I want to share this excellent video of my friend Jarrod Stone Dahl from Wisconsin carving a spoon from green wood. It’s really nicely shot and takes you through the whole process.
The video has had a lot of interest in various online groups because of Jarrod’s shaving mule which he uses to grip the spoon. I use a chairmakers shavehorse in much the same way and, as always, there’s several ways to do the same task but even if you have neither of these devices and are carving spoons simply with an axe and knives there’s plenty of other good learning which is what I want to highlight.
For me, one of the most important ideas I try to get across to people is to take the time to plan a design and draw it onto the wood. Even though Jarrod has been making this same design of spoon for 3 years now he still draws in a centerline and sketches the outline, redrawing and refining it as previous pencil marks are carved away. This isn’t just about getting a balanced, elegant shape; it enables him to carve so positively with the axe and drawknife in the early stages without having to constantly look at the shape.
Looking though is something he does a lot and the part of the video I like best. Again, this is a shape he knows intimately but he still often stops to consider the spoon as a whole and see how everything is fitting together rather than become fixated on the one section he’s carving.
Finally, look at the number of different knife grips he uses through the process. The shaving mule allows Jarrod to use different tools which is important to save his hands when he’s production carving but when he’s carving with the knife he uses a wide range of grips for different jobs. This relieves the pressure on his hands and fingers as well as being better suited to achieving carving different shapes. On my spoon carving courses I teach five knife grips for efficient working so you can do the same. Beginners often get stuck when they first learn to carve and use just a single carving grip for the whole spoon. I like his method for carving the ‘off’ side of the handle and the ‘can-opener’ grip at 5:30 is something I’ll be trying more of myself.
Jarrod makes beautiful work including spoons, bowls and birch bark boxes while his wife April is an accomplished ash splint basket maker, check out their website to see it all http://www.woodspiritgallery.com/
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