wood for spoon carving

Choosing the Best Wood for Spoon Carving

Best Wood for Spoon Carving: A Guide to Choosing the Right Type

Understanding Wood for Spoon Carving

When carving a spoon, especially with hand tools, you want to pick a wood type that finds the perfect balance between ease of carving and durability of the final spoon.  I’ve identified several woods that I find to be the best of both worlds.  There are thousands of different woods throughout the world, so I also have a Janka Hardness range that makes the perfect wood for spoon carving.  Read on to learn more!

Types of Wood for Spoon Carving – Softwoods, Hardwoods, Fruitwood

When it comes to choosing the best wood for spoon carving, it’s essential to understand the different types of wood available. Soft woods, such as pine and cedar, are easier to carve but are not as durable as hardwoods.

Hardwoods, such as oak, birch, and maple, are more challenging to carve but are more durable and long-lasting. Fruitwood, such as apple and cherry, is also a popular choice for spoon carving due to its unique grain patterns and color.

Grain Direction of Wood

The grain direction of the wood is also crucial when it comes to carving spoons. The grain refers to the direction of the wood fibers, and it can affect the strength and durability of the spoon. When carving spoons, it’s essential to carve with the grain to prevent the wood from splitting or breaking. The grain direction can also affect the appearance of the spoon, as it can create unique patterns and textures.

Moisture Content

The moisture content of the wood is another critical factor to consider when carving spoons. Green wood, which is freshly cut and still has a high moisture content, is easier to carve than dry wood. However, green wood can warp and crack as it dries, which can affect the durability of the spoon. Dry wood, on the other hand, is more challenging to carve but is more stable and less likely to warp or crack.

Here’s a spoon I carved several years ago…as green wood. I learned my lesson, as it dried the spoon created some curvature along the handle. Oops! But, as I state in the photo, it is actually kind of nice for a right-handed cook!

wood for spoon carving

Janka Hardness

The Janka hardness of the wood is a measure of its resistance to indentation. A higher Janka hardness means that the wood is harder and more durable, while a lower Janka hardness means that the wood is softer and less durable.

When choosing the best wood for spoon carving, it’s essential to consider the Janka hardness of the wood to ensure that it’s durable enough to withstand regular use.  I have found that the sweet spot for Janka Hardness of wood for spoon carving is between 700 lbf and 1010 lbf – this covers soft maple to black walnut and much more in between.

Remember that understanding the different types of wood, grain direction, moisture content, and Janka hardness is crucial when choosing the best wood for spoon carving. By considering these factors, you can select a piece of wood that is easy to carve, durable, and long-lasting.

Choosing the Right Wood for Spoon Carving

When it comes to spoon carving, choosing the right type of wood is crucial. Not all woods are created equal, and selecting the right one can make all the difference in the final product. In this section, I will discuss some of the best woods for spoon carving and what makes them a good choice.

Fruit Trees

Fruit trees are a popular choice for spoon carving because of their tight grain and hardness. Apple wood, in particular, is highly recommended for spoon carving due to its fine texture and durability, but it is a very hard wood and challenging to carve with hand tools. 

Cherry trees are also a good option, as they have a beautiful grain pattern and are relatively easy to carve while maintaining durability.

Maple Woods

Maple woods, such as silver maple, soft maple, and red maple, are another good choice for spoon carving. Maple is a hard, dense wood that is easy to carve and has a tight grain that resists splintering. Soft maple is a bit easier to work with than hard maple, making it a good choice for beginners.

Birch and Walnut for Spoon Carving

Birch and walnut are two other harder woods that are well-suited for spoon carving. Paper birch is a popular choice because it is lightweight and easy to carve, while black walnut has a beautiful grain and is very durable.

When choosing the right wood for spoon carving, it’s important to consider the hardness, texture, and grain pattern of the wood. A good choice of wood will be easy to carve, durable, and have a tight grain that resists splintering. By selecting the right wood, you can create beautiful and functional spoons that will last for years to come.

Carving Your First Spoon

Hand Tools

When it comes to carving your first spoon, hand tools are the way to go. Using hand tools allows you to have more control over the carving process and helps you develop your skills as a carver. The three essential hand tools you’ll need are a sloyd knife, a hook knife, and a straight knife.

The sloyd knife is used for roughing out the spoon’s shape and creating bevels. The hook knife is used for carving the concave shape of the spoon’s bowl. The straight knife is used for refining the shape and adding detail.

wood for spoon carving

Power Tools

While power tools can be useful for some aspects of woodworking, they are not recommended for carving your first spoon. Using power tools can be dangerous and can lead to injury if not used properly.

Spoon Blanks

When starting out, it’s best to use a pre-made spoon blank. Spoon blanks are pre-cut pieces of wood that are already the rough shape of a spoon. This allows you to focus on the carving process without having to worry about shaping the wood.

When choosing a spoon blank, look for one with straight grain and minimal knots. The grain of the wood should run parallel to the spoon’s shape, which is known as the end grain.

Carving Process

Before you begin carving, it’s important to have a design in mind. Sketch out the shape of your spoon on paper and use it as a guide while carving.

Start by using the sloyd knife to rough out the shape of the spoon. Make sure to carve with the grain of the wood. Once the rough shape is complete, use the hook knife to carve the concave shape of the bowl of the spoon.

Next, use the straight knife to refine the shape and add detail. Make sure to keep your knives sharp to ensure clean cuts.

Remember to take your time and be patient while carving your first spoon. It may not turn out perfect, but with practice, you’ll be able to create your own wooden spoon in no time.

Finishing the Spoon

Oiling and Finishing

Once the spoon is carved, it’s time to add a finish to protect and enhance the wood. There are many options for finishing a spoon, but some of the most popular include raw linseed oil, walnut oil, mineral oil, olive oil, coconut oil, flax seed oil. Each of these oils has its own unique properties, and it’s important to choose the one that is best suited for your specific needs.

I personally prefer using raw linseed oil or walnut oil for finishing my spoons. Both of these oils provide a beautiful finish and are food safe. Raw linseed oil is a great choice for spoons that will be used frequently, as it dries to a hard finish that is resistant to wear and tear. Walnut oil, on the other hand, is a bit softer and provides a more natural look to the wood. DO NOT USE Boiled Linseed Oil if the spoon will be in contact with food. Boiled Linseed Oil is NOT food-safe; however, RAW linseed oil is food-safe.

Before applying any oil, make sure the spoon is completely clean and dry. Then, using a clean cloth, apply a thin layer of oil to the entire spoon. Let the oil soak in for a few minutes, then wipe off any excess with a clean cloth. Repeat this process until the spoon has the desired level of finish.

Smooth Finish

In addition to oiling, it’s important to achieve a smooth finish on the spoon. A smooth finish not only looks great, but it also makes the spoon more comfortable to use. To achieve a smooth finish, start by sanding the spoon with a coarse grit sandpaper, such as 120 grit. Then, move up to a finer grit sandpaper, such as 220 grit or even 320 grit, and sand the spoon again. Repeat this process with even finer grits until the spoon has a smooth finish.

It’s important to note that the type of wood used for the spoon can affect the smoothness of the finish. Woods with a fine grain, such as cherry or maple, are easier to achieve a smooth finish on than woods with a coarser grain, such as oak.

Finishing a spoon is an important step in the spoon carving process. Choosing the right oil and achieving a smooth finish can make all the difference in the final product.

What’s Next?

I’ve laid out several wood types that are great wood for spoon carving. Remember to look for a wood type that is between 700 lbf and 1010 lbf on the Janka Hardness scale and you’ll be in good shape. If you want to go deeper into a few of the woods I described above, check out our articles on spoon carving with these woods:

Spoon carving with Birch

Spoon carving with Oak

Spoon carving with Pine – a soft spoon wood, best for beginners!

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