Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A few spoons and a dissection...

I was trying to close the upper portion of a window a couple of days ago and couldn't quite reach it.  I grabbed my workshop spoon, paused for a moment, and then pushed up on the window with the back of the handle.  I gave it a good shove and half of the bowl split off.

I was never satisfied with that spoon, which is why it never made it out of the workshop.  But I immediately saw new value in it.   I planed the handle down to the center line and now I have a perfect longitudinal section straight down the middle of the spoon which illustrates a couple of basic points of spoon design.

Notice the shape of the bowl.  The depth is in the back.

If you look closely at the pictures above you can see that the depth of the spoon's bowl is toward the back.  The front portion of the bowl is like a ramp leading down into that depth.  Notice how flat the front of the bowl is.  This shape, with the depth in the back and the front relatively flat, holds a good scoop of food while still allowing your upper lip to slide all the way along the bottom of the bowl and sweep that food into your mouth.  When the shape is right, eating from a spoon is a satisfying experience.  When the shape isn't right, the edges of the spoon dig into your lips and there is a morsel of food that has escaped your lip left in the bottom of the bowl after each bite.

Outside of the dissected spoon.

The other important detail to notice from this spoon dissection is how the thickest portion of the spoon relates to the depth of the bowl.  From the side I like a spoon to be an arrangement of sweeping curves.  This spoon was carved from a piece of straight lilac, so the curves are gentle and when you are not looking at them the spoon has the appearance of being flat.  My experience is that when a spoon is truly flat, it looks dead.  A few gentle curves along the length as the handle swells to the depth of the bowl gives the spoon a more lively look.  The neck of the spoon is the same thickness as the deepest part of the bowl, from the neck the thickness sweeps away into the thin part of the handle where the spoon is held.

Apple eating spoon of similar design.

Since I never really cared for that spoon I didn't want to post pictures of it all alone for the spoon nuts of the world to see, so I went through our spoon mug and pulled out a couple of old favorites.  As you look at the pictures think about how the different parts of the spoon (the bowl, the neck, the handle, and the finial) relate to each other.  Or maybe you feel that they don't relate to each other.  Looking at the shapes of the spoons like that helps to build your idea of a pleasing spoon.

These are a few that I enjoy.

Sweet birch serving spoon.

Rhododendron eating spoon. 

Steambent paper birch eating spoon.


  1. Tim - No chair rungs around to close the window with?!
    the cross-section is a great learning tool - thanks for showing it. What length are some of the other ones? I think maybe the camera angles make them look longer than they are - either way, very nice work. the sweet birch serving spoon looks like a clone of one at Drew's, I assume...nice carving.

    1. Peter,

      Not a rung in sight. It's a sign that I need to get back to making chairs. Here are the lengths:

      Sweet birch server - 8 3/4"
      Rhodo eating spoon - 7"
      Apple eating spoon - 8"
      Bent birch - 7 1/4"

      I've got to learn how to take spoon pictures. I just try to take as many as I can to try to give an idea of how everything relates. I noticed on a recent post of yours that you were propping them on a baseball which I thought was a great idea for scaling.

      The server is based on one of Wille's at Drew's. This comment just made me realize that I carved that spoon seven years ago...I need to go count my gray hairs again.

  2. Thanks for this dissection and discussion of spoon mechanics. I recently carved my first eating spoon and hated the way it rubs my lips, and had sort of resolved it as a treen frictional coefficient issue. Your comments are enlightening. Instead of a taper that only makes contact in the last bit of travel, my constant thickness bowl (deep along the length) prevents a smooth exit. I had even relieved the rear edges (making the front of the spoon even thicker) in an effort to "fix" it. now I understand better what is going on. You've saved me a lot of frustration on my next attempt.

    1. I'm glad you found it helpful. Thanks for writing such an exuberant comment. Almost everyone's first spoon is too deep. We all share the idea of a spoon bowl being deep, but the more spoons I carve the shallower my bowls get. Somewhere I've heard people refer to that part of the spoon as the blade instead of the bowl. I think it more accurately describes the shapes of my more recent spoons.

      I was actually happy that the spoon broke as soon as I realized what I could do with it. It seems like more people are getting interested in spoon carving and I thought this could be helpful.

  3. There are no mistakes, only opportunities..... Very inspiring spoons which I wish I had more time to try. I guess I'll just stick to chair rungs to open my windows for now. Keep up the great work.

  4. Great spoons Tim and thanks for the heads up on the geometry side of things. I'm only beginning my trip down the rabbit hole of spoon carving so it's all good food for thought. Cheers.

  5. Terrific work as always, the first cherry eating spoon is a truly lovely form.



    1. I'm glad you like that one. I'm really pleased with the shape of that bowl.

  6. Sorry I meant the apple eating spoon.

  7. Tim,
    you are killin it in the spoon world, always inspiring!

  8. Tim:

    Thanks so much for all your help this weekend. I think, the spoon shaped objects are finally starting to look like , maybe even resemble spoons! Yes I know I too off wood where yu didn't want me to-lop

    I re looked at the the DVD on Wilie S and I can hear him through you and Peter. The notes and comments from both of you as I read them and work the wood are paying off. I think, I've found an artistic (as good as I can be) outlet to bring some calm to the hectic style that has become my life.

    I look forward to seeing more of your work and hopefully spending some time in the future carving with you.

    Thanks again, John