Thursday, June 3, 2010

Things Are Shaping Up

In preparation for the class I'm taking in August at Country Workshops on making traditional Swedish woodenware, I've been practicing making spoons.

While watching Jögge Sundqvist's video is helping me improve, and my spoons are starting to look more usable, I still don't quite "get" carving.

I'm used to building up, not taking away. As a graphic designer, I add things to a blank page; I build up a composition. In woodworking, we join pieces together to build a table or chair. But in spoon carving, you take everything away from the wood blank that doesn't resemble a spoon.

I've learned a few things along the way: carving green wood is much easier than dry; keeping an eye on your support hand's location in relation to the knife is a must; straight-grained wood is best for carving; chia pets are the best gifts ever.
Not only are my spoons shaping up, so am I. My current physique is called "pome-pear" and that's not going to help matters when I'm swinging an axe and adze and gasping for air.

So I've started walking four miles, doing thirty pushups, and eating 1400 calories or less each day (granted, I'm only on day number three).

At class this summer, I'll be rubbing elbows with Peter "HatchetMan" Follansbee, and I don't want to seem as green to carving as the wood we're chopping.

24 comments:

Charles "Sunshine" Davis said...

Wow... the fine details on these spoons are amazing. Honestly Kari... you really just keep taking your work to the next level... your carving is something special.

Congrats on boot camping yourself as well... I'm sure it feels great... way to push yourself!

Larry Marshall said...

Wow... Those spoons are wonderful. You made me tired with that last part, though. Hungry too.

Cheers --- Larry

Darnell said...

It's gonna be hard to limit your caloric intake if you keep making eating utensils. :)

The bowl of the spoon is interesting. Is it smooth? How do you gauge wall thickness?

Jeremy Kriewaldt (jmk89) said...

A friend who is a sculptor says he simply hacks off everything that isn't in his mental picture of the sculpture and once the thing before him looks like the thing in his head, he stops. So the answer is to cut away everything that isn't the spoon that you want to release that spoon from the covering of wood shavings it is currently packaged in.

Don't know if that will help, but it's a nice idea. And I'm not sure you can apply the same idea to physical fitness...

Adrian Baird Ba Than said...

Nice spoons Kari,pity they're spalted although if you really wanted to use them a 2 part plastic resin,the stuff used on guitars or another similar product,would be sufficient to keep that toxic mould out of your Rice Crispies.I'm not sure if that stuff is what you personally would consider Kosher...
It's interesting you talking about removing material instead of your more usual "building up",perhaps that's why you aren't drawn to turning,if you get into making hollow forms you can end up removing as much as 99%,possibly more,of the bulk of the timber.That's why it's something I have yet to get into,I like the heft & durability of wood,hollow forms are more fragile than eggshells.
I also see another connection between turning & carving,there's a purity,a oneness,something that is difficult to achieve with a constructed object,you are nearly always aware of the components,something which can stop you seeing the whole thing,the oneness.The first designer that springs to mind who could create fluidity from construction was the late & very great Sam Maloof but as you well know,there was but one Sam Maloof,a true poet in timber...
I'm whittering again(not whittling,there is clearly a lack of fluidity to my prose!)

The Village Carpenter said...

Sunshine, I feel better already!

Larry, so far I'm not hungry. Fingers crossed. :o)

Darnell, good point! I haven't smoothed the inside of the spoons yet, but I'll do that with sandpaper. I'm leaving the facets and knife marks on all other parts. To gauge wall thickness you just pinch the wood between your index finger and thumb. You'd be surprised how easily it can be determined.

Black, just the one spoon is spalted, the other one's okay, thank heavens. I finally have a spoon I can use! You might be onto something about turning and carving. They are both like sculpture (taking away material). I envy people like Sam Maloof who allow the wood to direct them toward the final shape.

The Village Carpenter said...

Jeremy, your friend has the gift of vision. I do think some of that can be taught, but a chosen few, like your friend, were born with that talent. I'm not discouraged and will keep carving away. It's certainly a fun past-time and one that you can take with you on vacation.

gchpaco said...

Interesting that you look at woodworking as additive; I've always seen it as more subtractive in that you remove wood to the individual parts until it plays well together. Graphic design or, say, clay always is difficult for me because of the starting with a blank slate problem.

I tend to see photography as subtractive, too, and I was pretty good at that.

Joey said...

Nice spoons Kari,I just love the design. When I tire of whittling these Lil wizards I plan learn to do spoons. There is a local carving club here that have a couple of really good spoon carvers that I hope to learn from. see in Oct in Cincinnati
Joey

Robin Wood said...

Great work Kari. I love the crisp carving and decoration on the handles. I am interested in the idea that you can't use a spalted spoon. Can anyone show me a scientific paper or serious source that says spalted wood is harmful in any way other than inhaling dust from it? I see a lot of dubious stuff written about it, such as inhaling spores, (the spores come in the fruiting bodies which pop out on the side of the tree not in the wood) To my mind the danger as with most woodworking is inhaling dust and far gone spalted wood is much more dusty than other wood. The first stages of a little colouring in the wood whilst it still has moisture in it add interest but don't detract from structural strength. Rose in the Village Carpenter talks about mellowing or ripening wood nowadays all we understand is green, dry, kilned and "spalted". Folk who buy trees and convert them know there are many more ways wood can be and discovering that is one of the joys of spooncarving.

The Village Carpenter said...

gchpaco, the thing that makes me most nervous about spoon carving or turning is, once you remove a part, there's no getting it back. You either start over or change your design. With a table, I can always cut another chair leg if I botch one. (Of course, that never happens! haha)

Joey, lucky you having spoon carvers nearby. I think you'll really like spoon carving. Be sure to introduce yourself at WIA. :o)

Robin, that's encouraging to hear about spalted wood. I was so bummed out when I started carving it to find that it was spalted, but I kept carving just for practice. The good thing is, the spalted areas are not the least bit punky; they're structurally sound. So that spoon will see some use. My spoons are not the least bit comfortable to hold, though, so I'm hoping that seeing some of Jogge's in person will help.

Robin Wood said...

If his advice is anything like his dad's he'll have you carve over 50% of the wood away. If you have correct grain orientation and design the spoon can be very thin and that makes it nicer to hold. The other bit of advice I would give is at the moment your crank is between base of bowl and handle. This is very common practice, several spoon designs in well respected books also show this. I find this puts the spoon out of balance and makes it feel tippy, the handle is not pointing toward the weight. I find it works best if the crank is perhaps 1/3 of the way along the spoon bowl if that makes sense, this way the line of the handle is pointing at the centre of gravity of the full bowl and all feels and looks stable and balanced.

Will Simpson said...

Kari, your spoons are simply lovely. The carving looks crisp and is interesting. It fills nicely the flat of the handle. Robin is right in that thiner is better. As long as the grain runs correctly I'm surprised how thin the handle can be and still be strong.

You've inspired me to plunge into carving free form designs on my spoon handles.

Thanks for sharing.

Shannon said...

This work is literally good enough to eat...with. (ba-doom cha) Great work as always Kari and I feel your pain on the physique thing. Got some work to do myself

Woodbloke said...

Hi Kari - looks like that course later on in the summer could be a good one. A really excellent little book on this sort of woodwork is called "Woodware" bt Ake R. Nilsson, first published by LTs Forlag, Stockholm in 1967 and translated into English and published by Mills and Boon in the UK in 1972 (ISBN 0 263 51848 5) It's long out of print now, but might be worth scouring Amazon for a decent second hand copy...highly recommended - Rob

Anonymous said...

Are chia pets like the vegetarian meat? Is that how you keep eating steak down to 1400 calories?

- Shawn G.

PS - My word verification is "Schlong"

TheApprenticeandTheJourneyman said...

Kari...The shapes of the spoons look like they would be very comfortable in the hand. They designs really set them off. Simply elegant!

Dyami said...

Very nice spoons, Kari. I find them far too lovely to use with food. The deserve a place on the mantle.

Frontier Carpenter said...

Looks like you should be teaching a class

The Great Ethan Allen said...

Great Looking spoons! Told you you were goingt o get bit by that carving bug. Isn't it cool to add a detail to your shop furniture, tools and projects without sending them to someone else?

The Village Carpenter said...

Robin, thanks so much for the advice!

Will, I've seen some really cool free form spoons where they let the grain determine the shape. Be sure to post and/or send me photos. :o)

Shannon, I've had some thin years, but for most of my life, I've been somewhere between sea lion and manatee. haha

Rob, thanks for the book recommendation. I will definitely check it out.

Shawn, you crack me up. :D

TA&TJ, the thicker of the two spoons is pretty comfortable; it's just too thick. The other one is tippy, as Robin pointed out. The "rib" that runs beneath the handle should be a little thicker and continue onto the handle. I think that will make a big difference.

Dyami, I have been directed by my partner that I am to make enough spoons to replace all our metal ones. It takes me about 5 hours to make just one, but I'm hoping the process will speed up with practice.

Frontier Carpenter, I'll consider that after I've made about 100 of these guys. :o)

TGEA, carving is so much fun and so focused. I sat for 3.5 hours outside—not even looking up—carving one of these and only stopped because it was so late. Very addictive!

Anonymous said...

Kari,
Very good example of Chip Carving. You obviously have that down even if you don't think your spoons are great. Just remember that all spoons are not intended to be used.. I have seen some free-forms that would be very difficult to use. Some like the ones you created are just works of art. The class should help with the functional part. By the way, our body condition sounds much better in french than english, thanks.
Ray Curtis

AdamBlood said...

I was wondering if you could tell me who makes the spoon carving knife you use? thanks

The Village Carpenter said...

Ray, pretty much everything sounds better in French. :o)

Adam, the knives I use were made by Del Stubbs. http://www.pinewoodforge.com/