Four Spoons


In between bowls, I came upon a few good branch crooks that I’ve carved into spoons — two in cherry and two in rhododendron.  They’re all straight from the knife and treated with flaxseed (pure linseed) oil.  The lettering and chip carving on all of them was done with my pen knife.  They’re all serving/cooking spoons, way too big for eating spoons.  I’ll mention each spoon’s unique characteristics with the photos below.  Rather than listing them separately on my website, I’ll offer them right here in the blog post.  If you’d like to purchase one, send me an email at  All prices include shipping in the U.S.  Orders outside of the U.S. will pay an additional shipping charge, but it’s not usually too high for small items like spoons.  I’ll get back to you to confirm, and you can pay by mailing a check or through paypal.

Spoon #1 (below):  I carved “Tiramisu” into the handle of this cherry spoon.  Most people know it as the name for a dessert, but I thought it also appropriate for the handle of a spoon.  Tiramisu is Italian for “pick me up” or “lift me up.”  9 1/4″ x 3″  $155 includes shipping. SOLD





Spoon #2 (below):  “Fabas indulcet fames” is the Latin proverb meaning “Hunger sweetens the beans.”  Whether one is focused on the literal or figurative meaning, I like the reminder on a cooking and serving spoon.  After I cut the letters, I experimented with this rhododendron spoon by texturing the surface around the letters with the filed end of a small bolt.  I held the spoon in my lap and repeatedly moved around the “stamp”, hitting it with a small hammer.  13″ x 2 3/4″  $155 includes shipping. SOLD





Spoon #3 (below):  This spoon comes right out with it in English: “Hold Me.”  Cherry 10″ x 2 1/2″  $155 includes shipping. SOLD





Spoon #4 (below):  This rhododendron spoon is non-verbal.  Chip-carved handle.  9 1/2″ x 2 3/4″  $90 includes shipping.  SOLD




Posted in Lettering, spoons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Lettering Large


I do have some bowls in process to share before long, but some photos from a couple recent lettering projects first.  I find myself adapting my tools and techniques according to the wood and the size and style of the lettering.  I learn something from every new opportunity.

The top photo shows part of a large butternut board that will be framed in walnut by a cabinet maker for a sizeable display case for an electric train collection.  Actually, there will be two display cases as you can see from the two full-view photos below.  I was provided with some general guidelines such as including the logos/symbols and what the text should say.  Beyond that, I was given the freedom to explore.


The boards were 50″ x 7″.  To allow for the frame, the letters ended up at about 4 inches high.  So this was not a lap-and-penknife project.  The L logo represents Lionel.


The Steelmark logo goes back long before the Pittsburgh Steelers adapted and adopted it.


After much thought and sketching in various sizes, eventually it’s on to the board.  I can really burn through an eraser, but time spent in this stage is important for a project like this.  Got to calm that itchy carving finger.



I should mention that before the drawing took place, I put a final surface on the face of the board with a finely-set hand plane.  I could have sanded the surface, but it’s nice to avoid the grit that remains embedded in the wood, waiting to dull the edges of carving tools.


It’s convenient to have access to the board from either side.  My workbench is attached to the wall, so I gave myself full access by holding the board cantilevered beyond the workbench, held firmly with holdfasts.  You can also see in the photo the main tools used.  A couple v-tools on the right to excavate much of the bulk, and a couple knives.  The larger knife to the top left is reground from a Garrett Wade marking knife I’ve had around for years.  The three successive shots in the slideshow below show me using it to pare a side of the stem of the letter T.

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In some areas, gouges are a help.  A penknife blade is still handy, even in letters this large for tidying….


and for tighter curves like these numbers.


Similar techniques were used for this sign done a few weeks ago, except the overall style is a little more loose and the surface of the board was textured with a gouge before carving the lettering.  The photo is a little blurry on the left side, but you can see the texture more clearly on the right.  This is my second go with the same William Morris quote.  The first one is here.

Next post should be some spoons with much smaller lettering.


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I Have One Word for You


I want to end the year and begin the next with a simple note of gratitude.  Thank you all for taking the time to read the blog.  Your comments, questions, and interest in the things I make are always helpful and encouraging.  I appreciate it all very much.  Who knows what 2018 will bring, and here’s to the thrill of exploration and a very happy New Year to you!


May nothing come between you and your wish for the new year!

Posted in Lettering, nature, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 26 Comments

Carving Books and Vintage Video

IMG_4923About a year and a half ago, at Greenwood Fest 2016, Jögge Sundquist taught a class on carving a Swedish distaff, traditionally used for holding flax or other fibers while spinning.  As Jögge explained, when a man proposed marriage to a woman, he carved an ornamental distaff as a gift for her.  The skill reflected in the carving would be a reminder of his qualities as a potential partner and mate.  If she accepted the gift, all was set, no need for words or a jumbotron proposal.

IMG_4932I had started a distaff then, but hadn’t gotten around to it since.  I’ve finally finished it as a little Christmas gift for my daughter, my wife having been fooled, I mean wooed, by me many years ago.

With the vibrant colors and whimsical bold patterns, it was a fun, if temporary, exploration into Jögge’s style, and it reminded me that Jögge’s book, Slöjda I Trä, will soon be out in English (Sloyd in Wood).

The photo at left shows Jögge’s colorful book.  My copy is in Swedish, but the photos of Jögge’s amazing work are in a universal language, as are the wonderful pen and ink illustrations.

IMG_4933Many of you know that Jögge’s biggest woodworking hero is his father, Wille.  Wille’s book, Swedish Carving Techniques is a must-have book if you’d like to carve spoons and bowls.

That book is not only an incredible resource for technique and method, but also design considerations.  Before I read that book, I thought of a wooden spoon as an object with a straight handle behind a flat oval.  Wille opened my eyes to the sculptural potential in household objects like spoons and bowls.  Objects that are a pleasure to look upon, hold, and use.

I’ve been carving some more spoons recently, and those ideas still guide the way I work.  Here’s one example recently finished that I think reflects Wille’s influence.

Back in 1982, long before my spooncarving introduction, Wille taught a spooncarving workshop at Country Workshops.  Drew Langsner informed me today that during that event, Rick Mastelli filmed Wille carving a spoon from start to finish.  The video was just posted to youtube yesterday, and it’s a must-see:

I’ve already decided to pay tribute to Wille at Greenwood Fest 2018 by wearing the same outfit he wears in the video.

IMG_4935And before I leave the subject of carving books, I’ve got to suggest another great one, just published.  Carving the Acanthus Leaf by Mary May is a spectacular book.  I was captivated by the story of Mary May’s childhood and inspirational journey into woodcarving.  It is interwoven into an incredibly well-researched exploration of the acanthus leaf and its interpretation across many cultures.  Along with general advice on the selection of carving tools, sharpening, and such, are step-by-step instruction s for carving many different styles of acanthus, all richly photographed along with clear plans.  Truly an incredible accomplishment that will help many carvers.





Posted in books, paint, patterns, publications, spoons, Uncategorized, video | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Carve some Toys



The days leading up to Christmas usually find me making a few gifts for loved ones.  Among them, toys have a special place.  I thought I’d share a few toys of the wood carved variety that might inspire some ideas for a future holiday gift.

Fifteen years ago, when my children were very young, they loved the movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  For a few years back then, I carved them each a character based on the movie.   As you can see in the top photo, they’re still hanging in there, although some little parts are missing.  Clarisse’s bow and Yukon’s pick might show up one day at the bottom of a drawer somewhere.  A little wear and tear is a good thing.


“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em…”

The nice thing with toys is that there’s no pressure.  I’m no expert figure carver, and you don’t have to be either.  Just have fun and make something that will give a kid a thrill.  Celebrate whimsy and quirkiness and have a blast.  So what that your Abominable Snow Monster looks like Kenny Rogers with a bouffant?!  You can’t get that at Amazon.

I gave most of these very simple articulated arms or legs.  Just leave a flat area as a bearing surface where the limb joins the body.  By using a wood screw the tension can be easily adjusted.  Simple acrylic craft paints come in little bottles for less than a dollar a piece and work great for toys, and they dry very fast for that last-minute paint job.

Any subject can be carved.  Just grab a chunk of wood and start in.  Many of the carved toys still hanging around serve as reminders of our kids’ passing interests.  This brief slideshow has a few examples:


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Roy Toys

The best thing that ever happened to television, nearly 40 years ago, is the Woodwright’s Shop with Roy Underhill.  Roy’s show and his books were, and are, incredibly inspiring to me.  And meeting him in person at last year’s Greenwood fest knocked me off my feet.  Watching him entertain with his box of handmade toys was one of the most special moments.

A kid at heart, Roy loves toys and has featured them in many episodes of his show.  About ten years ago, a couple episodes inspired me to make two action toys for my kids.  I don’t remember which season or episode number, but one featured a woman who made little figures called limberjacks that could be used in musical/theatrical performances.


I made a couple, one representing each of my kids.  The joints are meant to be very loose, so that there’s lots of free movement when they dance or run.  I used brass escutcheon pins at the joints and just the most basic carving.  These are more about movement than details.  Although I did like the touch of the flopping ponytail on my daughter’s limberjack.  Here are a few details:


The joints should be loose to allow for free action.


The brass escutcheon pins are snipped and filed flush on the inside.


Flicking a flexible board like this cedar shingle makes the limberjack dance a sort of Highland jig. Jiggling the stick makes the arms go round.


Roy had another episode that included a balancing toy that fascinated me.  A little wooden man seemed to be riding a unicycle on a tightrope, his little legs rotating faster and faster.  I made two, one inspired by our golden retriever, Sam, the other by our cat, Mavis.


The concept can be adapted to different methods and materials, but here are some details about how I went about making these ones:


I just used spare parts I had around. These wood screws pass through the part closest to the head, then the threads bite into the back piece, whether the other leg or the body. I filed off the point of the screw protruding through the leg.


The wheel is just carved out and a gouge is used for the groove that rides on the string. The forks are part of the body. The axle and pedal crank are one piece of wire, bent as the pieces are assembled.


Anything relatively heavy can be used for weight. Oddly enough, I had a round bar of copper from somewhere. I sawed it into four pieces and drilled a mortise for the balance arms. Washers, nuts, etc. would work fine as well.


The balance arms are riven oak, about 1/4″ diameter.

The only thing more fun than playing with them is making them.  Peace on Earth, good will to you all.










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Winter Walnut


Getting my hands on a good walnut log recently, I decided to rough out a few bowls from it, then return to each one individually down the road.  Some of these will be destined for folks that have been waiting for walnut.


The wait for winter is almost over, still a few more days…. but as I look out my workshop window it sure seems to have arrived.


This morning, a junco and a tufted titmouse shared a sunflower seed brunch in the window box.


Their footprints in the snow are a reminder to make some of my own.


Not even out of the yard yet, the holly berries catch my eye. They’ve been there for months, but they stand out in contrast now.


The snow rests like pillow tops on riverside rocks.


Icy pools reflect the streamside trees.


And one of my favorite sycamores has donned a coat of snow.

Now it’s back to the walnut in the shop and the visiting birds.  I noticed that Ben Strano and Jeff Roos have posted the 10th installment of my bowlcarving video workshop at Fine Woodworking Magazine Online.  We’re getting there now, doing the finishing cuts on the inside of the bowl.  So far, in episodes 1-10, that makes nearly four hours of video!  Seemed to go a lot faster for me.  Lots of work for Ben and Jeff, and they’ve done an amazing job.

Posted in bowls, green woodworking, nature, publications, teaching, Uncategorized, video, walnut | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

True Hope is Swift


True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings.
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.
          — William Shakespeare, Richard III, Act V, Scene ii
I knew I had to carve that first line one day on a bird bowl, and I had been waiting for the right crook to come along; one that would allow for the deep wings and posture I had in mind.  A few months ago, I came upon a young cherry tree on a hillside that was dying and rotting above chest height, but the decay hadn’t yet made it to the base of the tree.  The flaring base rose out of the ground at a sharp angle before curving up toward the light.

Splitting the large crook provided two blanks.


The blank in the foreground contained the old rotten branch that had broken off. I was still able to get a nice big spoon out of it. The blank in the background was the source for the bird bowl featured in this post.


Here it is after some initial roughing with the axe and drawknife, and sporting some of my sketched guidelines.  Almost done!


Of course, there was a lot of deep undercut hollowing to do; work far beyond the reach of an adze. Perfect opportunity to get to know one’s hook tools better.


As I was carving, I decided to extend the hollow along the top side of the tail.  The dark heartwood ended up a bit off center along the breast, but I wasn’t going to complain after all this crook had given.


Port side lettering…


…and starboard.


I like to see this one sitting in the window, but it’s time to fly.

The dimensions are 12 inches long, 4.75 inches wide, and 8 inches high.  I’ve just posted it to my website.

As if you haven’t seen enough photos, I’ll put them all in one easy spot in the slideshow below:


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Posted in bird bowls, bowls, carving, cherry, finding wood, green woodworking, Lettering, quotes and excerpts, trees, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments