Bowl carving tools and video update

I wrote a couple of posts about the spoon carving tools I use; axes, knives and hook knives. and

As I have been hewing the tulip poplar bowls, I’ve had some questions about those tools. I’ll show you the tools I use for this work, but I haven’t really concentrated on much bowl carving over the years, so only have a few tools for that work.

The hatchets/axes I use are the same for spoon carving; double-bevels, curved cutting edges. So I’ll skip over those and go right to the adze I use for initial hollowing. It’s made by Hans Karlsson, I got my first one from Country Workshops many years ago & it remains one of their most popular tools.  I just bought this 2nd one this year, knowing that when teaching it would be helpful to have some extra tools for students to try.

new HK adze


Here you see the new (left) and old (right) – I’m not sure the old one was ever as long as the new one is…did I really sharpen away that much metal in 25 years?

HK adzes


A nice new leather guard made by one of my students, Matt Schror, complete with embossed dragon. (if you’re inclined, write Matt about getting one –

leather guard

Then, gouges. I use mostly bent gouges; those that have a long curve in the shank. My garden-variety ones are Swiss-Made, wide mostly, around 1 1/2″ wide. I use two “sweeps”, # 5 & 7. I have one narrow # 5, about 3/4″ wide, to finish off the shapes when the bowl is dry.

bent gouges


The best new gouge I have is one made by Nic Westermann, his “swan neck” gouge. I got mine through Lie-Nielsen. It’s unreal how good Nic’s tools are…

nic's gouge

nic's gouge detail

I sometimes use a few other tools; occasionally a straight-bladed carving gouge, like a wide #5, on the outside of the bowl. In some deep bowls, I have used these gouges, (poorly named “spoon” gouges – though you can’t effectively use them for spoons) – about 3/4″ – 1″ wide. Shallow sweeps, these are clean-up tools.

spoon gouges

When I next indulge in bowl carving tools, it will be some Hans Karlsson gouges that Country Workshops sells. Gotta pay some bills first.

I use wooden mallets. My friend Drew Langsner, who has made so many hewn bowls it’s not funny, uses a steel hammer, with hooped gouges. Mine are two different weights. the larger hickory one is 30 oz., the smaller one is an equally hard unknown wood, and weighs 18 oz. When I need to remove more wood, I pick up the heavier mallet. (the small mallet was given to me by a student, and to my shame, I’ve lost track of who…if you’re reading, chime in, I’d love to give you credit. It’s a nice mallet).


Bench work I keep pretty simple. On a stout low bench, I use 3 pegs and a wedge to fasten the blank for adze work.

3 pegs & wedge

At the workbench, I added long wooden dogs to hold the shaped bowl for detail work inside & out. A notch on the inside face helps grip the handles.

long dog

Small bowls get blocks stacked inside to grab them in the face vise.

trimming sides of bowl


I have 5 videos out with Lie-Nielsen, two on decorative carving for furniture, one on making an oak framed (wainscot) chest, same for a chair, and the most recent one on spoon carving.

video covers

I shot a new one this spring on making carved oak boxes…with more to come later. Many of you have written & asked about downloading the videos, instead of buying a physical disc. Lie-Nielsen has been working on setting up streaming of their instructional videos, and the first few are now available on their website. They tell me they are re-arranging the website, but right now the video titles are here:

I had been selling the spoon one, but now you can just order any or all from LN…the only one for which I have copies left is the wainscot chair video,



chest class planning & bowl carving practice

I have been working the last few days getting some oak ready for this weekend’s installment in the joined-chest-with-drawer class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. But the work has been here at home, where the workspace is too tight for photos. Hence, nothing to show. I just finished the test-fit of the carcass of my chest w/drawers. When you make them w drawers, they get BIG.

test fitThis one is related to the other 2-drawer chest I have underway. That one is nearly done. My goal is to assemble this one this weekend, so the students will see what they’re in for…so lots of drawboring to do first. One last side panel to tweak the fit, too. And the till. And the rabbets for the dust panel below the drawers. And the floor groove. Wow – lots to do still.

Then when I get back home Sunday night – it’s bowl-mania next. At Roy’s last week, I started 2 hewn bowls as demonstrations for the classes. Then we did an episode of the Woodwright’s Shop – so we split a tulip poplar in rehearsal, and began hewing one of those bowls. Then the next day, we did a run-through for the crew – so after that I had 4-partially hewn bowls, and 2 blanks. Then we shot the show, one more of each. I think that means I have 5 partially hewn bowls, and 3 blanks. But that doesn’t count the in-progress bowls I brought with me for show & tell…

many bowls hewn bowl

I had never taught bowl carving before, and it was so exciting to see everyone “get it” – made me want to make some, but all I could do was start them! Next class in hewn bowls is at Lie-Nielsen in August.


I am sold out on the DVD about carving spoons. To order that one, go to Lie-Nielsen’s site, I’ve done all my videos with them, so you can order any or all of them there.

I do have maybe 10 DVDs on making a wainscot oak chair left. Same as before, when those are gone, I think I’ll leave video-selling to the professionals.

bowls & spoons at Roy Underhill’s

the week that was – two 3-day classes of spoons & hewn bowls at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School. No daytime temps under 90 degrees F., mostly higher. The students hewed like demons, but were glad to stop at the end of the day… thanks to all the students & friends who came out & did such great work. Pictures with captions now:

fresh stcamore
sycamore spoon blanks
Whyaduck? Whyaknife?
trying out the twca cam
tulip poplar bowl stuff
splitting bowl stock
the hardcore used black walnut for bowls
working hard
you can’t tell how hot it was from this picture


AC inside HOT outside
in here, was AC. I sometimes watched from there. they were doing fine
so humid you could see the air
so humid you could see the air
gone to town
emerging bowls
a face for Bob Van Dyke
spoon rack
unusual spoon rack
the shop
put down the bowl pick up the spoon
the gouge work


some spoon carving knives

On to the spoon-carving knives. My first knife that I remember, a Frost Mora knife. My handle. Old now, I use it with the kids. It’s an excellent knife. You could use this knife and not need to read any further.

frost sloyd

My every-day knife, aslo a Frost blade/PF handle. A bit heavier than the first one; similar shape, with that curved end. I use it all the time, from spoon carving, opening mail, it’s my knife at lunch-time when I’m out in the shop/woodpile.
everyday sloyd

everyday frost sloyd

But, like the hatchets, we all tend to go further looking for the knife. Here’s one, from Del Stubbs’ Pinewood Forge.

an unbelievably good knife. We’ll see one of his hook knives too. I have used this for a long time as my finishing knife, for the final cuts on a spoon. That’s why I got the short blade, I’m not doing all the work with this knife. This knife showed me what “sharp” means. Still a favorite.

DS sloyd

DS sloyd bevel

Came with this great birch-bark sheath. the website has instructions on making them, I have done several for my other knives.

DS sheath


sometimes I want a really large knife; this is the largest Svante Djarv offered from Country Workshops. Heavy, thick knife, great shape to the cutting edge. I use it for rough-shaping large spoons. sloyd

SD sloyd blade

But, then came the best knife. really. Nic Westermann’s sloyd knife. I got mine through Lie-Nielsen, we use them there when I teach spoon carving classes. When they have them, they offer them for sale. His hook knife too – (I’ll get to that). I can’t find them right now on the LN website – Nic is teaching there this summer, but his class is full – he will also be presenting at the Open House –

The knife is outlandishly good (even better than “unbelievably good”) – a very thin blade, which took me a bit to get used to. Great shape, perfect bevels, it works so well I am always happy to pick it up & carve with it. Leaves a great burnished surface.


thin blade


Hook knives. Remember the hatchet story, with Robin Wood’s affordable hatchet? Here’s his solution to hook knives. My handle. Thin blade, long, sloping curve. Nice shape and excellent action when cutting with it. I use a dozen of these when I teach – they are a great introduction to spoon carving. this one he calls “open sweep” – I really like the shape. He’s posted videos of using it, and sharpening it here:


RW hook w handle

RW hook profile

RW hook w bevel

RW hook thin profile



Hans Karlsson’s hook knife, mine from Country Workshops. I used these for years; I have them in lefty & righty. HK hook lefty



Here you can see the shape of this curve. HK hook profile

Now, one of  Del Stubbs’ hook knife. Mine’s the #1 open sweep…like the sloyd knife, sharp as all get out.

DS hook

DS hook profile



But, I am converted. Nic Westermann’s hook is the one I use the most. Hollowed on the inside, like Japanese chisels & planes…great shape, great cutting. I have carved through some spoons because I was so entranced with this hook. Write or call Lie-Nielsen in the US, Nic’s website is here:


NW hook profile

NW hook inside

NW bevel

some spoon carving hatchets

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about which tools I use for spoon carving. I’ve received some questions lately about axes/hatchets, so I’ll start there. First off, this ain’t joinery, these are double-bevel hatchets. The single-bevel hatchets I use for making flat stuff. these can do that, but they excel at hewing shapes, which the single-bevel can’t do –  in my hands anyway.

4 hatchets


First off – new to me – a Svante Djarv “Little Viking” hatchet I got through Country Workshops –  (2 of these axes are from there, so you could just go read Drew Langsner’s descriptions…)

I like this hatchet a lot, so far. I especially like using a hatchet with curved cutting edge, and this one has a nice pronounced curve. I think it helps emphasize the slicing action of hewing. Might all be in my head, but it’s what I’m used to, and therefore what I look for. Drew’s table says 28 oz., and 5 3/8″ cutting edge. I wish the handle was a little thicker at its back edge, and at some point, I plan on re-handling this and some others. But I’m getting used to the handle that comes on it –


SD head

SD bevels



Here’s the next one when it was new – Hans Karlsson’s Sloyd Axe. I’ve used this one a lot, and recommend it to students & others who are looking for a great all-around hewing hatchet for spoon & bowl work. I’ve had it for 2 1/2 years, and it’s held up great. Lighter than the SD hatchet above, thinner “bit” results in shorter bevels. Many are drawn to the light weight, a heavier hatchet is sometimes tiring for people not used to them…

new hatchet from Country Workshops

My thoughts about the handle are the same; I tend to like to make my own. And have intended to for this one, but here I am now 2 1/2 years later, still using this one with its original handle. I think it’s too thick right below the head – I took it to Alaska & the handle shrunk with the low humidity. Now’s my chance…

new HK model


If I were on a budget (which I should be at the rate I buy hatchets) this next one is the one – made for & somewhat by – Robin Wood. Robin designed this hatchet with the idea of getting something for spoon carvers who aren’t necessarily going to spend the $200+ for a hatchet. It fills the bill nicely. Right now, it translates, with shipping, to about $80.  (notice I didn’t talk about the prices of the other ones, but both of the above are over $200) – small, light, curved cutting edge. You could carve spoons with this hatchet all your life and never need another. But most woodworkers I know have more tools than they need…


RW head


The one I have used the most over the past many years is an old one by Hans Karlsson, no longer offered at Drew’s place…I like its long head – just a bit longer between the poll and the cutting edge than the modern HK one. But it might just be that I’m used to it, having used it so long. Right now, I am using the SD Viking one for bowl=hewing.

old HK head

SD & old HK
new SD and old HK


I don’t own a Gransfors Bruks carving hatchet. I have used them some, they’re nice. I like the weight of them. Drew’s page on hatchets has a good description (“hewing axe refinements”) of the bevel shapes and how he suggests correcting the GB hatchet. In all, I have 5 spoon hatchets right now, so am not hurting for another…but someday I’ll add a GB just for good measure.


gone again, back next week

bowl 15-02well, I was going to have some spoons for sale this week, but now I’m shuffling off to Lie-Nielsen for a box-carving class. Figuring I wouldn’t be around to pack & ship, so I’ll wait til next week. A couple of bowls too.

I did update the “make more room in the house” sale – – if anyone needs a graduation gift, a box for storing household junk, or something flat to pile things on…

chests with drawers, spoons, bowls, boxes – baskets and more – I hardly know which tools to pick up in the morning. Coming up on  a year since I went out on my own, woodworking-wise. what fun…thanks to all of you out there who help me make it happen.

desk box

Oaks beware!