Four Methods to Cutting a Wooden Spoon Blank

There are four easy methods to rough cutting your wood carving spoon blank – bench knife, coping saw, draw knife, and scroll saw.  Your bench knife or coping saw work wonderfully on thin woods that are under 3/4″ thick, and soft woods as basswood.  Go to your scroll saw or draw knife for thick, 1″ or more blanks and for your hardwoods as walnut and cherry.

Previous Posts in this Spoon Carving Series
The Art of Spoon Carving
Discover why I carve spoons!
Spoon, Fork, and Ladle Styles for Wood Carving, Traditional Spoon Styles and Shapes.

Spoon Carving Supply List

Basswood spoon blanks – I personally shop EBay.com for my basswood blanks.  I can see the exact bundle of wood that I am bidding or buying.  Plus it is easy to find thicker and wider wood and un-planed , rough-sawn wood blanks that are perfect to bent handled spoons.  You can any carving wood to create decorative spoons, but I prefer basswood especially when I am working on a new design or shape.

The Art of Spoon Carving by L S Irish
10″ length Coping Saw
Coping Saw Blades
Clutch Style Bar Clamp
Heavy Duty Anti-Slip Mat
Flexcut 3″ Straight Drawknife
Cut Resistant Gloves
Wood Carving Chisel Tool Set (8 Pcs)
Ryobi 16 in. Corded Scroll Saw
Pin End Scroll Saw Blade Assortment
PFEIL “Swiss Made” Made Roughing Knife
Flexcut Carving Tools, Carving Knife Set, Set of 4

Bench Knife

Every wood carving tool set should contain a high-quality bench knife or large chip carving knife.  This tool is the main stay of our craft and you can accomplish almost all your carving strokes with just a bench knife.  I personally prefer a large chip carving knife as my bench knife because it puts my hand closer to the wood.

bench knife cutting a wood spoon blankThe bench knife can be used to cut the general shape of your spoon. Work the cutting edge of the knife with the direction of the wood grain of your basswood blank as much as possible.

rough out cutting a wood spoon blankTake thin slivers of wood with each cut by keeping the blade angle low to the wood. Taking too deep a cut at the beginning of the stroke can cause your knife to bind up as it goes deeper into the wood. If this happens simply
back the knife out of the deep cut and re-cut along the sliver taking a more shallow, thin approach.

chip knife cutting a wooden spoon carving blankCurves can be cut by first creating a series of push cuts towards the center point of the curve. Reverse the spoon blank in your hand and make a second series of push cuts to release the first.

chip knife cutting a wooden spoon carving blank

Work along the sides of the template patterns to free the spoon shape from the blank.

chip knife cutting a wooden spoon carving blankThe bench knife is the slowest – most time consuming – of the four methods to rough cutting your spoon blank, yet it remains my favorite.  A bench knife rough-out can take several hours but for me it is a time spent quietly, and slowly enjoying moving a sharp knife across the wood.

Coping Saw

The coping saw is a great woodworking tool that you can use to quickly reduce your wood blank into your rough cut spoon. The saw hold a scroll saw blade between two widely spaced arms, giving you plenty or room to cut tight, intrigue curves along the edges of your spoon shape.

Using a coping sawCreate a chipboard template of your spoon pattern. Lay the template onto your carving block and using a marking pen.

Four methods to cutting a wood carving spoon blankTo use a coping saw for your rough cut steps you will need to secure your wood blank to a non-moving, non-rocking surface with plenty of open space to work the saw. Around my studio the most solid surface is my porch
railing.

Because the wood blank for this project is thin stock, 1/2” thick, sandwich the wood blank between two scrap basswood boards. This gives the back side of the wood blank added strength during the cutting process and protects the wood blank from clamp marks.

Wrap a wide piece of non-skid kitchen mat around the outside of the wood sandwich. Place the sandwich on your secure surface and clamp into place.

four ways to wood carve a spoon blankCoping saw blades come in a variety of tooth patterns, shapes, and spacing between teeth. A general, all-purpose cutting blade works well for most spoon projects.

At the end of each arm of your coping saw is a small levered screw that can be loosen to open the hole that will hold the end of the saw blade. Set the blade into your coping saw with the blade teeth pointed down or into the cut as you work a push stroke.

four ways to carve a spoon blankThe coping saw cuts on the down stroke and is held at a right angle to your work surface to create as straight a cut wall as possible.

 

cutting a wood spoon blank with a coping sawWhen you have completed cutting one side of your wedding spoon, remove the spoon blank from the clamps and re-position the blank so that you can cut the second side.

 

Draw Knife

The draw knife is a two handled, flexible straight blade that is used to rough cut the spoon shape from your wood blank.  The blade has a chiseled edge that when pulled along the wood blank, working with the wood grain, removes long, thin slices quickly.  I will note here that if you are a walking stick, hiking stick, or cane carver a draw knife becomes a ‘must have’ for easy stick shaping.

using a draw knife for spoon carving

You will need a strong, secure base onto which you can clamp your wood blank during the draw knife session.  Because this is a two-handed grip tool you can put a great deal of power and pressure into each cutting stroke which can rock a light weight table or work bench.

The work bench in my studio is too light weight to handle the power pulls of a draw knife, but the porch rail, just off the back door, has the strength I need so that the energy of each cut goes directly into cutting the blank.

I clamp my wood blank to the top rail with non-skid mats and a clutch bar clamp, about 18″ from the railing corner.  The corner post gives the railing the strength and the 18″ space gives me elbow room to work.

using a draw knife to cut your wood spoon blankThe draw knife works best on wood blanks that have been cut with a straight grain lines that are parallel to the cut edge of the blank.  The long, powerful strokes tend to find and flow with the grain and can pop-out large pieces of wood or split the blank along the grain.

Find and mark the grain direction of your wood blank with a marking pen or dark pencil.  Lay your spoon pattern onto the wood aligned with that grain line.  A draw knife follows the grain of the wood closely.

using a draw knife in wood carvingThe pull stroke, working the cutting edge towards you, is a smooth natural motion that will quickly shape your blank.  Note that I use an opposing hand grip on the handles of the draw knife.  I find that I have more control over the straightness of the stroke and can easily roll the blade over the rounding spoon handle shape evenly.

draw knife wooden spoon blankPush strokes can also be made with a draw knife.  In the photo, above, a push stroke cuts from the handle area into the handle/bowl curved joint.

draw knife wood carvingIf you are working extra-thick wood – 5/4’s and above – or want to cut several spoon blanks at once to later carving, the draw knife makes quick work of the rough-out stage of carving.  The four top spoons, shown above, were all rough cut using a draw knife in one carving session that lasted just a tad bit more than an hour.

 

Scroll Saw

Using a scroll saw to cut your spoon blanks makes creating any rough-cut spoon blank quick and simple. The steps, directions, and instructions to using a scroll saw to cut your carving or pyrography blanks is featured in an in-depth project – Cross Crafting Seminar – an eight page project with free patterns, here on LSIrish.com.

scroll saw cutting a wood spoon blankThe Cross Crafting Seminar is an eight page posting which explores the basics to scroll saw use, how to cut your spoon blanks, and free Lora S Irish patterns for a salad spoon, salad fork, and cut-out Wood Spirit Face.

scroll saw cutting a wood carving spoon blank

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