How to Hand Carve a Wooden Spoon

Here’s the scoop — this is fun and easy!

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Next Project
Time

2 hours

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

$100 - $200

Introduction

Simple or fancy, a hand-carved spoon adds flair to your utensil collection. Spoon carving is something anyone can learn, and it can become a rewarding hobby. With a few simple tools and a few simple cuts, you can be on your way to carving an everyday utensil, a thoughtful gift or your next family heirloom.

Tools Required

  • Hook Knife
  • Straight Carving Knife

Materials Required

  • Bass wood
  • Butternut
  • Cherry
  • Red Gum

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Meet the Expert

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Charlie Eiler has been carving wood since he was six years old, teaching his first carving class at the ripe old age of 14. He’s now a lot older than that.

Project step-by-step (16)

Step 1

The Knives You Need

One straight knife

For most of my carving projects, I use a straight knife like this Flexcut roughing knife ($30 at Woodcraft). How a knife feels in your hand is more important than the brand. If you’re able, try before you buy.

One or two curved knives

For carving spoons, you need curved hook knives (about $45 each online). The right-handed knife is pulled toward your body with your right hand or pushed with your left. The left-handed knife works the opposite way. You may want both to work with changes in grain direction. Browse a complete list of the best whittling knives for all your woodworking projects.

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Step 2

Keep Your Knife Sharp

Woodworking knives aren’t the same as sharpening regular knives. Carvers use a secret weapon to keep their knives sharper longer — a strop.

Make a habit of routinely drawing your blade on the strop as you carve and you won’t have to go to the stone nearly as often.

Pro tip: I use a little oil on my leather strop.

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Step 3

Draw the Pattern

With a pencil, trace the pattern on a 3/4-in. thick wood blank.

  • Pro tip: If your pattern doesn’t fit the wood blank, trace the top and bottom of the profile, then draw the stem to fit.

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Step 4

Rough Cut the Blank

A band saw makes this step a breeze, but you can do the rough cut with a scroll saw or even by hand with a coping saw. Cut as close to the line as you can.

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Step 5

Carve the Inside of the Bowl

Carve the concave bowl of the spoon first. With a curved hook knife, start in the middle and work your way to 1/4-in. from the edge.

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Step 6

Match the Outside to the Inside

Once you’ve carved the inside bowl to the desired depth, start shaping the outside with the straight knife. Leave the bottom about 1/4-in. thick.

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Step 7

Thin the Lip

Taking small cuts, trim the inside edge of the spoon bowl to create a thin lip.

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Step 8

Ease the Handle’s Corners and Edges

Ease the edges on the back of the leaf with your straight knife. Use your opposing thumb to push the knife in short, repetetive cuts, creating a slightly rounded profile.

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Step 9

Groove the Center

Cut a groove down the center of the back with the knife tip. Draw it down one side, then come in from the opposite side to trim the “V” to the desired depth.

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Step 10

Carve the Top of the Leaf

Pressing at an angle, chip the scooped detail of the leaf petals. Cut one side, then the other, until you’ve achieved the desired shape.

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Step 11

Finish the Bottom of the Leaf

After the top is complete, carve the back with the same technique as the top.

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Step 12

Finish the Stem

With the pencil, shade in the areas to be cut off. Trim the bottom of the stem with a straight cut.

Cut the edges of the stem down to the handle of the spoon. Bevel the edges of the stem to your liking.

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Step 13

Sand it Smooth

Before finishing, I sand the inside bowl of my spoon with 220-grit sandpaper. Typically, I won’t sand any other part of the spoon. Remember, carvings don’t have to be perfect. Little flaws add character!

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Step 14

Patterns

The fun thing about patterns is, you can use one for the spoon bowl and another for the stem. Mix and match to create unique designs.

Feel free to use this one or come up with your own. Then share your results with us at [email protected].

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Step 15

Finishes

I use only one finish on spoons. Tung Oil Finish from MinWax is easy to use, dries fast and can be reapplied as often as needed.

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Step 16

Washing Your Spoons

Wash your spoons by hand, with only warm water and dish soap. Never put them in the dishwasher!