Carving sweetgum spoons

Segment of sweetgum limb debarked and waiting to be split with the axe.

Segment of sweetgum limb debarked and waiting to be split with the axe.

I’ve been carving spoons from sweetgum this week.

The wood was given to me friend who collected a couple of sweetgum branches while out running. The sweetgum tree was being taken down as part of a homeowner’s efforts to clear trees in anticipation of hurricane season. My friend knew I like to “rescue” parts of trees that are being removed but are in good tree health.

I’ve never worked with sweetgum before. As with any new wood I work with, I enjoy learning about the wood’s qualities and personality.

I made four spoons to celebrate July 4th, wanting to get the wood at least roughly shaped while the wood was still green. Green wood is wet and easier to carve. (Note that I said “easier” but not easy.)

Two sweetgum spoons to be left to dry for a few days

Two sweetgum spoons to be left to dry for a few days

I used my Robinwood axe to shape the four spoons. I then used two knives (a morakniv 106 and a morakniv 164 bowl knife) to finish shaping two of the spoons.

I carved the bowl of the spoon first and then followed the grain of the wood for the handle.

Debarking and spitting 4 large branches would give me 8 spoons.  But after debarking the branches, splitting them, and shaping four spoons with the axe, and carving two spoons fully with my sloyd knives, I considered this plenty of activity for the hot, humid, Florida summer day. The other two rough shaped spoons I wrapped and placed in the freezer to help them keep their water content for carving later.

Two spoons are sitting on the kitchen counter drying. After day two of drying, the grain is becoming a real feature of the two spoons. They have some pretty red streaks coming through. Neither the grain nor the coloring was present when the wood was wet.

Bowls of the spoons showing color from the wood as they dry

Bowls of the spoons showing color from the wood as they dry

By day three of drying, the spoons are much lighter. Just the right weight for stirring a pot of soup or serving veggies. When the spoons are totally dry, I will refine the shape a bit more, and soften the edges before soaking in oil for a day.

Next week, I’ll get to those other two spoons in the freezer. I’ll add these spoons to my collection that I’ll be selling at an art festival next fall.

With the effort handling axes and knives when carving spoons from tree limbs, I certainly shouldn’t put off making spoons to sell the week before the festival!

It’s been fun to carve a few spoons. There’s a real joy to reading the wood to find what is the best shape to emerge from what you have been given by the tree.

I haven’t been carving lately as I’m getting ready to display a collection of my pen, ink and watercolor art at a local restaurant. Stay tuned for more info on that show.

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