Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spatulas, spoons and bowls

This week was devoted to spatulas, spoons and bowls, which some of you will recognize as the first three assignments from Paul Sellers' DVD course.  The spoons and spatulas were made using just a few handtools and were quick, fun and not difficult:

I was particularly pleased with the spoon because my attempt to produce a nice grain pattern worked out.  I had never used a gouge before and this was a nice introduction.

The bowl was more challenging.  My first attempt was mediocre so I decided to try again.  I have a lot of alder, which carves easily and works well for practice pieces, so I laid out two concentric ovals corresponding to the inside and outside of the edge of the bowl.  I then drilled half a dozen small reference holes one inch in from the inside oval and one inch deep.  They really helped a lot.  Carving down to the bottoms of them gave me a nice uniform edge.  This is where I was when the bell rang:

I am pretty pleased with this for a second effort.  In fact, I am going to go ahead and finish it, even though alder isn't a good wood for bowls.  I decided near the end that I wanted to leave the gouge marks, so I tried to create a fairly regular pattern.  Making this bowl was fun and very instructive, though it was a lot of material to remove with just a gouge.  If I did this on a regular basis, I think I would want a small scorp or inshave.

I definitely lucked out choosing a great 1" #8 sweep gouge from Ashley Isles.  They are still handmade in England to very high standards.  As I posted previously, my big concern was sharpening it.  Paul Sellers has a very quick and effective freehand technique but it reminds me of that grade school exercise where you pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time.  It's on the list.  Kari Hultman of The Village Carpenter had a suggestion that appealed to me:
If you buy a new gouge, do yourself a favor—hone it right away and hone it frequently during use. Do this, and you'll never have to sharpen it with anything other than a strop.
She even posted a video demonstrating her technique.  I decided I could make it even easier by adapting a honing method from Sellers.  I used the gouge to carve the profile of its bevel on the edge of a piece of wood:

I also found a dowel that matched the inner profile.  Originally I planned to charge the wood with honing compound, but I found that I could stretch leather across both to create more effective hones.

I strop regularly and so far have been able to keep the gouge very sharp.  If I do need to sharpen it, I can use sandpaper on the profiles.  That's the plan anyway.

The main disadvantage of this method is that it only works for one gouge.  Right now I only have one, so that's not a problem.  Eventually, I think it's necessary to learn to use flat hones and stones to maintain your gouges.


  1. Great looking utensils! Can I ask why you chose a 1" #8 sweep gouge? I emailed Paul a while back and he suggested a 1 1/4" #7 sweep. What do you prefer about yours?

  2. Darren,

    I have no experience with gouges and bought only one for now. I asked Tools for Working Wood for a recommendation for a good general purpose size/sweep and mine is what they recommended. Although I am happy with my choice, I can see that yours would have some advantages in cutting a wider and shallower profile. I think the idea is to get a larger one with a substantial sweep. If I really get into using gouges I can see that I would need a variety of sweeps and sizes.