Preparing the Blank

1. First choose your material. LIving green wood is best and here we have a nice side branch coming from the base of a sycamore tree growing in Dumfrieshire in Scotland. We can cut off this branch with a bow saw and if we leave a clean cut will not harm the tree. The liklihood is that this branch may die from over-shading anyway. Make sure you have the permission of the landowner before removing any wood. Trees in hedgerows are another uesful source of side branches. Keep an eye out for interesting curves that could be incorporated into a spoon or ladle design. Here we are going for a straight grained branch to keep things straightforward. Here's the branch after being cut down with a bow saw and moved to our green woodworking base for this project, the grounds of Clonyard Hotel in Dumfries

2. Here's the branch after being cut down with a bow saw and moved to our green woodworking base for this project, the grounds of Clonyard Hotel in Dumfries.

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3. From the branch I've cut a length about 14 inches or 35 cm long from the thickest end, to give me the greatest diameter of branch. I'm going to carve a kitchen spoon so want a decent width of wood. With the axe I've split the branch in half, being careful to align the axe with the pith. For best control place the axe along the diameter of the branch and then hit it with a wooden club or maul. For safety reasons never hit the back a metal axe with another metal object to avoid shards of metal flying off. You can see from the two halves of wood that I've managed to get my split to run nicely down the pith (the darker line through the centre of the branch). Also we can see that the grain in the two pieces is not straight and parallel, something to consider as we plan the spoon. You can minimise the amount of bend in the grain by checking the alignment of the axe when splitting, but it is always an adventure to split open wood like this. At least there are no major knots or ingrown bark or wood decay here! I'll choose the top half to continue my project as this appears to have the straighter grain.

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4. I'm now hewing the branch with an axe, using a chopping block. As I'm doing this I'm keep a close eye on where the axe will go if it slipped from the wood (ie into the top of the chopping block rather than into my leg!) and also making sure than none of my axe blows goes near the fingers of my left hand holding the branch. If you look closely at the photo you'll notice I've put a series of notches in the edge of the piece. If you do this and then take one sweeping cut from the top-most notch a whole layer of wood will come off in a controlled manner


5. Working around the branch from both ends it should be fairly straightforward to remove all of the bark, to get down to the creamy white wood of the sycamore. Sycamore is a very blond wood with little figure or patterning in it and the grain does not stand out. In carving terms this gives us more of a blank canvas for carving patterns or shapes into the wood that won't be overwhelmed by the character of the wood itself. The axe I'm using here is a reproduction Viking axe as found on one of the sunken longboats I believe and is forged by Swedish blacksmith Stefan Ronnqvist. Jon Warnes atаWoodland Craft Suppliesаsometimes has them available. There's a nice thread on the Bodger's web-site aboutаprecursors to the Swedish carving axeаif you'd like to know more. I like it because I can get my hand right behind the cutting blade for good control plus it's not too heavy. I made the handle with a piece of ash with a natural curve which nicely counterbalances the weight of the axehead. It's also a nice axe to use at shows and demonstrations as it has such character!

6. Once all of the bark has been removed the branch can be referred to a spoon blank! I want to create a three dimensionally shaped spoon, even though the blank is traight grained. I've a choice now as whether to have the inner pith surface uppermost, or the outer surfaceuppermost. The former will give a wider bowl, but the former will create wonderful concentric circles of grain in the bowl of the spoon, so that's the way I'm going. I'lllower the level of the blank at one end for the bowl and remove wood from the bottom to leave the handle higher than the bowl.

7. Looking along the length of the blank we can get some sense of how straight or twisted the grain is. I use this technique of foreshortening the length of a blank quite a lot as it helps with symetry as the spoon shape emerges.

Next: Roughing out the blank ай David Knight 2018