By trade I am a computer programmer which means I live in a digital world. While there is ample room for creativity when writing code, there is still a certain satisfaction missing from having something tangible at the end of the day. The thought that a programmer can work for his entire career and the summation of his efforts fit on a thumb drive was a surprising revelation for me! I realized to balance this detachment I needed some kind of physical outlet.
A few years after entering programming I discovered the hobby of spoon carving. It has become the perfect antidote to the numbing effects of the digital. Holding a piece of raw wood in your hand, listening to the sound of a sharp blade pare away smooth shavings... it's a wonderful experience!
Unlike traditional woodworking, which requires a shop full of expensive tools, spoon carving requires only a few. I tote mine around in a handmade basket, customized for the job. Let's take a look at what it holds.
The Mora 106 is a staple, reasonably priced (around $25), and readily available. With the 3" blade it is used for the majority of the cuts, holds a good edge, and is an all-around great tool. I keep 4 or 5 in my basket switching from one to the next as they dull.
Carving the inside of the spoon bowl requires a knife with a curve. The Mora 164 is a nice complement to the 106.
When possible, due to availability and cost, adding a variety of hooks with different angles helps cover all the different bowl shape cuts. My personal favorite is the one on the left above as it has a gentle sweep which results in a smoother bowl as there are fewer ridges left.
Spoon carving material is available wherever you have access to trees... and permission to cut branches! A simple folding saw like this one makes quick work of branches and easily packs into my basket.
After the billet is cut to length a small carving hatchet (or a more affordable option) like this is useful for taking larger cuts and removing waste much faster than the straight knife can. Combine it with a wooden stump to beat against and creating blanks moves rather quickly.
While there are myriad options for sharpening your knives a few sheets of high grit sandpaper wrapped around a board/dowel works pretty well. Add a leather strop and you'll have razor sharp knives.
And That's It!
An entire spoon carver's kit can be built for less than $300 depending on how much you want to spend on each component, most specifically on the axe. With the wood generally being free, spoon carving is a great alternative to furniture building and still provides the opportunity to connect with the physical world.
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