. They have really invigorated my carving adding more excited to the already hysterical way I feel about spoons.
I’ve just ran the last Workshop I had booked up in London. I don’t tend to post comments that punters have emailed me because it’s difficult not to sound smug or like I’m trying the “hard sell” but here are a couple of comments I got from last weekend.
“Just a quick message to thank you for the course on Saturday! It was an absolutely brill day and one that I took loads from – already started on another spoon using my Ben Orford knives which work great. Would love to be able to make SpoonFest but am abroad all of August – I’ll have to take my tools with me! Anyway – great course, great instruction, great company – I will be coming to work with you again.”
“I just wanted to say thank you for a great Saturday. I really enjoyed the course and I think I’m addicted – started on spoon no.2 today!”
I always choose venues very carefully and I am very grateful to those that organise them. The Friends of Tower Hamlet Cemetery Park have always been incredibly supportive of my work and it now looks almost certain I will be residing in the East End of London for this winter, the 30 acre woodland that I have been running my courses from will house my workshop for the winter what an amazing opportunity for a full time Spooner, a beautiful wood where I can source my materials and axe out blanks within walking distance of the eager London Public going crazy for Spoons!
I have just one Course of my own planned for next year “Spoons from the Wood“, I am very excited about this, as you will know I pride myself on taking my craft into Cities, but after a Winter in London I will want to be away from them. It’s going to be a 6 day course at Mike Abbotts Living Wood this will be an amazing week. I asked Mike if I could use his place because it is one of my favourite places to be, and Mike is one of my favourite people, he has got to be the most experienced person at running woodland residential courses and it shows, his venue will be absolutely superb, with a beautiful open fire to relax around in the evenings, a giant Oak table in the woods to sit around for communal meals and try out some spoons! Just thinking about it is putting a massive smile on my face.
For a while I have been thinking about the very best way to teach my style of spoon carving. During this week I will cover all of the different knife grips that I use, I will teach advanced axing techniques, andeveryone will carve a Bowl using an adze, this is fantastic because it is a great way to introduce adzing before needing the accuracy that you would need for a spoon, a bowl also gives a great understanding of the grain direction when hollowing, being the same as the bowl of a spoon but much bigger. I will be able to spend more time on wood selection and making Bent branch spoons. I will go into the complexities of advanced spoon design and there will be plenty of Spoon inspiration hanging around that you will be able to use during the week. Even a complete novice will be able to walk away with a bowl and several spoons, but those with more experience may wish to learn some of my production techniques, there is much scope for extension of your knowledge you will be able to take on as many projects as you like, including making ladles/kuksas/skrink pots, chip and letter carving, putting a hook on a spoon, using a twca cam, etc etc (if there is something in particular that you would like to do please let me know).
The teaching will be a mixture of demonstrations and coaching your individual projects. Each Day I will do afew specific short and snappy demonstrations for the whole group including sharpening all the tools we will use, whilst the rest of the time I will move between your workstations helping you individually, all within sight and earshot so you can learn from each others questions, discoveries and mistakes! a week is a perfect amount of time for a course in the woods, and I can’t wait!
ps there will be singing in the woods.
Tool making is a highly skilled craft, it takes much practice and experimentation, it takes time to perfect designs and manufacturing techniques. Each type of tool still has many species within it, spoon knives are very much like spoons themselves, the different materials they are made from and how they are shaped means that they can be very different things though to a novice they may all seem the same.
When I started making a lot of spoons I realised short handled knives weren't helping. I could see all the photos of people from the "olden days" they were using long handled knives, they knew what they were doing. For a long while I was using the large svante djarv spoonknife on a long handle, it was Peter Montanez of http://www.woodandrush.net whose linisher I used to make the bevel longer, Pete and Linda were of great help to me in the early days of my spoon carving, I understand back in the day Dave Budd set up his first forge in Pete's workshop.
There are many types of spoonknife and many ways of holding a spoonknife, all of which have pros and cons. Tom Hawken (who was Tim Gatfields apprentice a few years ago at the Cherry Wood Project a lovely place) told me of a technique using a bit of rope around your shoulder and the neck of the spoonknife so as to act as a pivot I like this idea, though I still haven't tried it, Tom is like a talking encyclopedia on traditional woodwork and squirrel catching.
As I have mentioned before I have settled on the Twca Cam with it's symmetrical blade made up of a continuous radius. This is by no means the only way to make a spoon, but is what I use for the vast majority of my spoons from small shallow eating spoons to large serving ladles. The continuous radius of the blade allows you to create wide shavings this gives you the most efficient removal of wood, and also leaves a nice smooth finish, removing the need for sand paper/scrapers/hundreds of tiny finishing cuts. It also gives you a constant that you can work to, and using this I have gained a much deeper undersatnding of the 3 dimensional space created when two the surfaces meet, this has enhanced my carving regardless of the tool I use.
Even back then I knew I wanted a symmetrical blade but it wasn't until I went up to Robin Woods that a lot of my growing knowledge started making sense. Robin has a very wide knowledge base, he has the largest collection of different spoonknives of anyone I know and also had an exact copy of Ion Constantins spoonknife. So much of my spoon knowledge has been built upon what he taught me, endless discussions about spoons well beyond everyone else getting bored, not least his spoon collection. It was with Robin that I first forged a working Twca cam, I am so glad he agreed to co-host Spoonfest with me - who else has done more to spread the good spoon word in this country? his courses come highly recommended from me.
So apart from a dull autobiography what was all that about? well I'm bringing out my range of Spoon knives, and I think it is important for people to give credit where it is due, I would hate for people to think it was me that invented the Spoon!
People are often wanting to get hold of a twca cam like mine, but there is nobody making anything that I would recommend. I had told everyone I would do workshops and sell twca cams at Spoonfest, but hadn't actually made a plan to mass produce them! Most bent/crooked/spoon knives are made from flat section steel ground then bent and stuck in a handle, these definitely work, but are difficult to sharpen (most people I meet have blunt spoon knives) and the higher end knives definitely work better. The knives I will be offering will be unique and I am really proud of my design which has come about from much knowledge seeking, experimentation and a lot of spoons.
The blades for these knives will be made by Ben Orford, he is a very experienced toolmaker, Ben and Lois are good friends and were founding members of Spoon Club, much of my carving and tool making knowledge has come from Ben. I have been using Ben's knives on courses for the last few years and we have been working together experimenting with different manufacturing techniques to come up with the "perfect" twca cam at a good price (I hope to sell these for ~ £50).
Ben has been keen to put the time in to get the design down exactly how I want it, which has been the frustration for me with other toolmakers. I had spoken to a smith who called me once asking for advice, I suggested things to try such as forging a hollow on the inside of a spoonknife, this would make the inside easier to sharpen (most people don't get it flat enough any rounding on the inside is bad), it would create the convex bevel/blade that the outside needs (the reason why his blades were chattering before) and also create a strong shape, but he wasn't keen for me to be involved in following through with my idea and his blade will be much the worse for that. These blades from Ben that I am selling will be the same as the ones I want to use.
"Just a quick message to thank you for the course on Saturday! It was an absolutely brill day and one that I took loads from - already started on another spoon using my Ben Orford knives which work great. Would love to be able to make SpoonFest but am abroad all of August - I'll have to take my tools with me! Anyway - great course, great instruction, great company - I will be coming to work with you again."
"I just wanted to say thank you for a great Saturday. I really enjoyed the course and I think I'm addicted - started on spoon no.2 today!"I always choose venues very carefully and I am very grateful to those that organise them. The Friends of Tower Hamlet Cemetery Park have always been incredibly supportive of my work and it now looks almost certain I will be residing in the East End of London for this winter, the 30 acre woodland that I have been running my courses from will house my workshop for the winter what an amazing opportunity for a full time Spooner, a beautiful wood where I can source my materials and axe out blanks within walking distance of the eager London Public going crazy for Spoons!
I have just one Course of my own planned for next year "Spoons from the Wood", I am very excited about this, as you will know I pride myself on taking my craft into Cities, but after a Winter in London I will want to be away from them. It's going to be a 6 day course at Mike Abbotts Living Wood this will be an amazing week. I asked Mike if I could use his place because it is one of my favourite places to be, and Mike is one of my favourite people, he has got to be the most experienced person at running woodland residential courses and it shows, his venue will be absolutely superb, with a beautiful open fire to relax around in the evenings, a giant Oak table in the woods to sit around for communal meals and try out some spoons! Just thinking about it is putting a massive smile on my face.
For a while I have been thinking about the very best way to teach my style of spoon carving. During this week I will cover all of the different knife grips that I use, I will teach advanced axing techniques, and everyone will carve a Bowl using an adze, this is fantastic because it is a great way to introduce adzing before needing the accuracy that you would need for a spoon, a bowl also gives a great understanding of the grain direction when hollowing, being the same as the bowl of a spoon but much bigger. I will be able to spend more time on wood selection and making Bent branch spoons. I will go into the complexities of advanced spoon design and there will be plenty of Spoon inspiration hanging around that you will be able to use during the week. Even a complete novice will be able to walk away with a bowl and several spoons, but those with more experience may wish to learn some of my production techniques, there is much scope for extension of your knowledge you will be able to take on as many projects as you like, including making ladles/kuksas/skrink pots, chip and letter carving, putting a hook on a spoon, using a twca cam, etc etc (if there is something in particular that you would like to do please let me know).
The teaching will be a mixture of demonstrations and coaching your individual projects. Each Day I will do a few specific short and snappy demonstrations for the whole group including sharpening all the tools we will use, whilst the rest of the time I will move between your workstations helping you individually, all within sight and earshot so you can learn from each others questions, discoveries and mistakes! a week is a perfect amount of time for a course in the woods, and I can't wait!
ps there will be singing in the woods.