Sylva Spoon

Knife

Tool-roll: Mora (Frost) 106 Carving Knife

Tom BartlettComment

Probably the best wood working knife out there at this price. 

From the Frost (Mora) website:

Our woodcarving knives are well known and appreciated precision tools that are used by wood carvers in Nusnäs, for example. This is where one of Sweden’s most recognized national symbols – the Dala Horse – is carved.
Woodcarving knive with a thin, tapered blade of laminated steel. Oiled birchwood handle. Plastic sheath.Blade Thickness:2,7mmBlade Length:82 mmTotal Length:188mm

The Mora 106 is a brilliant woodworking knife, whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just beginning. The first thing that I think makes the 106 great is that it’s a cheap knife, but is top quality. The laminated steel blade takes a razor’s edge without a great deal of effort, and holds it. The barrel shaped birch handle, whilst plain, is comfortable to hold in a variety of grips.

The shape of the blade is really what makes it a winner for me. It tapers to a thin point, great for delicate curves or kolrossing. The stick tang goes all the way through the handle, allowing you to make bigger, more powerful cuts. I prefer this longer, thinner blade to the Mora 120 (another great woodcarving knife from Mora at a similar price).

The plastic sheath supplied with the knife is cheap and cheerful, protecting the edge but with no real style or grace. If the knife isn’t pushed solidly enough into the plastic sheath it can fall out. If the knife if wedged in too tightly, just trying to pull it straight out can be dangerous when the sheath suddenly releases its grasp. A much safer way is to twist the handle, jiggling it as you gently pull it out.

The birch handle is symmetrical, which means you can’t tell where the edge of the blade is by just gripping the handle. If you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, this shouldn’t poise a problem. However I have rested my thumb on the edge of the blade by accident on a couple of occasions. However, the handle is easily customized.

The 106 blades are also available without a handle, allowing you to make your own. 

106 blade fitted into an oak handle I made myself.

London's Carving Workshops

Tom Bartlett1 Comment
I recently held a couple of carving workshops in London. One near Old Street and another in Victoria Park. Both of them were great fun and they kind of surprised me with how eager people were to learn crafts.

Both of the workshops were a part of Keep Britain Tidy's Waste less, Live more Week. The week was themed 'Be Resourceful' with daily challenges. The first challenge was 'Make it' and that was where my workshops came in.

While I spend most of my time making spoons, butter spreaders are a better project to start with as they only need a knife and are less complicated objects to make.





I split billets of cherry ready for the event.



I also brought along some thin sticks for people to practice the various cuts with. 



For the workshop in Old Street, I took bookings and the seven spaces available filled up very quickly. 




Very impressed by some of the work they were able to produce in the short time available to them.


The Victoria Park workshop was slightly different. There's a patch of land currently being turned into an outdoor classroom/community garden. I was there to help encourage people to get involved in that project. 


I was set up next to one of the park's entrances and sat there whittling away to get peoples interest. 


Over the course of about three hours I had seven people take part in some carving. Three of them were children, whose behaviour and attention to instruction I was very impressed with. 


It did feel a little strange to be in east London handing out knives to people! Fortunately we didn't have any accidents, just several happy folk who now know a little more about woodwork!


The workshops in Victoria Park might become a regular, monthly event, so if you live near there, let me know and I'll send you the details of the next workshop once the details have been sorted out. 

Butter Spreaders

Tom BartlettComment
When I'm not carving things or out in the woods, I'm usually found in an office in London working on Eco-Schools for the charity Keep Britain Tidy. Each year in September Keep Britain Tidy has a Waste Less Live More week. Last year the theme for the week was food and food waste. This year the week is running from 22 - 28 September and the theme is 'Be Resourceful'
To encourage people to be resourceful and to raise awareness that what's good for the environment is good for us, I decided to teach people how to carve wooden butter spreaders, a nice introduction to green woodworking. 


In preparation for the workshops I thought I'd give myself a bit of a refresher, as it's been a while since I've done spreaders. I had a nice round of cherry left over from the bits of wood I hauled away from Spoonfest

Using an axe and a wooden club I split the round in half, and half again, until I had eight pieces of wood to work with.



I sketched out a rough design on them. I made each one was slightly different to experiment with the design a little. I went back and forth between using the axe to rough them out and solely using a knife. Some of the pieces of wood benefited from being split again, especially if I was just using the knife. 


I ended up with 11 spreaders. It didn't take too long to make these. It was good to do them as it highlighted which knife grips would be the most beneficial to use, the areas where learners might have trouble and how thick to split the blanks.


I'll be running a couple of workshops in London (one near Old Street Station and one in Tower Hamlet's Victoria Park). If you're part of an organisation in London or south Essex and are interested in receiving one of these workshops as part of the Waste Less Live More week, please get in touch (tom.bartlett@keepbritaintidy.org

A Spot of Decoration

Tom BartlettComment
Inspired by the  designs and work of Simon Hill, I decided to do a little more spoon decorating. Here I've drawn out the pattern on the spoon handle.



Carefully I cut along the lines at a slight angle in one direction, then at the opposite angle, cutting a 'v' shaped groove. A small piece of wood is removed from each line.


I made small incisions, not removing any material, to create a darker line. To help the decoration stand out I rubbed coffee grounds into the design.


After speaking with Simon Hill and how he does his work, I think I need to slow down and do a little at a time if I want crisper, more uniform, designs.

An adventure into Welsh dolphin spoons

Tom Bartlett4 Comments

On Friday I made this spoon from a purple plum branch and shared it in a Facebook spoon carving group. I've mentioned before that the group is a great source of help and inspiration and the following spoon making journey is proof of that. 




Jojo Wood, a fantastic spoon carver, whose work I admire, asked if the above spoon was inspired by the dolphin spoons made by a chap called Owen Thomas

I'm not particularly familiar with Owen's work and his dolphin spoons didn't feature as inspiration for the above spoon (turns out he was an apprentice of Barn the Spoon and does really nice bowls as well as making spoons). The above spoon was a bit of a mash up of aspoon I received from Jojo, a cherry spoon I bought from Jane Mickelborough and my own creative meanderings. 

However I had a look at the link to Owen's work that Jojo supplied:

Owen's dolphin spoons
In the description of these spoons, Owen says:
Initially influenced by the traditional Welsh dolphin spoons, these have developed into a shape of their own. 
For me, these spoons have moved quite a way from the traditional Welsh dolphin spoon design. I'd really like to have a chat with Owen at Spoonfest next weekend to find out more about the journey his spoon design went on.

Traditional dolphin spoons from Caernarvonshire, Wales

For me, the biggest difference between what Owen has developed and the original dolphin spoons is that the dorsal fin-like ridge has disappeared from Owen's design:
Side profile of Owen's dolphin spoons
I actually quite like the look of the traditional ridge, and the aquatic shape it gives to the spoons. I ended up doing quite a bit of desk-based research into the traditional dolphin spoonand they all seem to share that ridge and a wide, up-swept end to the handle.

So, the inspiration for this spoon comes directly from the traditional Welsh dolphin spoon, but via a comment by Jojo Wood, the work of Owen Thomas and a spoon I carved that had nothing to do with a certain aquatic mammal.



I used some purple plum branch wood for this spoon. Traditionally they seem to be mainly sycamore, but plum is what I've got, so plum is what I use. 


The design is based on the various images of traditional Welsh dolphin spoons I found. I drew it off-centre due to the asymmetrical shape of the branch wood. 


Here's the top view after rough shaping with the axe.


For me, the key feature of a dolphin spoon is in the profile view, the top of the thin stem is raised, akin to a dolphin's dorsal fin, and the wide, flat end of the handle mimics the dolphin's tail. 


The bottom of the spoon roughed out, following the pencil lines as closely as possible. 


Here's the spoon after I've finished with most of the axe work. I did some rough shaping of the underside of the bowl with the axe before moving onto the knife work. 


Here is my finished dolphin spoon, the bowl on this traditional Welsh design hollowed out with a traditional Welsh tool, the twca cam


The side profile shows the raised 'dorsal' stem. I feel that I could have done more to exaggerate the lift at the end of the handle, but the upward sweep is there. Not bad for my first attempt.


It actually felt nice to carve a traditional design native to the UK after focusing on Swedish style spoons for so long. I think I'll have a look into other traditional British designs. If you have any suggestions for traditional British spoon styles, please let me know.