Maybe you want to start spoon carving and perhaps you are wondering what tools to buy. In this blog I will offer some advise about the basic tools for spoon carving: the saw, the axe, the straight knife and the spoon knife. I will also give you some recommendations about brands and models that are readily available and offer good value for money, so that you have a good basic set that you can enjoy for a long time.
What tools to get for carving wooden spoons?
If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly. With this in mind, you might conclude that it is better to go for the very best tools right away, even if they are expensive. I believe that as a starting spoon carver you should not do that. Firstly, you want to know if you will continue to like it and secondly you still have to learn how to sharpen your spoon carving tools. Of course you don’t want to run the risk of ruining an expensive knife, for which you might have had to wait a long time.
The tools I mention in this blog will give you years of pleasure, and many an experienced carver still uses them. Real value for your money. Below I will list all the tools for spoon carving in order of use.
The Bahco Laplander is a nice and small folding saw. It’s solid and easy to take with you. Handy if you find suitable wood along the way. The Bahco is a very universal and sturdy saw that is also widely used in the world of bushcraft enthusiasts for sawing firewood, for example. Alternatives in the same price range are the Silky Pocketboy or Gomboy. With a medium toothing you can cut a branch as well as your workpiece to size. The Silkys are pulling saws. This means that they only “bite” during the pulling movement. This askes for a slightly different sawing technique, but once you have mastered it, they saw superfast (watch your fingers!). Costs: around 35 euros for the Bahco or the smallest Silky.
Straight (long) knife
The knife that almost everyone uses is the model 106 from the Swedish knife brand Mora (Morakniv), the knife of choice for many a master carver! It’s a functional classic. Like all knives from Mora, it is made to be used: simple and very solid. The blade is made of stainless steel, so it is easy to maintain and to keep sharp. You really don’t need another (more expensive) knife. Why not the Mora 120, its shorter brother? Because the longer blade of the 106 allows for more efficient carving techniques. It can carve through the wood with long strokes. You will have faster results with less effort.
There are of course also other knives for sale. The shape of the Mora 106 is very popular among knife makers. There are therefore several makers who sell handmade alternatives that have roughly the same shape. Nic Westermann and many others now make very nice knives, but you really don’t need them to begin with (although I understand that you would like to have them). I always use the Mora 106. Costs: around 20 euros.
If you go for a good price-quality ratio, you will soon end up with again a knife from Mora. Make sure to get the model 164 with sheath (the “new” model 164 from 2019). The old model comes without a sheath, and has a double fold. I don’t like these for carving wood. The same is true for the double-sided sharpened model 162. Although two knives in one may seem efficient, this prevents the use of some important knife techniques. Knife techniques stand for safety. In short: I think you cut yourself in your fingers with this knife, perhaps literally.
Spoon knives are available in left and right handed versions. If your budget is limited, always opt for the knife of your preferred hand. If you write with your right hand, you choose a right-handed knife and vice versa. It can (especially in the beginning) be nice to also work with the left-handed knife (if you are right-handed). It makes your life easier, but it is not necessary to carve a spoon. Costs: between 30 and 40 euros.
As a novice spoon carver you can also do without an axe if you get your spoons out of thinner branches or when you buy pre-chopped blanks. But at a certain point you really need an axe for the rougher work. If you have a small axe lying around that you can sharpen, try that first (carefully!). If you have the equipment, you can also consider adjusting the cutting edge of a cheap garden axe or a second-hand axe. In principle, you can axe out a spoon blank with any axe. You get to know your axe and your muscles will adjust to its properties. But please be careful because any axe is dangerous for your fingers!
Still, not all axes are quite the same. Weight, handle shape, shape of the axe head and angle of the cutting edge have a huge impact on safety, ease of use and stress on the body depending on the job at hand. So it certainly pays to invest in a real wood carving axe. It has a straight edge, has a better grip on the wood and therefore works more precisely. But the axe immediately becomes the most expensive tool in this blog, because wood carving axes are, unfortunately, not cheap. Count on at least 100 euros.
By the way, an axe is quickly too heavy. Be careful with heavy axes, they tire you faster than a lighter axe which makes mistakes more likely. I personally think a total weight of about 750 grams (head max 550) is an ideal axe. The Swedish axes of Kalthoff Axes and those of Karlssontools are absolutely top notch. Unfortunately, they cost about 200 Euro each.
Last but not least …
Saw, axe, straight knife and spoon knife are almost all the tools you need. Almost, because essential is a good set of things to keep everything razor sharp. And a good first aid kit is also an necessity, because sooner or later you will cut your fingers. I will tell you what you need and how to use it in the following blogs.