Spoon carving: knife work & Barn’s book

As I’ve been getting ready for Greenwood Fest 2017, I have carved a few cherry spoons. Last blog post was about hewing the shapes from “crooks” – the curving wood where one branch meets another. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/hewing-a-spoon-crook/ 

At the end of that post, I coppped out, and went to dinner. Got several requests to “continue after dinner” – but I finished those spoons the next morning. So when I started another, I shot some of the knife work. It’s hard to get this in photos, and equally hard to shoot these without a photographer, but here goes.

I tend to start at the area behind the back of the spoon’s bowl, transitioning to the handle. It’s usually too thick there, so I go there first to remove excess wood. This cut starts at the knife’s “butt” – right near the handle. The fingers of my left hand help push & guide the knife’s blade through the cut. Both elbows are tucked against my torso.

I bring my right hand towards my gut, and bend my wrist a bit too. My left fingers extend as far as they can, the knife blade is slicing toward the knife’s tip. This cut moves from the bowl through to the side of the handle. It’s a scooping cut to some degree.


Similar thing, but more to the middle of the bowl. This cut goes somewhat across the grain. 

More scooping, working toward the knife’s tip.


the other side of the bowl, I use a different grip. My thumb is on one side of the spoon, the knife on the other. Then I close my hand, pulling the blade toward, but not at, my thumb. 

The blade ends up in the space between my thumb and fingers. The knife handle is held by curling my fingers around it, not in the palm of my hand.

This one I use along the handle. It starts with my left thumb pushing on either my right hand, or the knife handle. The thumb is extended pretty far, and then I slide the knife from tip to butt.

My right hand moves forward, my left thumb acts like a hinge, swinging up toward the spoon handle’s top end.

There’s lots of references for these cuts and many others – the newest is Barn the Spoon’s new book, “Spōn: A Guide to Spoon Carving and the New Wood Culture” (next week we’ll ask Barn how to pronounce the title of his book)

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It’s well worth getting; Barn has been pretty deep into spoons, I mean who else has changed their name to “…the Spoon”? Here’s a detail of a couple of his spoons at our Plymouth CRAFT exhibition at Fuller Craft Museum – (thanks, Rick…)

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8 thoughts on “Spoon carving: knife work & Barn’s book

    • Richard – I have indeed forgotten quite a bit – I keep re-learning it. But as to gloves, absolutely not. I did learn, and remember, to know where the cut begins & ends, and what stops the knife…learn these things and you need no gloves. I feel the gloves are a false security, and can lead to bad habits with the cutting tools. I also don’t like the way you lose touch with the wood and tools via gloves.

      • Peter, I agree with all you’re saying here BUT did you never cut yourself or at least have a close shave when you were learning these skills?

  1. Thanks for the post Peter.

    I used this blog post when I taught my first spoon carving workshop yesterday out at Shakori Hills. We carved up some nice cherry spatulas and ladles. Had great fun telling my friends about all the fantastic things that went on at the festival. Learned so many great techniques… including the can opener and chicken wing there. Got a great hook knife blade from Reid Schwartz that I’m making a cherry handle for now. I also got Paula Marcoux’s book, Cooking with Fire, which we love already. Unfortunately Barn’s book sold out before I could get a copy, but I think I can order it on line.

    What a great cast of instructors you pulled together. The experience really helped me on my path.
    There is a road no simple highway… Ripple

    I think the festival was the most enjoyable weekend I’ve had in the last 30 years.

    Many thanks again, I thoroughly enjoyed the Greenwood Fest!

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