Sunday, 11 August 2013

Another new tool for spoon carving....

No prizes for noticing that this is in fact my microwave and not a conventional woodworking tool. So how is it of use when spoon carving? Well, let me explain. I wanted to carve a spoon yesterday and began with a piece of sycamore which had been knocking around for a bit and had begun to dry out. And I committed one of the cardinal sins of beginning to carve a piece of wood which was not really suitable and should have been discarded before I even began. Why? Because it had dried out on the ends and had some checkering which everyone knows are potential splits. But I ignored this fact and cracked on with my carving.

Thirty minutes of axe work and a little fine carving with a knife later and I realised that the cracks were beginning to open further and were extending into the bowl at one end and of the end of the handle at the other. But I hate to waste thirty minutes of carving and a potential spoon. So, how could I stop the existing splits from opening up any further? I needed to dry out the rest of the spoon in order to creat some degree of equalibrium - I had been lead to believe that splitting often occurs due to the difference in moisture from one part of a piece of wood to another. I had also heard of people drying spoons in a microwave, but that it was an inexact 'science' and you ran a rist of drying the spoon too quickly and it cracking apart. I had nothing to loose, however - if I didn't take the risk, the spoon was going to split anyway.

I gave the spoon 4 lots of 20 seconds on full heat, giving it a few seconds between each blast to cool back down and for the moisture which 'cooking' brings to the surface time to evaporate. It was a little scary at times to open the door of the microwave to hear the spoon itself sizzling and knowing perhaps how close I had come to overcooking and destroying the spoon, but after the 4 sessions it seemed to be ok and the cracks that had been there previously had decreased, if not disappeared altogether.

At this point I hadn't quite finished the spoon so sat in the backgarden to do some fine cleaning up and detail, and was surprised to find just how hard my newly dried spoon was compared to how soft it had been prior to its spell in the microwave. And whilst you may think that this would have been an obvious result of drying out the wood, it was not simply harder, it was bone hard, making it very difficult to carve to any extent but giving lovely clean cuts in the process. Furthermore, if you like your spoons smoothed and sanded, it meant it gave a smooth finish much quicker and without so much effort - a bonus for impatient people like me.
You can't see it so clearly on these photos, but there is a darker patch at the tips of the handle and bowl, where the wood had already begun to dry-out - this is where the checkering was and where it would have split if I hadn't taken drastic measures with the microwave. I am hoping that, as the newly carved wood ages it too will take on this darker colour.

As you can see, I stuck with my new maker's mark, and carving lettering was really sharp in this hardened wood.

And just to demonstrate Julian's dedication to his carving, here is a photo of him at our neice's wedding on Friday - waiting between the service and the reception to be called for photographs and out comes the carving kit and he carries on with a little turned bowl he had made in the morning. And I thought I was being obssessive because I had my most recent spoon in my inside jacket pocket to show him - I had not brought knives or axes with me - they tend to be unwelcome guests at weddings (although I did recently give a handmade knife to a friend who was getting marries as apparently in some traditions it is good luck).
Now that's dedication.

1 comment:

  1. Nice spoon Rich. I could be mistaken, but I think that the dark patches are stains from where water has entered through the end grain. I'll be surprised if the rest of it darkens.