This weekend: lime-wood spoon & birch bark

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This weekend: lime-wood spoon & birch bark

Postby ToneWood » Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:59 pm

Lime-wood spoon

I was at a bit of a loose end yesterday (unusual) as I haven't got a bowl/kuksa blank at the moment (so can't try out the new bowlmate) and my "art deco" spoon blank went rock hard :(. So, I picked up a nice looking piece of lime-wood (AmE Basswood, a.k.a. Tilia/Linden) - which arrived with the log used for my fish ladle - split it and sketched out a new spoon design on it. I found this piece of lime-wood very nice to work with, even better than the fresher piece used for the fish ladle. Having sat in the garage for a couple of weeks with the bark on, it was less wet but still soft enough to work with but it exhibited none of the fibrous/stringy nature of the other piece - yet they likely were both cut from the same tree at the same time. So, perhaps lime-wood is better left to settle for a week or two?

Spoon 2 - lime-wood.jpg
Spoon 2 - lime-wood.jpg (162.79 KiB) Viewed 16533 times
Spoon 2 - lime-wood on block.jpg
Spoon 2 - lime-wood on block.jpg (88.58 KiB) Viewed 16533 times
Spoon 2 - lime-wood on block wi' lidl axe.jpg
Spoon 2 - lime-wood on block wi' lidl axe.jpg (126.98 KiB) Viewed 16533 times


Usually I carve an object over several short sessions. However the wood was in such good condition that I was able to make rapid progress, so I decided to plough on with it, rather than risk it drying out. Just as I thought things were going swimmingly well, I managed to embed my hook knife into my palm (again). Total injury count this weekend/spoon: 1 cut palm (nasty), 1 sliced side of finger tip (minor) and 1 gouged palm (from tip of sloyd knife, minor) + a blister blister and 3 grazed knuckles (don't even recall getting those.) Haven't had my hands in such a mess after a weekend since I first learnt to hand & fist jam up the highly abrasive, quartz-pebble speckled cracks in Peak District gritstone as a young climber - after a while you learn to place jams v. carefully, precisely and firmly, and weight them lightly and gradually, so they don't move (the American climbers just tape their hands instead).

Tip to self: Must remember to pre-cut a few large plasters (AmE. bandages) ahead of time and have them out for ready for rapid deployment! (Might help focus the mind too)

Birch Bark
I managed to find some birch bark at the weekend, it look a little more effort that expected to find some but not too much. While I found enough silver birch bark to make the main piece of an axe guard, I was unable to find long enough (circumference) pieces for the thinner wrapping strips. So I used lots of short strips instead. It's pretty messy to work with (it was wet & slimy Saturday) & looks pretty rough and likely to fall apart at the moment - like an incomplete birds nest :D - but I'm drying it out slowly in the garage - perhaps it will workout yet. I might try finding something else to use as wrapping strips. It fits and holds to axe quite well though, the folds in the main piece act like spring-leaves, gripping the axe head.
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Re: This weekend: lime-wood spoon & birch bark

Postby ToneWood » Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:50 pm

Not sure what to do next with the spoon - it looks a bit odd. Maybe:
* thin down the outside of the bowl significantly
* take out the dark pith from the handle (tricky - the handle is getting quite thin).
* slim down the broad handle more esp. closer to the bowl
The handle is skew whiff too (see last image above), not much I can do about that :( - maybe I could steam and bend it?
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Re: This weekend: lime-wood spoon & birch bark

Postby jarrod stonedahl » Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:21 pm

you can cut the bark off the tree in a spiral, then you will have longer pieces, but this is tricky. also try using some split or peeled roots, try any kind or root or even just twine.
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birch bark

Postby ToneWood » Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:54 pm

Thanks Jarrod. I like the roots idea. I saw Ray Mears use roots as improvised rope recently yet it had not occurred to me. The spiral idea is good too but it was quite tricky just getting the bark off without it falling apart. I was trying to avoid using string but perhaps if I could find some natural fibre (jute?) that suit the task; the old, pre-plastic, natural fibre bailer twine might have worked ok for this, perhaps gardening twine (pretty weak though & decays quite quickly).

Update: The birch bark axe guard is still drying but the short straps I have seem to being staying in place so far.
Last edited by ToneWood on Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:58 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: This weekend: lime-wood spoon & birch bark

Postby bulldawg_65 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:29 pm

Tone, you've got to be more careful. Otherwise your hands will start looking like mine! :D Not sure what you can do with that spoon. Just try to refine it I guess. BTW: Lime wood carves well dry or wet. You can do a real good job carving a spoon with it dry. Most lovespoons are carved out of dry lime.
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Re: This weekend: lime-wood spoon & birch bark

Postby gavin » Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:09 am

That Lidl axe - you can fettle the handle better. I see its surface is smooth and varnished.

    1. I'd recommend making a whole new handle from ash. The new handle's rough facets will sit positively in your hand and you'll find you'll shape the handle to fit the assymetry of your fingers and thumb. That assymetry gives a grip more resistant to rotation when the axe blow lands on the work. That means more accuracy and control, which means greater safety.

    2. At a Bodgers Ball, Ben Orford showed me a make-do alteration which will surprise you with its effectiveness. He had carved a few extra facets in the handle of his Gransfors ax . I was shocked at such sacrilege in altering an apparently-perfect object as the glorious Gransfors. And it makes a difference e.g. when you choke up on the handle and hold ax near the head, I find it better to have a little trough or groove ( parallel to the ax handle) for the thumb. You can easily mark it by putting charcoal on your thumb, and a little grease on the ax. Apply charcoall-ed thumb to handle as if you were about to swing ax, and you'll see where to take your curved knife to carve a groove which will be deepest at the inside of the first joint of the thumb. Repeat this for the little finger tip. Let us know how you get on. If you have a 2nd ax, then take pix of your process and share with us.
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Lime wood / basswood

Postby ToneWood » Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:54 am

Great posts - I wasn't sure if I'd get any responses to this thread so it is gratifying to pick-up so much new and useful information :).

Bulldawg, you've confirmed what I was beginning to suspect - that lime wood (basswood) is good to carve when completely dry, as well as when wet/green. I recalled seeing blocks of basswood for sale on US carving sites, I figured it would be difficult to source & sell fresh wood in that way. I see a bit of an unsatisfied niche for Ash wood in the UK - I guess the problem is partially that it makes very good firewood :(, however, it also make good chairs and axe handles. I've asked a chap in the village to make me a couple of chairs for the kitchen - he did a couple of chair-making courses in Shropshire (in the woods I think) after he took early retirement a couple of years ago. I like his work (he wins the craft category with his chairs each year at the village show) and they are similar to but more rustic than our old chairs, from the USA (good wooden furniture is often quite affordable in the US). However, he can't get the wood and so has said that if I can find him the ash he will make them for me.
Last edited by ToneWood on Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Axe/tool ergonomics

Postby ToneWood » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:23 am

Gavin, I like you ideas. You've obviously picked up on my desire to "hot rod"/optimize the Lidl's axe for carving. I don't think I could bring myself to replace the current handle yet, as it is perfectly functional and now feels good in my hand, and I actually quite like the rough appearance - but see what you mean, that horrible shiny polyurethane finish is still visibly present! Your suggestion for the thumb and finger groove ideas are "right up my street" though, I already did that to my spoons, ladle, fish-slice and billhook handle - of course I should do that my tools!

Spoon + Lidl ax.jpg
Spoon + Lidl ax.jpg (80.79 KiB) Viewed 16333 times


All that said, both the Gransfor's Swedish Carving axe and the Lidl's axe are already quite slim/narrow handled (perhaps too slim, narrow?) - cutting into the flat faces without weakening them might be challenging, possibly even counterproductive. I can see a case for perhaps slightly flattening the rather sharp (and for me) slightly obtrusive front of the Gransfor's handle, immediately behind the beard. I suspect this is modification which Wille made to a student's Gransfor axe when he taught a class at Woodland Craft Workshops in the USA, according to their website, but that is just my guess.

The flat facets are interesting. I notice that Gransfor Bruks themselves sell an (additional cost) "redwood carving handle" option - which looks similar to the design made by Robin Wood on the aforementioned thread. I've notice myself that a flat surface can sometimes help control a tool, although it didn't strike me that these very angular handles (which you'd think would be easier to make) would necessarily be an improvement. But I'll certainly give it a try - can always round it off later if it doesn't suit. The HK spoon knife has a distinctly flat, rounded profile (I think Ben Orford's are somewhat similar) - this allows you to feel where the cutting edge is pointing and turn the knife more easily - all good in theory but I guess it takes use and practice to benefit from that, I've twice cut my palm quite badly with the HK knife, despite having done more carving with the venerable Mora 164, which has a rounder, oval profile (which I didn't like at first but which I must concede works quite well).
Last edited by ToneWood on Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: This weekend: lime-wood spoon

Postby ToneWood » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:56 am

Steaming
The spoon has progressed somewhat. Although I'm still figuring out how it will go. I tried steaming and bending the skew whiff handle and I think it was reasonably successful. I also tried adding a curved up to the tail of the spoon but ended up damaging it - it was already too thin so I wasn't too worried about cutting that off entirely. I've hollowed out the spoon more - it is quite deep and wide now. Reduced the width of the handle and carefully hand-drilled a hole in the top. It'll need to dry some more before I can finish it.

Bling
There was a table-top (car boot) sale in the village yesterday. I picked up some big old 60s jewellery cheaply, which I was thinking of adding to my carvings - for extra...bling. I've tried placing a piece (circle just under 1" diameter of pseudo gold, navy enamel, gold, pearl) on this spoon and reactions here were positive - so I will probably stick that on somehow when I have finished it more. Wish now that I bought more of the bling. It's always hard to tell how these speculative ideas will work out. <Images to follow later>

Pattern
I'm thinking or carving a pattern into the broad part of the spoon but feel certain I will ruin it, so perhaps I will instead leave the bling as the only decoration, while I look into developing some decorative skill on scrap wood.

I was planning to give this spoon to my mother but my son took a real shine to it, so I will probably give it to him ("the wand chooses the wizard") and carve another for her.
Last edited by ToneWood on Sun May 06, 2012 6:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: This weekend: lime-wood spoon & birch bark

Postby bulldawg_65 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:42 pm

I know what you mean about fearing to ruin a spoon when you carve decorations in it. I had a pile of spoons I was planning to decorate but couldn't bring myself to do it for fear of screwing up all that work. Well, I purchased a book on chip carving and bought a mess load of thin cut bass wood and I have been teaching myself to chip carve. I've since developed a maker's mark and have decorated every spoon I have made that had enough room for a decoration. Have I ruined a couple, You would have expected me to, but no, any mistakes I've made just make my spoon look more "folksy".
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Re: This weekend: lime-wood spoon & birch bark

Postby ToneWood » Sun May 06, 2012 7:05 pm

Change my mind about the bling &/or decoration, my son likes his spoon w/o decoration. So I just added maker's mark, using my tri-cut fish spike, Kolrosing-fashion.
Spoon + maker's mark.jpg
Spoon + maker's mark.jpg (103.27 KiB) Viewed 16333 times

I oiled it twice and then waxed it with a warm mix of beeswax melted into linseed oil - great stuff, very yellow.
Front spoon, oiled & waxed.jpg
Front spoon, oiled & waxed.jpg (69.24 KiB) Viewed 16333 times
Spoon + waxed + maker's mark.jpg
Spoon + waxed + maker's mark.jpg (77.84 KiB) Viewed 16332 times

Spoon 2 profile waxed.jpg
Spoon 2 profile waxed.jpg (81.07 KiB) Viewed 16330 times

I had plenty of wax+linseed goop left over, so I waxed several other items too:
Spoon + fish ladle + Tonewood3 bowlmk2.jpg
Spoon + fish ladle + Tonewood3 bowlmk2.jpg (129.52 KiB) Viewed 16332 times
Spoon + all waxed.jpg
Spoon + all waxed.jpg (174.57 KiB) Viewed 16332 times
Last edited by ToneWood on Sun May 06, 2012 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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This weekend: slim spoon & spatula

Postby ToneWood » Sun May 06, 2012 7:57 pm

Slim-Spoon & Spatula
I was scratching around for some wood to carve this morning and found a v. slim piece of lime-wood (basswood). I've been thinking that I should carve a slimmer spoon so this seem like a good time to try - although this was narrower than I had planned to use. After splitting it (using my hookless billhook & froe mallet), I decided to use both pieces: the top as a simple spatula/fish-slice and the bottom for the slim spoon.
Slim spoon #3 & spatula.jpg
Slim spoon #3 & spatula.jpg (86.36 KiB) Viewed 16328 times

Kind of hard to see but there are 2 thumb dimples carved into the top of the spatula - and 2 grooves on the underside - to aid egg/omlette flipping :)

Hook-back spoon
Rather than drilling a hole in the spoon, I decided to try carving a hook on the back of the spoon - something I saw done in a picture of a class of spoon carvers (presumably a traditional Swedish design?). Anyway, I didn't have much thickness of wood to play with, so the hook on the back of mine is much flatter and less pronounced. It was fun/challenging but a little time-consuming. I am reasonably pleased with the result, for a first try - but where to hang that hook? :D
Slim spoon 3 & ladle back view + tools.jpg
Slim spoon 3 & ladle back view + tools.jpg (135.48 KiB) Viewed 16327 times


Because the wood was so slim, I decided to leave the central pith in the spoon and carved it out later; it ended up visible on the back of the spoon and goes through the hook. I decided to clean the pith out using a drill bit to extract the soft, dark core - so the hook has a little vertical tunnel running through it :).


They'll need to dry a while before I can finish them. I wanted these to be quick and simple which they were apart from the hook, which added interest for me.
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Simple homemade Kolrosing knife-pen

Postby ToneWood » Sun May 06, 2012 10:18 pm

I was curious to see if Kolrosing is for me, so I made a simple Kolrosing knife-pen by filing a broad cutting-edge onto a piece of steel bar, it is shown in the image below. The maker's mark and date shown below were cut with the homemade Kolrosing knife-pen and then overwritten with a carpenters' pencil (I figured graphite is much like coal dust but in a handier form, and it was to hand :)).
Slim spoon 3 & ladle + homemade Kolrosing knife-pen.jpg
Slim spoon 3 & ladle + homemade Kolrosing knife-pen.jpg (89.13 KiB) Viewed 16323 times

Only took about 5 minutes to make the simple knife-pen with files. The edge consist of 3 flat grinds: I probably should have angled the first plane, which determines the angle of the cutting edge, a little more acutely (making it longer & steeper) before filing the 2 planes that form the cutting edge. I might make another.

The "pen" cuts straight-lines very well, although not wide as I expected & hoped, as the wood swells straight back into the cut. I found drawing curves difficult - which is perhaps the crux of Kolrosing. I ended up making several straight cuts to approximate the curve of the 2's in the year date. However, I've seen video of an expert in the US and she draws curves, pivoting the "pen" around fingers/thumb - I guess I need to watch that again. It maybe that I need to tune the cutting edge too: curving the tip slightly might allow it to track round curves more readily, TBC.
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Re: This weekend: lime-wood spoon & birch bark

Postby ToneWood » Thu May 10, 2012 2:17 pm

jarrod stonedahl wrote:you can cut the bark off the tree in a spiral, then you will have longer pieces, but this is tricky. also try using some split or peeled roots, try any kind or root or even just twine.
Jarrod, I just came across your website/blog - I've been missing out! I see you know all about working with birch, and not just making sheaths. Reading this page, I can see that I made several mistakes - not least using bark from a dead tree. I thought removing bark from a live tree would kill it but you explain and show that ain't necessarily so. Love the bowls too - perfect. Have you ever made XC skis?

I see you live in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is great, felt more like home (rural) when I lived just over the border in northern Illinois (FIB). Although I think the furthest north I got (other than driving through to Minnesota & across the plains once) was Door County - quite Scandinavian around there :) . Have you visited the outdoor museum at Eagle, WI (near the IL border & Kettle Morraine)? It's brilliant but nobody seems to know about it. Its a "working museum" and they have little villages of old buildings from different ethnic communities around Wisconsin - including lots of different log cabins. We used to take our visitors from the UK there. Used to go up into Wisconsin quite often for various things.
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Re: This weekend: lime-wood spoon & birch bark

Postby jarrod stonedahl » Fri May 11, 2012 4:39 am

tonewood, don't know for sure what the birch is like there in the UK. i know it's thin, but flexible. yes healthy good growing trees can be peeled and not kill the tree....but still there are a lot of factors. yes your talking about old world wisconsin right? i know someone who works there. i don't go that far south very often...i heard it's a neat place. good luck with the sheaths.
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