I hate the “natural beauty of wood”


old & new

I try to not be seduced by the “Natural Beauty of Wood” thing. When I focus on that, it always goes wrong. I was talking to some spoon carving students about it last week. The way it works against me is that I lose track of the shape I’m after when I’m concentrating on grain patterns, figure in the wood, or color.

heartwood pear

Color is the most distracting in the spoon carving. Using small saplings, there is often a heartwood/sapwood distinction that can disrupt my attention. Many times I would strive to keep traces of the heartwood where it accented the spoon, but the result would be usually too thick, or too long, in one direction or another. I learned to let go of the urge to employ the contrast in the heartwood & sapwood. (on occasion, it works like the pear spoon in the photo above. Usually it doesn’t.)

It’s all fugitive anyway. When the spoon gets used, it changes color and develops a patina that renders it nothing like it was when new. I find it helpful to picture the spoon ten years later, at which time the only thing that remains from the day I carved it is the shape. So I always try to concentrate first & foremost on the shape. The patina is a new beauty to it; you let that sneak up on you.

Here’s a cherry spoon that had very strong contrast when it was new in 2001:

old heartwood mix
back of a cherry spoon bowl, fifteen years after the fact

Here’s a detail of the two spoons on top – I even like the burn marks, if they don’t get all the way to charcoal!

old & new details


When I sell spoons, that means I am pleased with the result, It doesn’t mean I think the spoon is perfect – each one, whether I sell it or keep it, reminds me of what I wanted it to be. As soon as I pick up a spoon I haven’t seen in awhile, I am changing things in my mind. I’d cut a little more here, leave something there – that to me is one of the attractions of spoon carving. You can carve another one the minute you’re “done” with this one. Start right in again. Not really feasible with large case furniture – for me anyway. I can always sneak another spoon into the kitchen.

I’m packing & shipping some spoons today, maybe these new ones will take on a life of their own like the old ones here. Still a few on the post from the other night – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/december-spoons-etc-for-sale/




4 thoughts on “I hate the “natural beauty of wood”

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