Carving A Spoon from Locust Tree Wood

On Friday, our neighbour had a crew in to trim their Locust tree. It is a huge tree and it overhangs my backyard, and keeps the summer sun from heating their house and in part our house and backyard. I have always found the leaf patterns of a Locust tree fascinating, and was very pleased to learn this was the type of tree beside me. I spoke to the neighbour the day before asking if I could keep some wood, and he was fine to have the crew leave a load of branches on my side of the fence. Early Friday morning, the tree surgeons hopped from limb to limb brandishing small saws and I asked them to leave the wood on a flagstone beside my potato patch.

The wood is surprisingly heavy, a hard wood surpassing the density and with a more compact grain of birch. I started on a small branch, and hacked away at the bark, trying to peel it off. My first efforts were disappointing, and I thought I would just give up - the debarking was initially messy and stubborn. It took a while for me to get down to the cambium and soon I was able to strip off the wood by using my Gransfors-Bruks Small Forest Axe, which I had stropped to razor-sharpness early last week.

Using my axe, wielding it boldly against a large branch on the lawn, I carved out the general shape of the spoon. Towards the end I refined the shape with my Mora laminated carbon steel blade, and found the wood a pleasure to carve - it has a reliable grain, and only when I reached the heartwood did I experience any issues. The heartwood fractured fairly easily, so it was simply a case of minding the direction in which I pulled or pushed the blade. I found myself naturally using the scissors-cut or what I figure I will call the chicken-wing cut - this is a technique whereby I gain a lot of torque in a short sweep of the blade by pushing out my arm and levering a short length of blade against my opposing thumb.

Monty supervised my technique and would occasionally chew on some off cuts and on a choice piece of branch I had chopped for him.

With my new Frosts-Mora hook knife, I smoothed out the handle and shaft, and put to work on the spoon's bowl. I used short-levering motions - a chicken-wing technique - to carve the concave bowl. The blade is very sharp, and I was able to avoid any fracturing of the grain simply by cutting out very small divots - the wood shavings rolled up tightly and I blew them out.

The handle was too long, so I cut off the end and made a little snake out of it.

Once I had smoothed out the shape of the handle, and of the bowl, I used 200 grit general-purpose sandpaper and a half-cup of elbow grease to smooth the spoon. This removed any grain fibers and pits left in the wood. I poured a teaspoon-worth of olive oil into my palm and ran the spoon through it, massaging it into the grain. This revealed some flaws on which I got to work with the sandpaper, and within a few minutes I had re-coated the spoon and was finished.

The wood around the bowl is nice and thin, and I think I might drill a hole at the top of the handle, and string a piece of rawhide through as a handle.

My first proper spoon! I am very happy with the results. My hands ached for a couple of hours later. I have a load of branches awaiting the blade still. This first spoon is quite small, because of the size of the branch I used, but this was one of the smallest branches. For my next jobs I want to carve a ladle, and then a Kuksa (a Laplander's wilderness cup).

Thanks for dropping by!



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