the spoon problem:a revolution is required

 

awful spoon
side view of awful spoon

Well, if you ask me, one of the things wrong with the world today is spoons. Look at this wretched specimen that my wife got in a Xmas swap. I was loathe to bring it home, except I knew I could blather about how bad it is, and how it demeans all life around it.  I showed it to my friend Bryan MacIntyre, and said I couldn’t imagine how it could be worse. “It could be pine” he said. True. But, this spoon is just horrible; even at a dollar it’s not worth it, because then it’s making your life uglier every day you have to look at it.

an attempt at function

Notice the nice bevel they sanded into the underside of the bowl, makes me want to scream. I’m going to give it to the kids to fling sticks into the river with…maybe it will float away one day. At least it’s biodegradable.

I just finished reading Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell. So I was primed to find connections between this spoon and the decline of civilization. I think the book is preaching to the choir, but I enjoyed it a lot. There’s a whole chapter about IKEA.

Dan Dustin spoon
Dan Dustin spoon, side view

Here’s a nice spoon worth having; by Dan Dustin of New Hampshire. Dustin has made spoons for about 30 years or so. He’s a real master of the craft. I bought it for $40 about 6 years ago, and another one the year before that…my brother-in-law thought I had lost my mind, paying that for a wooden spoon. But he had never seen hand-made spoons before, I guess. This spoon is small, but for stirring, serving, etc. I think the wood is mountain laurel.

I learned spoon carving from Jogge Sundqvist at Drew Langsner’s Country Workshops, back in 1988. I also got to take a week-long class with Jogge’s father Wille in the early 1990s; Wille taught CW’s first course in 1978.  Now Jogge is returning this year once again. http://countryworkshops.org/sloyd.html

 I signed up as quickly as I could, and apparently so did others, it’s been full for a while. This year I want to try to learn more about making large cooking spoons. I have done eating spoons a lot now & then, and I feel pretty comfortable with them; but large ones are challenging. This photo shows one of my everyday eating spoons, in apple at the bottom. It’s about 20 years old. Also some spoons underway in cherry, aiming for larger ones for the kitchen.

PF spoons, 1 old & 2 new

Drew teaches classes in this spoon carving frequently. http://countryworkshops.org/Carving.html

I just checked tonight and his winter classes are full, but keep it in mind. He has written about spoon carving many times; he has some photos of Wille posted on Country Workshops newsletter; showing the various “grasps” that Wille uses to shape the spoons. These are tricky; in the photos you can’t see the slicing action that Wille is expert at… http://www.countryworkshops.org/newsletter11/wille.html

Here’s a link to part 3 of an article Drew did last year. It should connect you to parts 1 & 2 also. Down the bottom of the page.

http://www.countryworkshops.org/newsletter10/

 And here’s a spoon by the master, Wille, and the  other master, Jogge. I photographed them at Country Workshops last summer.

Wille's spoon
Jogge's spoon

Jogge is something else in his own right. He did a video on carving spoons and bowls for Taunton press in 1988, if you can find it, watch it.  Hatchet, adze, and knife work that is inspiring. He has a website, showcasing many aspects of his handicrafts… it’s another world! http://www.surolle.se/

There’s also a growing spoon movement in the UK, see the Bodgers’ forum http://www.bodgers.org.uk/bb/phpBB2/ and Robin & Nicola Wood’s work http://www.robin-wood.co.uk/spoon-carving.htm and back in the States Del Stubbs is also spoon-mad. He makes great tools for the craft, and his website has umpteen million pictures. http://www.pinewoodforge.com/

But enough about what spoons should be…I have revolution on my mind. Anyone who has listened to me too much is already sick of me harping about Bill Coperthwaite’s book  A Handmade Life (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2003, paperback 2007). I’m wild about this book. Bill has a great philosophy about the importance of what we surround ourselves with…and his surroundings are pretty nice. He introduced Wille Sundqvist and the Langsners many years ago, and that started Country Workshops, and that’s where I got my start at crafts…

So, here’s the call. Start (or re-start) the handmade revolution now. Go throw out just one wretched wooden spoon, (burn it, throw it in the ocean, anything but give it away. That just creates a problem for someone else.) Then take a stab at making some nice handmade ones. We can start there…then we can deal with the baskets. They make the spoon problem look manageable…the cheap ones everywhere are even worse than the spoon that started this…

So, here’s my spoon-carving kit, in a white oak basket I made in 1998…

basket of spoon stuff
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17 thoughts on “the spoon problem:a revolution is required

  1. That ugly spoon servers it’s intended purpose perfectly well. Its meant to stir a large stock pot, and maybe be used to take a sample from that pot. In fact, I’d say it does that better than the beautifully carved spoons you compare it to.

    • I can see your point, Mathias. That clumsy spoon would certainly stir stuff in a pot, and so would a paint stirrer. However, a paint stirrer has never inspired in me joy or any sensory pleasure — nor would that first spoon be likely to. I think that those ends are just as important as the stirring of the pot.

  2. Peter,
    That stick masquerading as a spoon has done a task beyond its calling – it caused you to write this post.

    In a world where “as long as it vaguely resembles an item it must be a good example of it” I fear your msg will be lost on the people who buy their kitchen utensils at the dollar store and their tools at Home Depot but maybe, just maybe, there are a few who will listen to your call.

    Thanks for the reference on Cheap. I just bought a copy.

    Cheers — Larry

  3. Hi Peter, Great post! I am in total agreement. I’m looking for the books now.
    As a sidebar, another spoon maker you may be interested in is Barry Gordon. His web site is his name with dot com.
    Could you tell me where to get a hewing hatchet similar to the one you use?

    Best,
    Tom Goodman
    Bailey, NC

  4. I’m at the other end of your spectrum…thanks to you…having made more spoons than I can ever use in a lifetime (with a dozen new blanks awaiting my knives in the freezer ! )…they now make lovely gifts for very special friends but when one of those friends offered to pay me to make her a bunch…well I said no. Spoon carving which was once a livelihood albeit a meager one… is now a profound meditation that limbers up the artist’s fingers and focuses the creative soul…and when I considered doing it again for money it just stopped being fun.
    YOU are my Copperthwaite.
    My masteroverbuilder.
    My muse.

  5. I’ll happily join your revolution Peter. Now let me see do I have a nasty wooden spoon to throw out?

    Ruskin said “There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.”

    Here is another nice spoony guy with a nice philosophy.

    http://www.2handswoodcraft.com/index.html

  6. Friends, I’m with you on this one. Life is too short for ugly spoons.

    Peter, Robin, Jogge and many other are setting the example on we can educate our neighbors and communities on the aesthetics of spoons.

    But what about the opposite? Spoons so fancy they have to be kept behind glass (http://tinyurl.com/frogspoon) or functionally unusable like something out of Salvador Dali painting (http://tinyurl.com/artspoon)?

    My own spoon carving is sort of in the middle. More finish, yet still functional. Besides sloyd and hook knives, I used draw knifes, various spokeshaves, scrapers, rasps and sandpapers. (http://tinyurl.com/sixspoons)

    Did I just commit blasphemy by mentioning sandpaper on Peter’s blog?

    • Will: thanks for the note. I don’t fit in w/Robin & Jogge = I’m a strict long-time beginner at spoons, and will ever be thus. But I love to do them when I have time.
      sandpaper? At least you didn’t say “pencil.”

  7. With all the new talk about spoons and the new kickstarter project with Wille; I have been thinking about this spoon post…. I’d like to add that the spoon (while costing only $1) would burn much longer than the bill itself.

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