Old Spoon Videos

by | Jan 13, 2021 | 3 comments

I have a ball last weekend carving spoons with Peter Follanbee and am looking forward to this weekend’s class. Peter has everything – the deep voice, the big personality, mad skills and a flowing beard. What more could you want?

 went back and watched a couple of my favorite spoon videos. I like the juxtaposition between the two videos. The first fellow is working similarly to the way most of the modern ‘spooners’ work – few tools and no work-holding devices make for a wonderful minimalism. The fellow in the second video is set up to carve spoons the way most of us chairmakers are set up to make chairs – specialized tools, a shaving horse – the fellow is set up to make spoons by the thousands.

Filmed in 1998 in Romania, the first half of this video is a slideshow, but there’s still lots to see. It looks like Ion Constantin (the spoon carver) is using a single-bevel hatchet to hew his spoon out. He seems to use his bowl adz to deepen the neck of the spoon, where his ax wouldn’t fit because of it’s shape. Who would have thought!

Among all the old spoon videos I’ve seen, I am always struck by how small a spoon warrants the use of an adz. One missed blow would ruin the whole thing, but I can imagine the adz speeds things up considerably.

The video portion is great – he holds his seemly heavy ax by the very end of it’s handle. I would miss constantly if I held my ax like that, and at first glance it looks like his ax is going all over the place. But it’s not.  I like how he cuts the blank to length with a couple blows of his ax.

His knife work is swift, his knife large, his strokes fearless. He’d cut his palm open if he ever started slicing during he cuts when he’s cleaning the end of the bowl – I think the knife pushes into his palm during some of the cuts. Don’t try that one at home!

The second video is from 1956 in Denmark. Around the 2:30 mark we see him digging out his logs from….what? A pile of sawdust? Dirt (his poor tools!)?  Is he spalting the wood? 

At the 6:30 mark we see him splitting the blank with a splitting knife similar to the one Moxon illustrated in the 1600’s. I love all the patterns hanging on the wall.

It seems like his hatchet is a little small for the mammoth spoon he’s making (8:10). He uses a lot of the hewing tricks Follansbee taught in last week’s class – holding the blank on the corner of the stump to hew the transition from bowl to neck, using the tip of the ax to hew the inside of the bowl…  I guess it makes sense, since Follansbee learned from a Swede.

I use a drawknife quite often on my spoons, and now I feel justified! He wears a breast bib like I’ve seen coopers wear to help hold the spoon in his horse. Seems like a good idea. (12:00)

He uses an inshave to clean up the bowl, something I’ve never seen before (14:00). I bought a similar inshave on Ebay a few years ago and tried it on a chair seat, but it just didn’t fit. This seems like a great use for it – much easier on your hands than a hook knife, even if you can use a hook knife without cutting yourself (I can’t).  I wonder if I still have it?

He even has a similarly shaped scarper to scrape the bowl with. This man isn’t fooling around. None of these old spoon carvers seem ashamed of scraping. This fellow even has a woman who sands his spoons.  Maybe tool marks aren’t so special if everything in your house has tool marks…

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3 years ago

Hi! I am new to spoons and I almost felt guilty when thinking about using the drawknife for spoons! 😀 He is using it really a lot, and so I think, could I!

Josh Pinkston
3 years ago

Could burying the log in sawdust be the warmer weather version of sticking it in a snow bank to stay green?

Aaron Tobul
3 years ago
Reply to  Josh Pinkston

I think you are right. Sawdust was often used as insulation in icehouses, for example.

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