Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Nice Diversion!

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Today I'm stepping away from the cerebral stresses of lovespoon design so that I can get back to the more elemental pleasures of playing with wood and heavy tools that go 'thwack' when you use them!
Laura and I are on the prowl for a nice piece of wood for the Eisteddfod spoon so I thought I would have a look at some broadleaf maple I have been storing for a couple of years.The wood is still in log form, so I am going to split out some little planks with a mallet and froe. This is the same method used by roofers to make shingles and shakes. Basically it involves whalloping a sturdy steel blade (the froe) with a lead or heavy wood mallet to drive it through the block and split off slabs.

Sometimes it is easier said than done... especially if there are hidden knots inside the block. Ultimately though, it gives the best slab of wood for carving as the direction the piece splits shows exactly how the grain of the wood is running within the tree.

If things go to plan and the block isn't harbouring any unwanted annoyances, the slab will separate nice and neatly and you will be left with a fairly tidy piece of carvable wood!

Once the board is separated from the block, it can be leveled and cleaned-up as desired, either by some judicious axe-work or by running it over the jointer. Because I am ever-so-slightly lazy, I generally opt for the jointer, but if I am feeling 'back to the landish' I will sometimes use the axe or a hand held plane to tidy things up.
With the board nicely planed, I can get a really good look at the grain and check to see if there is any figure to it or anything of interest. Most carvers prefer to have pretty plain and uniform grain so that the wood will be more predicable and the carving goes easier. Because I have always been obtuse, I like it to have some figure and some zing to the grain pattern. This generally means I get a bit more of a fight from the wood, but the end results are generally worth the tussle! In this case, the wood is fairly uniform in its grain orientation and there isn't much in the way of figure, but it has some spalting (fine dark lines) which might go well with our design. We'll see how Laura feels about it and will compare it to some nice pieces of myrtle wood she has just been given. Although I am a big fan of maple, the thought of myrtle wood for a spoon destined for Oregon has some allure too. Stay tuned!
And please also consider making a donation to the Left Coast Eisteddfod. Your contribution (no matter how big or small) will help produce this exciting Welsh cultural event and will give you the opportunity to win the completed spoon!!
- Dave


  1. Whoa, the raw, primordial, evolutionary pre-steps of the spoon! We get to see where the slab of wood comes from.

  2. Dave, you're the MAN there splitting wood! Shouldn't you be in your steel-toed boots with that? ;)

  3. No problems Gaabi!! They're steel toed runners!!