Wooden spoons are classic, timeless, and incredibly useful. They’re also easy to make on your own, regardless of your previous experience with wood carving (or lack thereof).
In this quick beginner’s guide, we’re going over all of the basics that you need to know about how to make a wooden spoon, including the spoon carving tools you need and how to pick out the best wood for the job. We’ve based this guide on this excellent Skillshare class, so if you’d like more details and in-depth visuals to go along with each step, check it out.
How to Get Started Spoon Carving
When it comes to carving, wood spoon projects are a great place to start. That’s because in addition to being an appropriate project for all skill levels, it also introduces you to the essential techniques behind wood carving—all of which you can use as takeaways for creating other types of pieces, such as hand carved stamps and gorgeous wooden book holders.
So, how do you start spoon carving? Here’s what to know.
Start Carving: Wooden Spoon Equipment and Materials You’ll Need
Before you begin, gather all of your must-have spoon carving tools. You don’t need much and there’s a good chance that you already have some of these tools at home, so it should be quite inexpensive to get everything that you need.
What tools do you use to carve a spoon?
- Chisel: A small chisel in various sizes is necessary for doing your carving work. For an affordable yet high quality chisel set, check out Japanese Sakura carpenter’s chisels, which are available at many art supply stores as well as online.
- Spoon gauge: If your chisel set doesn’t include a spoon gauge, you may need to buy one separately.
- Small fret saw or band saw: In the class, the instructor uses a u-shaped fret saw, a small, easy-to-maneuver saw that’s useful for cutting out the rounded shape of your spoon. A band saw is also a good choice.
- Wood: We’ll cover what wood is best for spoon carving below, but know that you’ll need a long rectangular block that’s not too deep and that is longer than the spoon you want to create. 20” x 2” x 1” is what’s used in the class.
- Sandpaper: You’ll want a few pieces of sandpaper in various grits ranging from smooth to rough. An 80, 100, and 220 piece of sandpaper is a good way to go.
- Linseed oil and a clean rag: This is for oiling your wooden spoon when you’re done carving. Linseed is ideal for this since it’s non-toxic and food-safe, but walnut oil and tung oil are also good choices. Don’t use any petroleum-based oils or oils that can go rancid, such as olive oil.
You’ll also want to have a pencil for tracing your design before cutting, some Scotch tape, a small clamp, and a spoon carving knife (any small and curved wood carving knife should fit the bill). You may want to have a stencil of your design so that you can be sure your design is symmetrical.
Note that if you’re looking into another sort of technique such as how to make a wooden spoon with a router or power tools, your tools will vary slightly. Make sure that you do your research ahead of time so that you have exactly what you need ready to go when you sit down to carve.
How to Choose What Wood to Use
Now let’s move on to another need-to-know essential: what wood is best for spoon carving?
Figuring out how to make a wooden spoon by hand is as much about choosing the right wood as it is the right spoon carving knife and technique. You’ll typically want to go with a hardwood variety such as black walnut, cherry, butternut, oak, or basswood, which will stand up well to use in the kitchen, particularly over time as your spoon is exposed to heat.
When you buy your wood, look for a piece that’s not just an optimal variety but that has a fine grain and few open pores. The smoother the piece, the easier it will be to work with and the more refined your finished spoon will look.
For the best selection and quality, skip the big box stores and look at smaller specialty wood crafting stores, many of which sell their products online. That being said, you can certainly buy wood from your local home improvement store when you’re just practicing and getting yourself used to the process.
Step 1: Draw and Cut Out Your Shape
The first step in how to make a wooden spoon is to stencil your design and then cut out the rough shape.
Wood spoon stencils might be a good place to start, but you can also freehand using pencil directly on your wood block. If you have an existing wood spoon that you’d like to emulate, trace it on your block and go from there. Likewise, if you use a paper stencil, use a couple tiny pieces of Scotch tape to secure the stencil in place before tracing so the image stays put.
Next, use your fret saw or band saw to cut out the outline of your spoon. Don’t worry about making it perfect at this point—you’ll use sandpaper to even out your edges in a later step.
Step 2: Carve Out the Center of Your Spoon
Now you have the general shape of your spoon, so it’s time to carve out the middle.
Clamp your spoon down to keep it steady, adjusting it as needed so that it’s at an angle you’re comfortable working with. Use your pencil to mark the inside edges, as well as to draw a line down and across the center of the space you’ve drawn. Begin to carve out the middle using your spoon gauge.
Don’t carve too deep right away. Instead, work slowly and methodically to peel away layers, keeping in mind that you’ll want the middle to dip in toward the center gradually. How deep you ultimately end up going with your spoon depends on what you intend to use the spoon for. If it’s a spoon for stirring, it doesn’t need to be very deep, but you will want some depth if you intend to use it for scooping or ladling.
Step 3: Carve the Back and Handle
At this point in carving, your wooden spoon might look a little bit clunky. You’ll thin it out at this step, using a straighter edged chisel to carve out first the back and then the handle until you reach your desired shape. Take out little strips at a time and, again, avoid going too deep at once.
Carve in the direction of the grain to maintain the integrity of your wood, and try to achieve an even thickness. Be sure to tackle the back before the handle to keep the piece as sturdy as possible as you work.
Step 4: Sand and Polish
Last up is using sandpaper and linseed oil to get your spoon nice and smooth. Start with a rough sandpaper (220 grit) and gradually work your way to the smoothest sandpaper (100 and 80 grit). Sand slowly and gently to ensure that your finish stays even.
Once your wooden spoon is smooth to the touch, you can use your clean rag to apply a thin coating of oil. As a final step, allow the oil to cure for 24 hours before you use your spoon.
How Long Does It Take to Carve a Spoon?
Carving a wooden spoon is a beginner-friendly project that can be completed in just a few hours. And the more you practice, the faster the process will get. Don’t be surprised, though, if your first carving attempt takes quite a while to complete—and don’t forget about that 24 hour curing time either.
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