The Best Spoon I’ve Ever Seen.

I’ve mentioned a time or two the greenwoodworking group on Facebook. It took a few days to get adjusted to the barrage of spoons and other woodcrafts on my newsfeed, but my brain quickly started making connections between certain craftspeople and the work that they produced. One name that kept popping up repeatedly alongside gorgeously sculpted eating spoons was Derek Sanderson. I soon found myself looking at my own spoons, and I realized that they seemed quite dull and lifeless in comparison to his.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the same movement in the side profile that Derek has so clearly perfected. One can only learn so much from a picture, so I decided to order one of his spoons to see where the magic was. It arrived a couple of weeks later, and I was not disappointed. This little cherry spoon is a miniature sculpture, every little detail well-conceived and well-executed. It is, without question, The Best Spoon I’ve Ever Seen.

Let me lay out my argument. First, consider the top profile – very fluid and shapely, though it’s also the easiest part to get right. What’s not as easy to get right is the depth and shape of the bowl, but he nails this as well. It’s quite shallow but very comfortable, like a lollipop. I like how the heartwood/sapwood contrast splits the spoon in half – a very nicely chosen material.

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The side profile is really what makes this spoon stand out. It is so active and organic – almost as if the neck is under tension. The lower curve nicely mimics the upper curve, though less dramatically. And look how cleanly the neck was shaved – since the grain reverses direction here, this is the toughest part of a spoon to cut cleanly. There isn’t a single raised fiber here, and this is completely knife-cut. No scraping or sanding.

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The curve of the back is lovely and lightly faceted. The curve of the handle mimics the curve of the bowl, which makes it very comfortable to hold. It also makes the opposite ends of the spoon seem cohesive. I’m not sure how to say what I’m thinking, other than both ends “match” one another – they are variations on one shape. I’ve always used strong facets and straight lines on the back of my handles, but I realize now that it is just not as comfortable. I’m going to start trying some curved backs now.

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There is even a little bit of flourish at the tip of the spoon – a bit of chip-carving just adds some individuality. Also notice the very subtle chamfers on the sides. Those flow uninterrupted around the whole spoon.

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One final parting shot: compare Derek’s spoon, at top, to one of my spoons, below. I was very happy with my spoon until I looked at it alongside a superior example!

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If I had but one criticism about this spoon, I would say that the bowl is just a tad wide. It’s fine for me, but I have a big mouth. I doubt the spoon would be as comfortable for my wife. That hasn’t been a problem, because I’m greedy and I’ve been keeping the spoon at my office to eat my oatmeal every morning. My family is stuck with my good-but-just-not-as-good eating spoons, I’m afraid.

I’m not connected with Derek in any way, other than as a satisfied customer. If you’d like to own one of these, you’ll have to get in touch with him on Facebook or on Instagram – I don’t believe he has a website (at least not that I could find).


One More Tool for the Windsor: A ‘Galbert’ Travisher.

As I was carving the seat last week, it became apparent that it would be difficult to achieve the surface quality that I was after by going straight from the inshave to the scraper. I really needed to add a travisher to my arsenal. I really can’t afford to buy one, and I had been hesitant to make one. It’s a complex tool, and the resources for building one from scratch are mostly nonexistent, so I was afraid I would be unable to make a functional tool without ever having seen one in person.

Ultimately, I realized that there were few other options, so I would just have to make my own. Elia Bizzarri sells travisher blades for the very reasonable price of $30, so I ordered one from him and in a few days it was at my doorstep. I was very pleased with the quality of the blade. The steel is substantial, and it comes with the bevel very well-ground to the proper angle. It’s not honed, but I can do that myself, no problem. It even comes with the threaded inserts and machine screws necessary to attach the blade to the wood – all I had to supply was the wood (I have plenty, just ask my wife!)

I started by googling “Galbert Travisher”and clicking on “Images”. This gave me a wide range of different shots that I could base the design on. I kept the images pulled up on my phone while I worked in the shop. It was a big help to have a handy reference for just about every angle of the tool, almost as good as a measured drawing.

Next I had to choose the wood. I thought about making it in Osage-orange to give it a little bit of bling, and because it’s incredibly hard-wearing. I quickly dismissed that idea, though, because I was afraid I would mess up my first attempt, and if I was going to mess up, I wanted to do it with a wood that was easy to work. I settled on cherry instead. Cherry is quite a bit softer, so it may wear out faster, but I figure if I have to make another body, I’ll do from a harder wood when I’m confident that I know what I’m doing.

Now, on to the build. It’s best explained in pictures, so my commentary will be minimal:

1-Cherry Planed
I started with a nice piece of 8/4 quartersawn cherry. A bit thick, really. 6/4 stock would probably be fine.
2-Travisher Layout
Having no pattern, I just used the blade itself to lay out the curves.
3-Travisher Sawing
I used a jigsaw to cut out the lower half of the travisher. I left the top intact to give me something to clamp while I fine-tune bottom.
4-Travisher Fairing
I used a spokeshave to shape the sole to match the blade.
5-Travisher Curve
Pretty close fit.
7-Travisher Throat Sawing
Then I laid out the throat and used a backsaw to define the sides.
8-Travisher Helper
My shop buddy wanted to help, so I gave her a ryoba saw to cut some kerfs in the waste section.
9-Travisher Throat Paring
Then I used a wide chisel to pare the throat smooth.
11-Travisher Blade Recess
With the throat smoothed out, I cut out a recess on both sides where the blade will be seated.
12-Travisher Screw Marking
Then I marked out the screw-holes,
13-Travisher Screw Inserts
Installed the threaded inserts,
14-Travisher Blade
And screwed the blade in place. I did a bit more refinement to get a consistent reveal around the throat. Once everything looked, good, it was time to shape the body.
15-Travisher Handle Drawknife
After sawing out the top with the jigsaw, I lost my flat reference surfaces, so work proceeded with the drawknife.
16-Travisher Handle Carving
Then I faired the whole body and cut the chamfers with my sloyd knife.
17-Travisher Complete
And there it is. A finished travisher.

Once the tool body was complete, I still had to sharpen the blade. I won’t go into detail here. Claire Minihan has already done that, and better than I could. With the blade razor-stinking-sharp, I re-installed it and gave the tool a test drive. I had to do a bit more fettling with the sole to get the proper reveal (the blade must project slightly above the sole, but not too much) and curve (the sole must be angled slightly so you’re able to carve a dished profile front-to-back).

Before long, I had the tool cutting oh-so sweetly. It’s a treasure to hear the sharp ‘snick’ of a finely honed blade slicing through wood.

18-Galbert Travisher at Work
Lovely, curly, consistent shavings are the fruits of a finely tuned tool.
19-Travisher Silky Surface
And the surface quality ain’t bad, either.


Making the Tools. Part II: The Rounding Plane

This post won’t be quite as long as the last, because frankly, the best instructions available for making a simple rounding plane are already on the internet. Just head over to Tim Manney’s blog and you’ll have one up and running in an hour or two (He calls it a tenon cutter – same thing).

I couldn’t help taking a few photos, though, just to prove that his process actually works. I briefly considered using more osage-orange to make a rounding plane that matches my reamer. But this process requires accurate planing, drilling, sawing, and reaming, so I decided a milder wood was in order. I dimensioned a 12″ length of cherry to 2 1/8″ (the width of my blade) by 3″ (enough width to clamp in my vice, but otherwise arbitrary).

I bored in a 5/8″ hole (since this will be the top diameter of the leg holes in my Windsor chair seats) about 3/8″ from the edge of the blank, and used my tapered reamer to cut the taper.

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Accuracy isn’t strictly necessary, but I decided to shoot for a perfectly vertical mortise as practice for actual chairmaking.
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It helps to have a skillful apprentice or two.
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The mortise turned out smoother than I expected!
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I used a flat-bladed plane to dial in the top surface until I had an even opening peaking through. Then I marked it out with a square and cut the throat about 1/4″ wide with a knife.
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I sharpened a spare spokeshave iron and clamped it down with a large wood screw and a washer. I planed the top down little-by-little and re-tested several times until I was able to pull a consistent, contruction-paper-thick shaving from turned beech. This sucker was dialed in and working beautifully.
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The tenon fit snugly in a sassafras mortise above…
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…And below.

Last step: Treat your apprentices to a walk in the woods and a Thermos full of hot chocolate.

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