Denise came and spent a day with me last week to learn to carve spoons. The day of one-to-one tuition was a Christmas present from her partner and so, after more than 2 months of anticipation, she was excited to get started. Even though she’d not worked with wood before I guessed that Denise would be good with her hands as she’s a bookbinder and, since she runs workshops herself, thought she’d also be a good student. I wasn’t wrong on either score and she was a pleasure to teach as well as good company.
Normally, I spend two days teaching people to carve spoons as there’s a lot to fit in and I want to spend enough time practising the techniques to get them right and so folk can remember them once they get home. Everything goes a bit quicker with just one person and with some modifications to the usual timetable I was confident we could get it all in.
We started as always with the axe which for most people is the most difficult tool as it requires strength as well as technique to use accurately. I was impressed by how Denise got on with but when, halfway through, she also admitted to being a drummer it became clearer why she had the forearm strength and good rhythm. We worked at different exercises to gain confidence and then develop the beginnings of accuracy.
After going through what I consider to be the fundamental grips for the straight knife we broke for some lunch. Denise was soon asking ‘What’s next?’ and the only real answer was ‘Okay, let’s make a spoon.’
I decided for this lesson to let Denise do the axework for her spoon with the proviso that, once her aim started to go or she felt her muscles complaining, I would take over. There’s no point in carrying on with axing if it means you are too tired for the knifework when it is a simple matter for me to finish off removing the waste. In the end, that wasn’t necessary and, apart from a couple of small refinements, the spoon is all her own work. I love to watch people learn to handle the tools, find the grain and enjoy those moments when their own experiences teach in practise what I’ve been explaining with words.
We had enough time to make a couple of decorative notches and refine the bevels of the handle for a handsome finished spoon that’s sure to be the first of many.