Sunday, March 29, 2020

carving spoons from a recently limbed street tree

while on my morning jog today, i found this limbed tree near my house with a few promising branches. i don't know what the species is, but the limbs looked pretty fresh. so after returning home from the run, i rolled out on my bicycle with my ryoba saw to cut a few useful sections for spoon carving. i wish i snapped a shot of the tree and it's leaves. it's actually a pretty nice carving wood in green.

My first spoon from the wood was not so well planned, as it had the pith running through the handle. good practice tho.

this other spoon i made today originates from a crook in one of the branches where there was a bifurcation off the leader branch. the fibers all run collinear with the crank in the spoon. it's something i have not had a lot of experience with, carving directly from the tree, but for me i receive good feedback from the grain in the wood to "tell" my knife where to go. this also means you can't just apply a "spoon template" to the wood and force it to obey the lines. you have to flow with it and let the spoon emerge from the wood. believe me: hours can pass in the blink of an eye while engaged in this work.
got a few cuts on my thumbs over the past few weeks, so today i'm applying some athletic tape to just add a little extra protection. it's helpful.
the new kuska knife made short work of this green wood. with both edges of the hook being sharp, it has numerous hand positioning and force direction possibilities. i'm still learning this tool, but so far, very happy to have it in my kit
The rest of the photos are just showing the roughing out of these pieces.

a soup ladle in poplar

had a few thick billets of poplar from my bed project. i thought, being poplar, that it'd be super easy to carve, but it was much harder than what i expected. possibly due to being so dry?
i used a 3/8" forstner bit with my drill to hog out most of the bowl. here, i'm using a long-handled hook knife (used with two hands).
From here on, it's small refinements getting this spoon to its final shape.
Marc, my neighbor, brought a spoon he carved from apricot wood decades a few decades ago when he was in NM.

Friday, March 27, 2020

an attempt at a fork to go with the spoon

these are eatin' size utensils. my colleague steve said i should branch into forks so here it goes. the tines are pretty delicate, but they are wider in profile than they are in plan view. maybe they will last. better keep that steak below medium-rare

Monday, March 23, 2020

a fork to stand up to the spoon

I decided to make a fork in a similar shape to the spatula from earlier, and then this might become utencils for serving vegetables/salads.

question of the afternoon: 3 or 4 fingers?

i went with 4, but briefly ended up with 3

a bit of cleaving, and i've established where this thing is going
concluded. i don't like the shape of the tines. their length is also kinda precarious. It would be much more sturdy if they were flowing with the grain along a crook. just gotta see how it goes.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Sapele Kitchen Utencils

after carving a few pieces of hard maple from the shop, I wanted something a little less severe, but not as soft as poplar. There were a few off cuts of sapele hanging around. While it might seem hard, it actually carves nicely. not nearly as soft as the poplar I was carving yesterday, but it still works easily with hand tools. The grain can be a bit squirrelly, reversing against your knife. It takes a bit of feel to know when to stop and cut from the other direction.

Over the week, as we all have dealt with our new restrictions, I've noticed more people outside walking, sometimes saying "hi" or just a hand wave. Sometimes we talk. Yesterday, a pair strolled by, a parent/guardian/aunt/grandma and a 10 year old on a skateboard. The kid paused and watched from the curb at me carving on the porch. We said "hi" and they continued on. Today they were passing on the other side of the street, same deal with the skateboarder, and noticed me on the porch. I waved them over.

It's awkward because normally one would want to at least be able to hold the spoon I was carving, just to get a feel. Or even, take a hold of the sloyd knives, or chisels. But it's not OK these days and so they step onto the porch, I welcome them and we keep some distance. The child's name is "Gus" and his guardian's name is "Dia" and we spend some time talking about what I'm doing with all this spoon work, and it's quite clear that Gus is very compelled by the obscure tools and how they could form a useful object from all the shavings on the deck. His favorite class in school right now is dance (Hip Hop). I let them know that they are welcome to stop by for some spoon carving introductions once "all this blows over".

I kinda like the look of my porch these days.

paring the shallow taper of the work's underside goes pretty easily just with a 3/4" chisel
when narrowing down stock, making small cross-grain stop cuts ease the hewing process. The ryoba saw i'm using has the rip teeth going cross grain. This is the vanity of taking photos of my work instead of actually doing the work (-:
And now a progression of refinements. The sapele is actually a really nice wood for spoon carving. I have NO idea if it can impose any flavor on what I'm cooking with. hopefully not.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Another afternoon on the front porch

I got this offcut of poplar ("Piedmont Poplar?") from Lawrence Gandsey while out on a jog a while ago. His workshop sits right behind Lanesplitter's pizza in Oakland. I'd catch glimpses into this shop every time I'd pass by. There is gigantic silhouette from an old band saw in the window and other machines. The windows had custom grilles welded up to look like vines. Anyway, while on that jog, I saw the roll-up door open and there was activity inside. Mr. Gandsey was actually working on what appeared to be a large slab table, and noticed me stopped in my tracks looking inside with a cowed expression. He invited me in and after introductions asked what kind of wood working I did. At the time I was making spoons of various sorts and led with that. So he set aside a box of offcuts a few days later. All sorts of local species, and more. Hard maple, black walnut, Australian blood wood...all for spoon carving, etc.

Today, I pulled one of my saw horses out onto the front porch after working from home, and began a spoochula out of the poplar. All non-essential gatherings of people have been shut down by the state, with most businesses closed. Personal distancing rules are in effect (6' by law). Lots of people were outside, walking the neighborhood, passing by while i was carving. They were walking dogs. walking restless kids. Or just walking themselves, lost in thought, getting out of the house for a bit. My neighbor Ari 2 doors down, we hardly talk, but this evening she was out for a stroll and we connected. She's a sign language interpreter, and all her work has been cancelled. Another neighbor, Dane, was walking his pit-bull and chihuahua. He's a general contractor with a few jobs in progress, but they've been paused indefinitely.

Joe D. wrote me about an earlier post showing a way to hold work in your lap using a loop of rope threaded into a plank that you support on your lap while seated. your feet keep tension on the line to provide a surprising amount of holding capability. it's also much less fatiguing this way.

This is where I left off for the day. Quite long of handle, but I kinda like the extra length for the way it feels.
Got a little too thin at one section. The wood is so soft, it's almost like balsa. Not sure how long I'll be able to use it for cooking, but this wood is great for carving without wearing myself out. Will have to look for more of this for just experimenting with.
Works fine on the frying pan tho
it's taller than the others a bit.
Paulo and Tux mid morning taking rest on the deck.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

17 March 2020

My last name is Tracy. I keep that in mind.
2 more eating utensils. first attempt at making forks. i think it's better to orient the grain to be quarter-sawn
With contact isolation enforced, I sent this photo to a couple friends via SMS text and "K" says it was green, so that's how I knew i was making a green 4 leaf clover.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

a little spoon in maple

made a spoon this afternoon on my front porch. just laid a few tools out front and used my ryoba saw, some gouges, my sloyd and hook knives, and went at it. waved to any folks passing by on the sidewalk.
the grain was kind of squirrelly on this one and wanderd a bit, but with no real pattern to follow, i let the knife's edge lead the way.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

hanging tough, mid march

Whenever I'm in a complex public situation, like the DMV, or the airport, or the pre-thanksgiving grocery store craze, I resort to a lyric of a song from the bluegrass group, Old Crow Medicine Show: "we're all in this together". It's an aphorism that must have started when civilization did. In my mind, it may be the essence of why the golden rule exists in the first place.

This is Friday, March 13th. It is the first day that our laboratory has asked all non-wetlab personnel to stay home and work from there to reduce the virus exposure. For me, I've felt like having cantilevered backwards, weightless, over some giant space of unknown. The main draw I have to this company is the teamwork, and how much I adore my team mates, and working with them closely. But if my staying home and off public transit reduces risk to the production lab, so be it. I will do what i can from my home console.

I live in Oakland, CA, USA, where patchy clouds and fog would break before noon. Jasmine has it's first big expression of flowers this time of year, and the back trellis is heaving with the buds in various states of bloom. The scent escapes words in the still air of morning.

The cats love to draw out into the back yard after their morning feeding. They tentatively step onto the deck, smell the air, and move out. Here, Tux is with his haunches low in a very cautious stance, I think because a neighbor's tom has beat him up a bit over the last few months (no signs of him today).
Paulo, the fluffier one, is the big brother. He's actually been pretty good about sticking together with Tux and protecting him.
The apple tree out back, which had been here before we moved in, is still productive. I pruned it in January, and it's now sprouting some growth buds. While talking to my dad in the morning, he said that he and mom developed a pruning system to maximize southern light exposure to the canopy. This tree naturally leans south, but my pruning method had never taken into consideration the orientation of our latitude to the sun. The farm where I grew up on, and where he still lives, is at 48deg latitude, and more critical to southern exposure than here. But still, it maximizes sun exposure. Dad made satellites for a living and understands much more intrinsically about how we are just specks, a thin film coating a spinning rock, orbiting one of uncountable suns. maybe next year I'll work on that pruning technique.

For practicality's sake, I return to my own hands to guide the way when my head is unsure where to go next. These hands tend to the practice of making stuff, and i think they especially favor sloyd craft.

My dear cycling friend, Takumi, was able to bring his two daughters, Mia and Isa by as school was closed. They have nascent interest in carving spoons from a video I forwarded to Takumi of peter galbert reviewing his techniques and why he does this. They were curious where one might be able to begin with this sort of craft.

Today, we are using soft pine as an introductory wood for carving. It's softer than other woods, but that makes it more accessible. With a coat of bee's wax, i think they will be OK for just general use as eating spoons. Soups and oatmeal and so-forth.

I'm trying to come up with the simplest spoon carving system possible. no band saws. no big iron vices. work-holding that is improvised and accessible. a shave horse or spoon mule appliance would be great, but it's still a bit more work than what i want to accomplish here, which is to inspire some creative, lateral thinking. yeah, the appliances can help you make things more efficiently, for sure! but today, with all that we are worrying about and underlying stressors, maybe slowing it down a bit and just taking smaller bites out of the wood at a time is the best recipe. can you relate?

We practiced 3 different knife strokes today. two are used around the neck of the bowl as it transitions to the handle. you have to carefully pare towards you and away from you in a controlled fashion. there are ways to do this safely as long as you abide by a few basic rules. the main one being, no part of you should be down wind of where that blade is going.

Here's Isa, working on the spoon. We only practiced on one spoon today, but the idea is that they all will make their own spoons.

And now here's Mia taking a turn. This was the week of March 14th (3.14). the kids celebrate Pi the entire week, and Mia is wearing a Henna inscription on her hand in observance. pretty cool i think (-:
And now, Dad
I'm working on some low-end work holding ideas so that there's lateral support of the piece for hogging out the bowl. I think maybe just a few wedges, tapped in with a mallet, could suffice.