I picked up a couple of Robin Wood's spoon knife blades at Spoonfest, one for me and one for Richard. Richard has already posted on here about his initial thoughts, so I thought I would add some of mine. Having spoken to Robin about these at Spoonfest and also reading posts on his blog, it seems that they are to some extent based on the hooks made by Bo Helgesson. The shape of the curve is similar, incorporating a flatter, more shallow curve as well as a tighter curve at the tip of the blade for more aggressive hollowing.
|From Top: Ben Orford, Svante Djarv, Dave Budd, Robin Wood.|
Unlike some other hook knives, the blade is not parallel along it's length, rather it tapers from tang to tip (my Svante Djarv and Ben Orford knives both have a very slight taper). When I asked Robin about this, he said that it was to promote more of a slicing cut. He also mentioned that it was for this same reason that the blade sweeps back at an angle to the tang. This is different to all of the other hook knives that I have tried. Unlike my Svante Djarv and Ben Orford hook, but similar to my Dave Budd, Robin's knife has a ricasso, which makes it possible to sharpen the entire length of the blade.
At Spoonfest Robin was selling his hooks either as a blade only or with a handle that he had fitted himself. Though I went for a blade on it's own, I did pay some attention to the handles that Robin had fitted as they were also very different to most hook knives, the significant difference being the length. Both the Svante Djarv and the Ben Orford knives have handles of 4 1/4" in length, Robin's handles were around 10 1/2 ", over twice the length. Again, I asked Robin about this and he explained that the reason behind the long handle is that when he has watched production spoon makers at work, they will usually hollow out the bowl by using the supporting hand as the fulcrum and the long hand becomes a lever. Obviously this allows for a lot of power, and therefore a lot of wood can be removed quickly.
I attempted to take a picture to demonstrate this action, but in a silly and hasty effort to take the picture without a tripod, I knocked the camera off of the stump that I was balancing it on, made a quick move to rescue the camera and sliced off a chunk from the back of my ring finger (when I returned from A&E I was able to return to the wood pile and locate the missing piece). So, just like Richard, I can attest that the knife comes incredibly sharp. From what I understand, Robin has finished the grind on these knives himself, and they come with an almost mirror polish. this is not aesthetic, it allows the blade to glide through the wood (or your finger) and creates a fine finish on the spoon.
The back of the blade is also ground down, not to a sharp edge, but to round the blade off, preventing the back from fouling the cut and allowing you to make a continuous, curved cut. this shows the attention to detail. The final thing that I noticed was that the handles he has made taper significantly towards the end, but not in every plane, so instead of tapering to a point it is more like a screwdriver tip that is off centre. Unfortunately I didn't pay enough attention to the orientation of this aspect to the blade, and so I was unable to recreate it in my handle with confidence. At first I thought that the purpose of this was to create a sort of thumb rest for a palm up grip, similar to that found on an Indian crooked knife. However, on closer inspection of the two pictures I could find of Robin's handles, it seems to be oriented in a way that would make it impractical for this kind of use. I even looked at the video of Ion Constantin carving a spoon in the hope that it would give some clues, but nothing. So I have concluded that it is just to reduce the weight of the handle. If anyone knows differently then please enlighten me.
Unfortunately, due to my heavily bandaged finger, I won't have the opportunity to try it out properly for a while, but based on my initial observations, this will be a very versatile and effective hook knife. After all, there are very few people in the world whose experience with this type of tool can compete with Robin Wood's. The great bonus is that at £15 for a blade it is also one of the cheapest hook knives available. In his blog Robin mentions that this batch are still prototypes, so there may even be some further improvements. When the design is finalised, they will be available from his website.
You can check out the hollowing technique I mentioned on the following two videos. If you haven't already seen them, you're in for a treat.
I can't seem to imbed the next film, but you can follow this link: Swedish spoon maker