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Choosing Wood for your Wooden Spoon Carving Project
When looking for your wooden spoon blanks consider some of the following:
If you are creating a spoon that is purely going to be presented as a sculpture form you should look for wood that may have an unusual grain, color or form. One of the most beautiful spoons that I've seen was made from the Douglas Fir joists of an old barn that used the gray, aged exterior of the wood as a decorative surface and had the bowl of the spoon carved away to expose the new, bright high contrast grain inside.
Spoons that are going straight into the kitchen or onto the dining room table have other considerations to keep in mind. More dense hardwoods such as the Birch family, Apple, Pear, and Maple make great general use kitchen utensils due to their specific gravity or weight per cubic inch when dried to a low moisture content.
Not all hardwoods are acceptable as kitchenware. Poplars (Aspen) don't work well due to the fact that they are a soft hardwood and Low specific gravity and won't take the abuse of everyday use. Oaks, Ash, and other open grained woods aren't good choices due to the fact that the wood grain itself has open pores that will retain food, fats and oils and soon turn rancid even after washing.
Choose wood that will be thick enough for your ladle or deep serving spoon or thin enough to make a butter paddle without having to carve down a log. Thin designs will benefit from using hard, dense wood such as maple or pear.
Pay attention to grain direction also. Carving a bend into a straight grained piece of wood will result in weakness if the structure of your spoon is not taken into consideration. If you are going to carve a bend in your design look for a piece of wood that has grain that will follow that form.
When looking at your piece of spoon wood, check for some of the undesirable defects in the wood such as any discoloration due to spalt, termite or beetle channels, rotten spots, large open cracks and checking, and missing knots. No one wants to see some of these things in the spoon about to serve the chef salad.
There are many different wood grain patterns within a tree. For example, the lower trunk of a large maple tree has grain compression that when carved and finished correctly looks like rippling water. The wood in a clump of Maples or Birch where the main trunks start to separate are choice pieces to carve. They are best carved while the are green because of the constantly changing grain direction.
Where to find it
Keep your eyes open. When you start to see pieces of wood as potential spoons, it's everywhere. Most pallets are made from Maple. Go to the fruit orchards in the fall when orchard growers are pruning or cleaning old trees out. Blowdowns after a storm, and clearcuts after a logging operation are opportunities for great pieces to add to your collection. Let people know that you are looking for that kind of wood and reward them with a handmade spoon.