Spoons can be made from pieces of wood with the grain of the wood running straight, for example in a trunk or straight branch. You can also make spoons from crooked branches. The direction of the grain, i.e. the curvature of the branch, determines the shape of the final spoon.
Crooked or straight wood? The search for that elusive perfect curve
With his beautiful book, Swedish Carving Techniques, the Swede Wille Sundqvist has inspired many spoon carvers to make spoons from crooked wood. But anyone who has been inspired by that book runs the risk of ending up in a quest for the holy grail. That one perfect curve in the wood that produces the “best”, “strongest” spoon.
Why would we put ourselves through this? Put all that time and energy into finding that one perfect piece of wood, with just the right angle, to start carving that spoon with the sweat in your hands. That unique fantastic spoon that brings tears to your eyes when you eat with it. That spoon is almost doomed to fail before you have even started.
Why search for perfection?
Why again and again resist the temptation to chop down a healthy tree for that perfect piece of wood. While there is so much sustainable straight wood of sufficient diameter available? With which you can start on your next spoon directly, instead of waiting for the next nice curved piece of wood.
With a nice supply of straight wood you can improve your techniques by carving the same model over and over until you understand the principles. You can easily vary in models without feeling like you are wasting precious wood. You can let your creativity run free and experiment. And if your spoon fails unexpectedly, you can go straight to the next one.
The “straight wood” spoon
A spoon made out of straight wood is often referred to as a production spoon, but I think that’s an ugly word. A nicer word would be the straight wood spoon. If you read Swedish Carving Techiniques carefully, you will understand that the “production spoon” does not have to be any worse than that “unique” spoon made of crooked wood. This is because it concerns two different techniques, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Each with its own design requirements and quirks during carving.
Those who want to make a lot of spoons, will not easily opt for crooked wood. It is rarer and more laborious when carving. If the curvature is just not at the perfect angle, you will not get an ergonomic spoon with which you can eat well according to today’s standards (read modern eating habits). If you adjust that curvature while carving, you will almost immediately lose that one property that makes this spoon stronger. You then carve through the fibers of the neck, which will weakens the stem nevertheless.
Never again a crooked wood spoon?
No of course not! Just don’t carve crooked wood exclusively. Did you find that perfect branch in the wood, that branch with just the perfect crank? Go for it! Make that unique spoon (and send me a photo!). Be amazed at the differences in technique and grain direction. To then enjoy the wood that is easy to find.
Carve when and what you can, and allow yourself those different experiences! The more spoons that pass through your hands, the faster you will learn to read the wood, understand the anatomy of the spoon and train your motor memory. In short, the faster you will enjoy progress.
This blog was about the wood, the material. My next blog is about another subject of which there is a lot to tell: the tools!