Making Traditional Welsh Lovespoons
By Nansi Hemming (Email)

      Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) has traditionally been the wood of choice in Wales for spoon making of both the practical and decorative kinds.  It is close grained, a pleasure to carve, does not adsorb flavours and responds well to repeated washing and drying.  Decorative spoons have been made of any wood available, some of the finest being made of Yew (Taxus baccata) Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) Oak (Quercus petraea/robur) Laburnum (Laburnum anagyroids) thorn and other fruit woods, particularly Wild Cherry.

      The profile is drawn onto the side of the sawn wooden block.  Square ness and accuracy in marking out is critical, particularly for chains and captive balls. The profile is cut with a band saw and the face sanded.  Then the bowl can be drawn on the face. The waste around the bowl is sawn off and the back ot the bowl shaped ensuring symmetry using the saw and/or a Surform type tool.  The inside of the bowl is carved with gouges, holding the square block of the shank firmly in a suitable vice. Other carvers prefer to hold the spoon in one hand, usually gloved, and then carve the inner bowl using a "scorp" type knife (i.e. one with a tightly curved blade).  Cut outs and delicate shaping within the silhouette of the design can be done with a fret or scroll saw and/or with various drills.   The shaping and detail is carved with chisel or knife.  Each carver having their own favorite tools. Still holding the block in the vise the spoon shank can be cut out with a coping or band saw.  Using a sharp knife shape the back of the bowl where it meets the neck and tidy any edge detail. 

       For a good finish always ensure chisels and knives are very sharp, polish finished on a leather strop with fine grinding paste.  Then sand going up through grades of garnet paper and finishing with flour, the finest. For an even finer finish go over with a burnisher (Rounded piece of very hard wood, e.g. boxwood)  Finally wax with beeswax polish, applied with a toothbrush and polished off with a lint free cloth.

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by Mary Evans

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