Sylva Spoon


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. 

Wonky Sweet Chestnut Spoon

Tom Bartlett2 Comments
This came from a naturally bent branch I came across in my local woodland. After splitting out the blank I decided that the handle should follow the flow of the grain.

I often finding myself working hard to maintain symmetry in the work I do. This was a fun diversion. Jogge Sundqvist, a brilliant woodworker from Sweden said that 'form follows fiber'. It wouldn't have been too difficult to cut across the grain and create a straight(er) handle, but as the curve of the bowl was already waiting in the wood to be revealed, I wanted the shape of the handle to emerge naturally too. I also wanted to keep the bark on. I'm not sure how long it will stay on, but I like the way it adds to the natural shape of the spoon, a utensil already in a branch, ready to be released with a few simple tools.


Tom BartlettComment


Most of the carving I do could easily be done with three tools: an axe, a knife and a curved 'spoon knife' or gouge. However I have about ten different tools in fairly regular use:

From left to right they are as follows: HK bent gouge (40-90), Laplander folding saw, Mora 120, Mora 106, HK right handed spoon knife, custom Ben Orford sloyd knife and Nic Westermann chip carver. 

These are my more heavy duty wood removal tools. A HK 50mm adze, Svante Djarv Little Viking axe and Gransfors Bruks Wildlife hatchet. Below it is my Ben Orford Woodlander with the SD Little Viking Axe.  I'll be writing some detailed reviews of each of these tools over the coming weeks.

New knives

Tom BartlettComment

Here are a couple of knives from the fantastic blacksmith and all-round nice guy Ben Orford. They are both handled with apple wood and the blades are 01 tool steel. I really like the handle on the sloyd knife (the smaller of the two), but I've found myself using the larger 'woodlander' more often. With a full tang, it's a very strong knife, allowing me to make big, powerful cuts with confidence. Recently I've been doing a lot of my carving indoors, so this knife is able to quickly remove wood in areas where I might otherwise use an axe.
Aside from being very functional items, I find both of these knives to be aesthetically great and incredibly comfortable to use for extended periods.