In a long-term survival situation, you may need to fashion your own cooking and eating tools from whatever is available. This article will give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a spoon and bowl from wood that you can scavenge or find.
The wooden bowl and spoon are a good starting point for making tools as well as a useful introduction to wood carving. Carving them will teach you the primary skills you need to implement when creating other useful utensils. I suggest you start off with this basic project and then expand from there based on your personal needs.
This is a great skill for people of all ages. Kids find whittling fun and adults often find it relaxing so let’s get started!
The Humble Spoon And Bowl
Wooden spoons and bowls were some of the first tools carved by our ancient ancestors thousands of years ago. They were valued for their ability to help prepare, cook, and eat food. In modern times, we have the advantage of having metal tools and a seemingly endless supply of wood carving and whittling resources online that help us perfect our craft.
Essentials Tools And Materials
Project 1: How To Carve A Wooden Spoon
Choose Your Wood
It helps to choose a block where the fibers in the wood run straight and parallel. Basswood and other soft woods are common choices as they are easy to use and allow you to make precise cuts without needing to apply a lot of force.
Flatten The Wood
Begin by taking your axe/hatchet and evening out one side of the wood. You’ll need to refrain from striking the wood. Instead make precise and controlled cuts with the grain. Following this, use your knife and continue making controlled push cuts until the grain is even enough to draw the outline of a spoon on the flat side of the wood.
A push cut is a whittling technique where the carver holds the object being carved in their off hand and the knife in their dominant hand while making strokes away from themselves to remove the desired amount of wood shavings from the block. In our case, it would be to make one side of the wood flat.
Draw Your Outline
Once you have the side flat, draw a rough outline of a spoon. Visualize how small or big you would like the spoon to be and make a rough sketch of it on to the wood. It doesn’t need to be nice and pretty, just obvious enough to give you a visual barrier throughout the guide.
Whatever knife you use, make sure it is SHARP! Dull knives become extremely susceptible to accidents when carving since they are more prone to slip and cause you to lose control. Take care of your tools and they will take care of you!
Shaping The Handle
After drawing your rough outline, you will want to position the wood vertically with the handle side pointed downwards. You are going to be carving with the grain so start removing material downwards with your knife.
The goal here is to remove wood shavings along the edge where the handle and the head of the spoon meet. Aim to remove small portions of wood instead of hacking off chunks. This will leave you with a larger margin of error should you slip.
Carving is all about maintaining control of the knife, this is necessary for the item being carved and for the safety of the carver.
Do not carve on the drawing or against the grain. If you go against the grain it could very well split the wood and ruin it. Leave just enough space, about a 1/2 inch, between the edge of the wood and the outline of the spoon.
Take care of your tools and they will take care of you!
Shaping The Spoon
Flip the spoon over so that the head of the spoon is now pointed down. Use your knife to make push cuts and thumb push cuts around the top part where the spoon head is located. Leave about an inch of space between the edge of the wood and the outline of the spoon. We will be drawing a line outside our previous rough drawing to determine the thickness of the edge.
Be careful carving end grain, this is where people are most likely to cut themselves. Stay mindful of where your hands are and how much tension you apply when making cuts.
Scooping The Spoon’s Bowl Out
With a hook knife, make controlled downward scoop cuts while pushing the blunt part of the hook blade with your thumb. Think of it as if you’re scooping ice cream from a bucket, at first you’ll need leverage from your other hand to get the initial scoops, and the further into the wood you get with the hook knife the easier it gets.
Eventually, the head of the spoon starts taking the shape of the hook knife. Afterwards, take a carving knife and do thumb push cuts to shave off the side material so it is flush with the outline.
Even out one of the sides flat enough to draw the spoon’s profile. Once the side profile outline is complete, carve off the excess material to finalize the shape of your spoon.
The final and most time consuming part is sanding down the project, which is to help create a more detailed and aesthetic finish to the final result. When you reach this step, ideally, you’ll use a low grit sandpaper, a medium grit, then a high grit.
I use a 400 grit to help get rid of all the uneven cuts, then an 800 grit to shape the spoon/bowl, and finally the 1200 grit to finish it all out so that it looks nice and clean.
Project 2: Making A Wooden Bowl
The steps in making a wooden bowl are quite similar to the steps explained for making the spoon. The tools we will use will be slightly different while the size and thickness of the piece of wood will be larger.
Generally when making a wooden bowl, as with the spoon, you start by selecting your wood. We can carve our bowl in any size or style we like, so choose a block that will match what you are going for.
Select The Right Wood Block and Tools
With enough time and dedication it is possible to make a wooden bowl out of nothing more than a straight carving knife, but that also requires more experience. I suggest starting out with the following tools:
Make A Rough Outline
The outline will be a guide as you remove bulk pieces from the wood during the first stage of carving. Use a tape measure to mark the desired thickness of the edge of the bowl, this will help maintain consistency all the way around. Once you attain measurements, draw an outline that connects all the marks into two concentric outlines. If you want a large bowl, then the lines should be about an inch apart.
Shape the inside of your bowl
With the adze tool, make downward cutting motions similar to when using a hatchet for removing large portions of wood. Don’t constantly cut one way, you will need to cut from opposite angles in order to evenly cut your bowl to a desired depth.
As you progress deeper, the cuts will need to be more precise to prevent from cutting too far.
Once you are happy with the depth you have carved, even out the inside as much as you can with the adze tool or a straight carving knife. Either work fine, but I prefer to switch over to a carving knife since it is more accurate, which makes this process easier.
Cut and carve the outside
Ensure that the wood is secured to your work surface and then begin to remove the outside wood carefully. You will be working towards the outline you drew on the top and the base of the bowl.
This carving should be done using push cuts with the carving knife. You can start off a little bit aggressive but make sure you rein it is as the outside of the bowl quickly starts to take shape. Ensure that you frequently check the thickness of the bottom and sides to keep things even. Make sure you do not punch through the wall of the bowl!
Again, one of the most time consuming steps, but necessary to remove all the uneven edges. You may use the same assembly of grits to sand it down that was mentioned for the spoon, moving from roughest to finest grit as you progress. A nice touch to add is melting beeswax and mineral oil together then lathering it over the wood brings a classic color to the final product.
As you can see, carving a spoon or bowl is a relatively easy task that does not require a lot of time, material, or money. People of all ages can master this skill, you never know when it may come in handy! I encourage you to give it a try and let me know how it goes. Good luck whittling!
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- Bushcraft Basics – A comprehensive overview of the discipline of bushcraft including how to get started, the tools you need, and project ideas. Click here to read the article.
- Woodworking Basics: Mastering The Essentials Of Craftsmanship – A great book on the subject that covers all the bases on getting started and tools needed. Click Here to check it out.
Have you ever carved a tool out of wood? What was it? Do you have any wood carving tips or tricks that you would like to share? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!
About The Author
Nathan Dobson operates a wood carving website that provides highest rated top quality recommendations for all things wood carving related. Includes reviews, how-to’s, wood carving guides, and everything else to help beginners start and veterans learn new techniques. Go to our website to see our top picks http://www.bestwoodcarvingtools.com/
Nathan began wood carving 6 years ago with just a basic pocket knife while camping. He ended up thoroughly enjoying the craft and learned everything he could about it. He’s come to learn various methods to carving wood while discovering the best techniques to give to those looking to start and even veterans like himself.