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best wood for a wooden spoon  RSS feed

 
Posts: 7
Location: Onalaska, Wa
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I thought I watched a video where Skeeter said that squawbrush made good spoons. Now I think that may have been a mistake. I made a spoon from said material and it does not smell pleasant. I may work up the courage to try and eat something on it.
 
Posts: 288
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
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could you use the cupping ?charicteristics of timber to assist with spoon making???
 
Posts: 171
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A while back Gene Logsdon posted an interesting piece on wooden spoon making on his Contrary Farmer blog, including his favourite woods.

http://thecontraryfarmer.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/making-wooden-kitchen-spoons-and-similar-utensils/
 
Posts: 83
Location: SW Wisconsin zone 4
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woodworking
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I'm with Max on this, green wood is the way to go for carving spoons. The main trick to avoid cracking is to carve to an even thickness. Thinner areas will dry quicker than the thicker parts and the unequal drying rates is what causes cracking. I'm not an spooncarver but am a woodturner who likes to turn mostly from green wood.

We use several tricks to avoid cracking, one I think would be good for utensils is boiling in water. This could be as soon as the utensil has been carved to rough shape, or if you are fast enough at carving, after it is close to finished shape. In the latter case, you only will need to do some finish carving and sanding to have a completed item.

You can just toss the carving in a pot of cold water if you can't finish the carving in one setting, but boiling seems to release the "bound" moisture in the wood, changing the cellular structure in a way that makes it easier for plain water to be released.

That's the way I've seen it explained anyway.

http://www.token.crwoodturner.com/
 
Posts: 26
Location: Southern Sweden (zone 7a)
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I personally prefer apple, as I find it fairly easy to carve when dry, generally has a nice straight grain as well. The not so hidden secret is maintaining sharp knives. Though my carving of spoons is infrequent, more just something to do for a special gift, I have carved numerous spoons over the years. Birch is also a fairly easy wood to carve, though it does yield to the 'fuzzies' after extended use, as mentioned in earlier posts. Pear wood is also a good choice. I particularly enjoy some of the color changes with the use of fruitwoods and often employ that it my designs as this one reflects...

 
Author
Posts: 20
Location: Snoqualmie Valley, Western Washington
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Here in the Pacific Northwest red alder was considered a favored wood for ladles historically because alder does not impart flavor. As noted in this thread I think that all green wood has the potential for cracking and most carvers I know wrap their alder carvings in plastic or a moist towel as they are working on them and make sure not to leave them in warm places (especially cars) while they cure. I've carved many alder ladles from pieces of firewood that is fairly dry and as long as my tools are sharp it goes fairly quickly. I've never had one of my ladles crack after curing so alder seems pretty stable.
 
Posts: 66
Location: Newbury, VT (Zone 4)
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All the spoon carvers I know carve them green -- usually Apple and Black Cherry. Taking care to prepare carving blanks that have good grain and wood fiber orientation, they rarely lose more than a few percent to excessive checking and warping, but that takes experience in reading the wood.

I'm not a big spoon maker, but do a lot of wood turning, and I must say, if you get to know the habits of wood, the drying, shrinking, warping and even checking become pretty predictable. I have friends who carve hundreds of spoons per year for farmers markets and craft shows, and they don't lose many because they have learned to work with the wood and respect its ways. With experience, you'll only rarely have a spoon bend in a way that surprises you, but it can happen. Wood was once -- and some would say is still -- alive, and it swells when it takes on moisture, and shrinks as it dries, so in manner of speaking it is still "breathing" many years after being cut from the tree.

I made a few spoons & spatulas years ago from some fresh-cut Apple, and air dried a number of spoon blanks, too. I ought to dig them out and try carving them now that they've been drying for 8 - 10 years... probably a lot harder work! I can still make nice spatulas with turned or carved handles, which might be the path of least resistance that I end up taking.
 
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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I'm very interested in the fact that American woodworkers all seem dead set against green wood working, while here (in the UK) everyone I know doing this kind of thing much prefers green wood. There are books, courses, a whole traditional craft centered around working with green wood. I've only done a few spoons, all with green wood, and had no cracks or problems with warping. My biggest problems were when the wood started drying out before I finished. It is SO much easier to carve nice soft, green wood. I tried to do a little whittling on a piece of dry cherrywood I had and it was impossible to carve with my spoonknife, and a struggle with a straight knife. I've made spoons out of apple and hazel, green, both were nice.
 
Brad Vietje
Posts: 66
Location: Newbury, VT (Zone 4)
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S. Carreg,

I think most American furniture makers are predisposed to kiln dried wood, but in the wood turning world, as well as spoon carving, most people us green wood. For bowls, it is most common to rough turn the bowls and such from green wood,leaving them a little thicker than their final dimension, then season these "rough-outs" for finish turning at a later date when air died. These rough-turned bowls shrink in width, but not in length, resulting in an oval bowl that usually has a wavy rim. These air-dried rough-turned bowls are then re-mounted and turned a second time to create round, functional bowls.

Another route practiced by many is to turn or carve to finished dimensions at one go with green wood, then sand and finish to create slightly out-of-round bowls or other objects. This works quite well if the crafts-person understands the limitations of the wood, and how it will shrink & warp, and if the thickness is uniform and the **** pith removed there will only rarely be significant losses due to excessive warping or checking. Some woods, such as Apple and Lilac tend to check a lot more than other woods, so these should be dried very slowly. Seasoning them in paper bags or waxing the end grain will help a lot. Wax can be scraped off later when the wood is dry, and using a cabinet scraper or similar is a great way to achieve a smooth finish anyway.

****Oddly enough, one of my spoon-carving friends and off-grid customers just called at this point in the above paragraph -- Small world!
 
Posts: 44
Location: Alaska
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The right piece of Larch/Tamarack/Hackmatack works well for those who are to far north to have those nice hardwoods. Many years ago one of my guides made me a doughnut turner and serving ladle with his crooked knife from a piece he found in the wood pile. Have lost track of the ladle, but still have that doughnut turner.
 
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From a permaculture standpoint, I love working green wood since it can be reduced from a tree to a finished utensil with a few simple hand tools... I do use a chain saw to get the tree down. Once on the ground and cut to the appropriate length, I use wedges and then a froe to quickly obtain a "blank" of suitable size. Next I use a hand ax, aka hewing hatchet or broad hatchet to quickly shape the piece. Finally I work with draw knife and spoke shave on the outside (of a bowl or spoon for instance). Inside I use a sculptors adz on spoons or bowl adz for bowls. I finish spoons with a spoon gouge and don't try to sand or carve away the resulting texture.

Understanding a few simple properties of wood greatly increases one's chances of being successful when working green wood. First, wood shrinks at different rates and amounts depending on grain orientation... radial, cross sectional and tangential. Wood shrinkage is small in the tangential plane (parallel to the bole of the tree) and can be ignored with respect to spoons or bowls. To overcome the problems that stem from the differential shrinkage of the radial and cross sectional plane, it's a good idea to stay as far from the pith of a tree as practical. I try to take bowls a couple inches from the heart and split spoons from the left over slab in the center. It's important to note any "starred heart" or cracks which originate in the heart of a tree. They can result in a readymade cracked bowl.

Wood dries most rapidly where the cells have been severed which would be the end of a log. One might think of cracking as nothing other than differential shrinkage. When a piece of wood cracks this is just the result of the cracked area drying more quickly than the un-cracked area. Facilitate the boards drying evenly and cracking is not an issue. Cracks almost always occur along the end grain because moisture escapes so quickly here. The rest of the board remains swollen with moisture and is unable to shrink and a crack results. Even thickness helps a lot in reducing cracking. Slowing drying of the end grain by some means can be effective. Bury finished implement in saw dust, place in unsealed plastic bag, wet end grain or coat ends with oil...I prefer mineral oil being inexpensive and non toxic. By all means remove the finished but unseasoned piece to a high humidity environment. Be careful to avoid mold which stains the wood. Mineral oil is a good choice for finished wooden ware though food grade oil that isn't subject to going rancid will produce a more attractive finish. Walnut or olive oil are good readily available choices.

As for the best wood, use what you have and try not to be dissuaded if you lack what some expert pronounces to be "best". Ease of carving, close grain structure( to avoid difficult cleaning), food compatibility, durability and beauty are among the considerations and there are lots of species that meet these criteria.
 
Posts: 1442
Location: Fennville MI
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S Carreg wrote:I'm very interested in the fact that American woodworkers all seem dead set against green wood working, while here (in the UK) everyone I know doing this kind of thing much prefers green wood. There are books, courses, a whole traditional craft centered around working with green wood. I've only done a few spoons, all with green wood, and had no cracks or problems with warping. My biggest problems were when the wood started drying out before I finished. It is SO much easier to carve nice soft, green wood. I tried to do a little whittling on a piece of dry cherrywood I had and it was impossible to carve with my spoonknife, and a struggle with a straight knife. I've made spoons out of apple and hazel, green, both were nice.



"All" is an overstatement. There is a healthy growing hand tool movement in the US and working green wood goes along with it nicely. If you check Peter Follansbee's blog, you'll see an American joiner who works entirely with green wood and can give you a glimpse into the green woodworking culture here in the States.

I think you may well be right that a larger percentage of British woodworkers work from green wood, but it just isn't true that no woodworkers in the USA are doing it
 
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For wood, living in the northwest USA, we have plenty of Pacific broad leaf maple that I use and am quite happy with. It is very common here, a close relative of east coast sugar maple. In fact, one can get maple syrup from these trees. And when I cut the wood on a band saw, some times I can smell something like maple syrup. This wood has a better consistency than cherry, another wood we have here, in that is is less prone to cracking, is less fiberous, and is a little softer than it's east coast cousin. I do things differently to make kitchen utensils and spoons. I split the rounds along formed cracks and use the wedges like they were quarter sawn. I cut rectangular cross section blanks to let them dry with one end smaller in cross section than the other for the shank and the bowl. Then, I draw the profile from side view of a spoon or something else and saw out the profile on the band saw. Then I do the same from the top view. Then I use a custom made rubber backed grinding pad with cloth coarse grit sand paper used for metal grinders, 80 grit, that is larger than the rubber disc, which gives me flexibility in how much solid pressure I use on the blank. I can vary the lathe speed that holds the disc to be slower than the usual overly aggressive speeds on most power equipment. Then I use rasps and files to begin smoothing the surfaces and get the final fine shape. Then I hand sand the shape and then carve out the bowl, sand and scrape the bowl, and then treat the wood with pure tung nut oil mixed half and half with orange peel oil you can get from Florida. I keep oiling the wood every half hour or so until it is saturated, about 4 times, and then put it in a toaster oven at 150 degrees to polimerize the tung oil inside the wood. Heating and UV light polymerizes tung oil, walnut oil, and other natural oils faster than just letting them sit. I then steel wool off the irregular coating on the wood, and coat it again, and perhaps one more time with a light steel wool working between coatings. The result is a hard surface resistant to water and oils, kind of shiny, and looks real nice. The longest time spent with the most labor is sanding and finishing, then carving out the hard dried wood bowl. Before carving the bowl, I use regular drills the right size to drill out the deepest part of the bowl as large as I can safely do this leaving about 1/8 inch material at the bottom. I then use the gouge to cut out a cone shape going with the gouge towards the center of the hole I drilled out. This sets the thickness of the bowl walls but I am sure to leave some material to clean out at the tip point where the drill drilled out the wood or it will leave a compressed mark in the wood at that spot. Wet woods do not work with grinding, rasps, and files because they clog up real fast with sap, etc. With hard wood that is dried, I can even use traditionally used files like Swiss needle files for detail and the wood will not clog up these files either. My goal is to try to make a living doing this, reclaiming wood that would other wise end up in the fire place, and make these items fast enough but still end up with good quality so the labor pays enough for us to get along. That is my system, but there are some tricks I do also that saves time, which is how to hold the spoons and utensils of all sizes and shapes and yet have use of both hands while carving and some times shaping the spoons, etc. Best wishes to you all. I am not a purist, I cannot afford it, so go ahead and be critical if you wish, at least I am not wasting perfectly great wood and I am sequestering some carbon to boot. I might add that I even discovered by accident that regular cooking oil used for frying, if put in a glass jar over the summer, will begin to turn opaque and polymerize in the jar from the UV light and heat! My next trick is to see if I can coat wood outside using partly solidified cooking oil that is on the way to polymerization to water proof the wood! Now, wouldn't that be fine? Water proof wood from used non-hydrogenated cooking oil to start with! We will see.
 
Posts: 146
Location: Ozarks
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chicken goat cooking solar tiny house
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I've got a book on country woodcraft and the guy carves spoons from seasoned wood, not green. He suggests the hardest wood known to mankind. Dogwood. Also used for golf clubs at one time.
 
andrew curr
Posts: 288
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
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Oliver with Black Locust wooden spoon,
The cupboard doors are also Black Locust, probably the only ones in OZ
 
Posts: 13
Location: Battle Creek, MI
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Wood carving is one of my many passions. I haven't dedicated as much time as I would like to (and therefore don't consider me an expert or anything) but I have carved my fair share of spoons, so I'll weigh in here. First, in all the research I have done on this (and believe me, I have read more about wooden utensils than I care to admit) I have only come to one definitive conclusion: there is no right answer to any question! From tool preference to wood preference, there is little consensus. Despite this, there are a few woods that are generally accepted as better than most others. Among these woods are apple, birch, and maple (in not particular order). I have personally carved all of these a few times, along with other woods as well, and I have to say I agree with the majority's view. Those woods are good. If I HAD to pick a best wood, it would be one of these (probably birch for me personally). The properties that make these good woods in my eyes are that they are strong, tight-grained, don't absorb moisture readily, don't impart flavor readily, and nice to carve, and look decent. However, there are some properties that they aren't the best for. For example, they aren't the most beautiful woods out there. They look really nice, but when compared to some of the exotic woods from around the world, they don't stand out. However, toxicity is a concern when dealing with exotic woods, and other factors as well (probably because most carvers don't know a lot about the woods that come from different places, and the carvers of those local areas aren't usually the ones with websites and books). My final point I would like to make is that most woods will work. I have carved a number of woods and while some have been better than others, if they get the job done and aren't toxic then I say they are worth a try.

P.S. Another hotly debated and widely questioned subject is finish. After much thought and a bit of experimenting I now prefer beeswax, walnut oil, or just keeping it raw. If anyone wants any more information about that I could write a whole paragraph about that alone, but unless someone requests that I'll end it here.
 
Peter Ellis
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Peter Follansbee is the joiner at Plymouth plantation. He has a terrific blog where he writes about his work recreating 17th century stools, chairs, chests, with carvings, using handtools. He also writes about birdwatching, his kids, baseball and carving wooden spoons. Peter knows much more than the average bear about working wood, writes well and shares pictures of his work and insights into how he does it.
Anyone interested in working wood should have a look.
He has, at least once, addressed the question of what woods are best and how to finish treenware so it is safe to use.
 
Posts: 484
Location: Englehart, Ontario, Canada
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If you want the ease of carving green wood treen but want it available right away it can be microwave dried. See http://mgorrow.tripod.com/microwave.html and there are numerous other sites giving instructions, one of the best is on http://thewows.myfamily.com/isapi.dll?c=home&htx=sitelogin&sid= I've provided the login page for that as you must sign up to see things but is is an amazing site. This gives you the best of both worlds, wood easy to work and able to use the product almost immediately.
 
Posts: 131
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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I used to do green wood bowls, but haven't done any real spoons. That said, I have followed the blogs of some spoonmakers (Do check out Robin Wood's work and blog) and for hand tool woodworking in general, unpluggedshop.com is a blog aggregator of hand tool blogs that are otherwise very difficult to find. Some of those people are turning out beautiful spoons.

Anyway, the best, most attractive spoons are usually made from green wood selected from "junk" wood chosen for the grain orientation. Drying them out is perfectly doable, but takes a bit of skill and a few spoons will be lost to cracks. That isn't all bad since a spoon that wouldn't have survived the drying process very possibly wouldn't survive regular use and abuse either. As for best wood species, it depends on your purposes, but generally for real world usable spoons, it is best to use woods that won't flavor the soup. Fine grain tends to make for easier cleaning also.
 
                                      
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I live in florida and orange trees are abundant.....they are great for carving spoons......As a rule any tree that has fruit, nuts, or thorns is a good candidate for spoons or making bows for that matter.....in regards to green vs seasoned wood....definitely carve green wood....once reduced to smaller dimensions the end grain is less likely to check as a split log left to dry.....and carving dry wood is way too much work
 
Posts: 152
Location: Connecticut
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Memory fails me but Peattite's Natural History of Trees I believe says Western Pine? I should have taken notes. I'll just read it again. Anyone who hasn't read please do yourself the favor.
 
Posts: 101
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I toured a spoon collection about 15 years ago in Corvallis OR; the guy traded woods around the world with people and he made spoons from them. The prettiest one was made from Poison Oak, a rainbow of color, reminded me of samples I've seen of S. African sumacs. (I would see if he's still above ground, except he doesn't actually USE the spoons, so I don't know if he'd have many woods to fully comment on) I think every place has favorite woods for particular uses, the problem these days is finding someone who knows the traditions. I once purchased a spoon in Mombasa which was made from Diospyros sapwood, with only one small black streak. Heavy, but very nice, tight grain and so no absorption of liquids. So I "wood" imagine that you could use D. virginiana, in the eastern USA,(it is used for golf club heads, and you can buy antique shuttles for machine looms made from it in New England) or Sapote negro in Mexico or Japanese persimmon where it has been planted. Alder was in the past used for bowls and platters on the NW Coast. Most of the larger members of the rose family have good. hard, tight grain wood: Amelanchier (saskatoon, shad plum, etc.) Hawthorn, Mt. Ash (Sorbus) should all work. I have seen Mt. Mahogany pipes- incredible wood, very hard rose family member, if you found a big one that was cut or fallen for some reason, I'd snap it up. (You wouldn't go around cutting down slow growing nitrogen fixing trees in a dryland now would you? yeah, a rose, but it fixes N I've heard)Cherry is a rose; wild cherry bark makes an EXCELLENT cough syrup. Not Toxic. Cherry used traditionally? go for it! (worst comes to worst, the cyanide compounds would just give a pleasant almond flavor The woods I have heard woodworkers caution about are the legumes: Golden Chain (Laburnum) Ironwood (Olneya)(Sonoran desert- threatened or endangered too) and others. They say "wear a respirator when you sand them!" But unless you boiled the sawdust you probably wouldn't get enough toxin to matter, because the wood is very hard. And very beautiful. If you're worried about green wood cracking, use green woodworking methods: SPLIT the stock out, not saw it. Use quarters or smaller, not whole trunk or branch. rough out the spoon, and set it to dry in a crawl space or basement, where temperature and humidity are as even as possible. Finish it in a year or two, when it's dry. Oak, Hickory, Black Locust are woods with large vessels which can absorb liquids. White Oak less than Black, hence the use of White Oak for barrels for liquid like whiskey. In the barrel, the end grain is not exposed to the liquid. I began making spoons when I lived on the Oregon Coast and picked up pieces of exotic driftwood, mostly tropical lumber from broken pallets, and I tried many woods, but knew no names.
 
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Research research research. I've done my fair share. To explain what the best wood for spoon carving is would take quite some time. There are variables to think about. The type or species first. In general all fruit trees are good to use in carving. Green wood is easier to carve than seasoned but it's all personal choice. I prefer green wood. Outside of fruit trees tight grained wood works well. OAK is bad news! Sycamore is a traditional wood used in England. Birth is used in Lapland. Different woods can be used. Just research. My favorite is cherry it's soft when green. Smells good when carving. Finishes hard and takes a polish an darkens with age. No matter what wood you use try to stay away from mixing heartwood and sapwood in the same piece. Making the bowl and handle thin will help prevent cracking. Orientation of the bowl plays a part in final shaping when the wood dries. Size of rounds you use will also determine your experience. Research robin wood, barn the spoon, peter Follansbee. There are so many great spoon makers out there and a ton of resources for anyone wantin to carve. Basic tool kits can be achieved for unde100$ but can go well into the 500$ and up range. I have a simple kit of just an axe spoon knife and carving knife.
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Cherry 2 finger scoop
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Sycamore serving spoon
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Sycamore cooking spoon
 
Rick Valley
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Sweet work Kyle, and gorgeous fotos. In English in England, sycamore is a maple. In "Merica, we took the lead of the leaf shape and named a different tree Sycamore.
I forgot to mention Olive wood- in the Mediterranean region, it's a traditional for kitchen utensils. I have been recently intrigued with Russian Olive- nice color, maybe a little soft, and Autumn Olive, which is very light in color.
 
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Is anyone able to help me on this type of wood? I think it is Cherry, but not really sure. Thanks
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Posts: 11
Location: San Luis Valley, CO zone 4, alpine desert, elevation 7500, average precip. 7.5"
greening the desert hugelkultur trees
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I have heard that persimmon is very hard and tight grained, it's used for golfclubs I believe...
 
Ken Grunke
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Jamie Stubbs wrote:Is anyone able to help me on this type of wood? I think it is Cherry, but not really sure. Thanks



Looks very much like Cherry to me Jamie.
 
master pollinator
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Jamie Stubbs wrote:Is anyone able to help me on this type of wood? I think it is Cherry, but not really sure. Thanks




Cherry!
 
Travis Johnson
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Cherry can, and has killed sheep, but it would never happen in the making of a spoon.

What happens is, as the leaves in Black Cherry wilt, they create a toxic form of cyanide, and if I am clearing an area of trees, and just let my sheep go in and clean up the fallen trees (sheep LOVE tree leaves). If I do not see a Black Cherry Tree, it is possible, and has happened, that a sheep perishes from this, but it would never happen using the trunk and heartwood of the tree.

Here in Maine, the birthplace of the toothpick, White Birch is always used for such things as the toothpick and tongue depressor because they are odorless and tasteless. Beech has the same properties, BUT is a VERY hard wood and is difficult to dry as it warps and twists.

Myself, I would make a spoon out of basswood.
 
Jamie Stubbs
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Thanks for the input, Cherry it is!! I appreciate the quick response.
 
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