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best wood for a wooden spoon

 
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I agree with John regarding the Osage Orange or
"Bois D'arc" wood. It also has a natural curved grain.

Another good option might be locust...
 
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Just a quick note on osage orange wood: It is used in natural dyeing as a source of yellow, containing both tannins (so no need for a mordant) and various pigment compound that are classed as flavones/isoflavones (among others). It is not listed as toxic in any natural dye manual to which I have access, but working with a dyepot is a bit different than using the wood to stir your soup....

 
William Kellogg
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Interesting
 
William Kellogg
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I think Bowdark is also termite proof, probably due to those compounds you mentioned.
 
Rocket Scientist
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The question has been answered many times already, but I will chime in with my favorites. Black cherry, beech and sycamore are all tight grained and carve beautifully. So is maple, though as it splits so cleanly I would be hesitant to use it for wide utensils. I made a beautiful spoon from a cedar branch with a natural curve, but the tip split off from use. Black walnut carves easily and makes gorgeous spoons, but is softer and tends to fuzz with use.
 
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This suggestion comes late but I missed the bus. Being a wanna be Woodturner, it helps greatly to slow the drying process down to avoid the certain crack or three. Turning green wood give you lots of green shavings. Grab a brown paper bag , throw a few hand fulls of shaving, your wooden piece and more shavings on top. Fold the top and forget about it for awhile. So far I’ve only lost one bowl and it was more my fault because I was slow in doing this. Try it, you’ll like it
 
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I read elsewhere on permies about using English Ivy for a hand-carved tool.

That made me wonder if it could be used for a spoon? Anyone know? Anyone ever tried?
 
pollinator
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For anyone with access to tropical woods, I've made rice paddles/spoons out of mango, lychee, and jabong/zubon/pomelo (Asian grapefruit).  The jabong held a nice yellow color but faded over time.

Mango has a tendency to attract some beetles that will eat through them, but it's a nice soft wood, often with gorgeous spalting, very nice to work with in general (I would NOT spend $$$ buying any furniture or otherwise on something made with mango, however...the bugs will devour it...just sayin')

Lychee is hard but brittle.

Other woods to consider--avocado, monkeypod, olive, eucalyptus (moves like crazy as it dries, but good for spindle turning/tool handles/spoons.  Makes a wonderful bowl if you turn it green and don't care if it ends up oval-ish.)

I've heard or read (where?!) that fruit woods tend to be good for making stuff that will contact food.  Of course, most citrus is pretty small, so you don't see a bowl made from it, but the jabong branch was large enough to make a rice paddle, so that is one option.

Some of you are in subtropical areas, so able to get some of the above wood species.
 
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This is an old thread, but reposted today so I will weigh in: my kids were raised on the income from a woodcraft business. My ex did the carving; he made carved ladderback-type chairs and I wove hickory bark seats, he carved spoon (and forks, etc) and I sanded and oiled all of it. He also made willow chairs and love seats, and made a few whole-limb chairs; I liked that approach and made quite a few myself, and for that I settled on ironwood, also known as musclewood, carpinus virginia. I also used beech, but the bark would eventually come off and I liked leaving the bark on. Assembling a chair without nails, out of pretty, twisty wood, required banging the parts apart to change the tenons a bit, and putting them back together until it was right and could be glued. Carpinus bark could stand up to that. I did make one chair out of black birch--the one I'm sitting in, actually--but there is little birch here in WV. For chairs my husband would make a lot of rungs at once from the woods he used--mostly hickory, some oak, some maple, some cherry--and let them dry. Then he would use green wood for the posts. The idea is that the posts dry around the tenons in the seasoned rungs. But for the spoons he tried a lot of things but settled on black cherry and black walnut. Some wood is even prettier when fresh carved, but then dulls to a pale brown. Those two keep their heartwood color. Seeing this forum today is the first I've heard of cherry being supposedly toxic--except that the wilted leaves of cherries and other stone fruits are toxic to ruminants, but only the wilted leaves--fresh leaves are fine as are old crunchy dry leaves. For this reason a friend gave us a lot of cherry trees he took out of a pasture. Note I'm talking about black or wild cherry, Prunus serotina, not domesticated or chard cherry. If I remember right, he carved green wood. And sometimes he made spoons in what I thought of as Neopolitan fashion--referring to the ice cream. Some walnut with sapwood and heartwood both (chocolate and vanilla) and some cherry (strawberry and cherry). No the sapwood didn't split away from the heartwood.
 
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I've carved a few spoons. Walnut, cherry, and apricot. I learned that if you carve green then boil your spoon it keeps it from cracking. Maybe the person who told me that was full of it but it has worked so far. Good luck and keep your tools sharp.
 
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I'm a spoon maker.  I try to cut the spoons out when the wood is green.  Large pieces of wood tend to crack on the ends as they dry.  Coating them with green wood sealer can help.  Those cracks can go deep, so cut your wood longer than you will need.

Green wood is easier to carve, so making a spoon out of green wood will make the going easier.  Also, it is rare that any spoon I cut out green will crack or warp.  You have relieve most of the stress in the wood by making the spoon.  Yes, drying slowly can help, but rarely necessary.  

Once cut out, your spoon will lose moisture quickly and dry out for final sanding and finishing.  

A microwave can dry out wood from the inside.  Use very short times though and let it cool between heatings.  Put it in a plastic bag if you are concerned about splitting.

paul

good woods: cherry, black birch, ash, beech, olive wood, and many more.  I'm going to try locust soon.
 
William Kellogg
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I'm thinking a cypress spoon would last forever
 
pollinator
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I have a wooden ladle that was my great grandmother's and a butter paddle that was my hubby's grandmother's. Both are still usable so wood definitely can last!  They were both oiled or greased regularly which prote ts against cracking or fuzzing.
 
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Enzymes in wood render most of the bacteria accumulation concerns, mute.
 
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Hello everyone

For those in Europe, almost all the hardwoods are safe to use: oak, beech, birch, ash, lime, hawthorn and any wood from fruit trees.
Stay away from conifers; taxus is toxic and the rest is too soft and contains too much resin.

For spoon carving, you do use green wood! Much softer to carve! For spoon carving I even kept pieces I could not carve immediatley in the freezer to avoid it drying out.

As long as you split it with an axe or froe and discard the middle of the log (the hearthwood) warping and cracking on such a small object should be minimal.
Even on the ends, if you use sharp carving knifes, you will rather cut then break the end fibers and thus avoid inducing drying cuts.

If you worry about drying it too quickly, dry your spoons  in a box with the curls you made while making the spoon and keep it in a dry spot. Do not dry it above a heatsource.  

If you are looking for more info: barn the spoon has some good books about everything to do with making spoons. In dutch you have Lepelhout.

As for finishing, do not use sandpaper but burnish your spoon with a piece of smooth antler or ivory or such. This will soften and hide the lines of your cuts and give luster to the wood. Finishing you can do with  pure tung oil, (boiled) lineseed oil and food grade beeswax. These are all edible and shoud not pose a problem for eating or cooking with the spoon but are not necessary.
As mentioned above, wood is naturaly antibacterial.



 
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I've made a bunch of kitchen utensils. Like others mention, I use only tight grain woods.  My wood pile offered up a whole bunch of beautiful, figured maple.  Craigslist got me some blocks of sycamore that became spurtles and spoons.  Then there is that I live in orchard country, so.............

IF you were going to make a lot of them, you could do what I did and make a jig for a router, which allowed me to pump out a lot of spoons and things in short order.  I wrote a post about it and posted it on a woodworking site. Here it is for those interested:  

   https://www.routerforums.com/threads/spoon-carving-jig-for-routers.44595/#post-365914

All my wood utensils were made with dry wood because I can.  That is, because my power tools did the hard stuff.  If I were just using carving knives or chisels, I'd be trying to find green wood for the same reason it's used in lathe wood turning - it's soft and much easier to cut.


For those not familiar with them, spurtles are great. They were not very common in kitchens, but are far better suited for stirring and scrapping the bottom of the skillet or pot.  They are far easer to make too. They are just flat and have a flat bottom.

Spoon-jig-2.JPG
[Thumbnail for Spoon-jig-2.JPG]
Spoon-jig-1b.JPG
Spoon Carving Jig For Routers
 
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experienced green wood worker here: i make a lot of spoons. fruit woods are hard to carve but make lovely spoons. popular easy woods are alder & birch. softwoods aren't usually much good for green woodwork - they're just too soft. i've carved a bunch of different woods and very rarely had anything crack while drying, spoons are just so small that the warping is negligible. even using heartwood & sapwood in the same spoon (pretty colours!) is very unlikely to crack.
 
master gardener
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Welcome to Permies, Efrem!
 
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Most wooden spoons (and other wooden, kitchen utensils) that I see for sale, modern or historic, are made of beech wood. It is hard, pleasant to work and doesn't readily split when it gets wet.

In Wales, where I live, there is a tradition of making cawl (stew) spoons from sycamore - a non-native but widely naturalised Acer species, probably quite similar to some of the maples in the US. I have never carved sycamore but I suspect it is also quite nice to work with. I have used it to make simple tool handles although I prefer ash as it is plentiful and more suited for the task.

My favourite woods to work with are fruit woods: hawthorn, blackthorn, cherry. As Efrem says, they are hard to carve (and blunt the knife quite quickly) but the results can be stunning. They are a good lesson in using the axe as much as possible!
spatula.jpg
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) spatula
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) spatula
spoon.jpg
Blackthorn spoon
Blackthorn spoon
spoons.jpg
Ash, ash, hawthorn, holly
Ash, ash, hawthorn, holly
 
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I've carved spoons with both dry and green wood. As mentioned above, if you've got a power carver dry wood is great. But if you're carving with only hand tools green wood is the way to go. My trick to limit cracking is to wet it down with mineral oil, especially if I don't finish it right away. (keeps it easier to carve) Never had one crack, only a chip due to poor choice of location in the wood. I do this with bowls too, sometimes they don't finished for a while and the oil keeps them solid.
 
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Big pecan tree split recently and a friend of mine is exchanging his labor to remove the split off half, and it is a very big old tree. He has been dropping off pieces by my place cause I expressed an interest as I am a carpenter. The only thing I've done so far are implement handles, shovels, hoes, sledges etc. I dont want to go too crazy with it yet as it is still pretty wet. I had intended to make trim out of it for shelves and such. I will say that is does make a good tool handle. I had been making my handles out of osage orange as those trees are like a weed here in NW Arkansas. However, they typically end up splitting although I have a few that I've dried in a trailer that have fared much better. The trailer is kind of like a kiln as it gets really hot inside during the summer months.
Heres the deal, Ive got stax of pecan of all sizes and am wondering if anyone has experimented with it for any other uses. Unfortunately, here in Arkansas all fallen trees become fire wood during the winter and I would like to avoid that with the pecan since there are not so many around and they grow slow. My friend will be burning the rest of that tree this winter so let me know asap and I will snatch some more from the mouth of the dragon!
For my next pecan wood project I am considering a bow saw. Found a stack of blades so...
 
Kelly Craig
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I'm from up north (Pacific Northwest - desert side). Visited my son, in Texas. I grew envious of the wood supply there (pecan, live oak, mesquite) after bringing several pieces from his fire wood pile back home.  I love them all for fine woodworking.
 
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Nothing is more effective to put my brain into a "Zen" state than carving a spoon or 20!
My addiction started about 3 years ago after a surgery.
It was coming into summer and I was supposed to take it easy and give myself plenty of time to heal.
Not sure how the carving idea came up. I just got into it.

I started with maple scraps from the wood splitting area.
We burn 95% maple up here.
Maple works up beautifully. It has a nice tight grain--makes it possible to add a lot of detail.
I had to step back from the wood pile and get my head right because I was forgetting the purpose was heating wood.  I was catching myself splitting wood primarily for the shape and purpose of having excellent carving blanks. The survival task was not progressing--although carving is a good way to keep warm. It can really get the blood moving.
I am working on one with beech right now. It is at least as hard as maple, and a nice looking wood.

I have played a little with poplar and while it is very pretty and clean, it is soft--too soft--and impossible to get the detail in there.
Black walnut is a super hard wood, but if your knives are singing sharp, that doesn't matter.
Walnut is fantastic to carve!  Not easy--but it carves like nothing else. It almost polishes itself!
Oak has a wide rough grain and is horrible for carving.

I have seen some nice white pine carvings, but that is also a soft wood and adding detail is not so easy.

I have some lilac and apple to try soon.  Lilac has a purple tones in it- so pretty!-and is good for smaller items because it dries too twisty to carve larger stuff.  Apple-I have no idea, but I had to aggressively prune an apple tree last week and I salvaged some nice blanks before it all hit the chipper.

So far my favourite is maple maple maple.

(If I was in the bush and needed to make a spoon in a fix, I would likely for white pine.
It works up fast, but it would be a disposable spoon.)

 
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paul wheaton wrote:A friend of mine and I watched "Alone in the wilderness" last night and got jazzed about the idea of converting some of our local wood into useful stuff. So we thought the first thing to do would be to make wooden spoons from green wood and then dry it.

So which sort of wood to use?

Googling comes back to say cherry is the best. What? A week ago we learned that every part of a cherry tree is toxic except for the actual fruit. It seems that cherry would be a really bad choice.

More googling ... cherry, cherry and cherry.

So confused ....

I would guess apple or alder or maple would be the best.

Anybody know about wood varieties for use with food?




What a fun topic! I'm organizing a skillswap locally and had a guy to sign up for "kolrosing", an ancient Viking form of decorating wooden objects. The sample pics he sent me showed decorated spoons. The wood appeared to be a soft pine. But I could be very wrong since I know nothing of the craft!
 
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As a long time bowl maker and rustic furniture maker (and sometimes spoon/utensil maker) wood toxicity has been a long festering dilemma. I’ve read much, heard much anecdote, and finally concluded (for the most part) that, like all things in life, when it comes to figuring out what’s good for you, one size doesn’t fit all.

Notably, wood toxicity (ack… irritant, allergen, asthmatic, carcinogenic, deadly—name your poison) is generally discovered and categorized by report, which should lead one to wonder just how sensitive was the victim and why—questions, one would think, essential to understanding how we might expect to get along with our stuff, but rarely if ever considered. This is especially significant when we establish aphorisms like “cherrywood is toxic” or “maple is therapeutic”.

Likewise, toxicity reports often do not describe intensity of exposure—another critical factor in analysis. There’s a world of difference between a cook stirring with a wooden spoon and a maker breathing wood dust.

So… what do I personally do? I freely use most of my local Pennsylvania hardwoods (maple, cherry, hornbeam, birch, oak, hickory… the list is longish) when making kitchenware. I avoid walnut on account of juglone (walnut’s infamous toxin) mainly because it’s dangerous in the shop (my dog once became temporarily paraplegic from gnawing on a piece left on the shop floor) and give due diligence to factors like what part of the tree I’m using, wood porosity, the presence of spalting and other natural and unnatural elements, and of course finishes. Oh, and I always stay way clear of imported exotics. Then I label my pieces accurately, and fully expect that customers who suffer from unusual sensitivities like nut allergies and the like will know how to take care of themselves, if necessary avoiding potentially troublesome interfaces. The rest of us, I assume, can safely enjoy using wooden items.
 
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Cut it green, and do it quickly.  Then put it in a paper sack with all your chips to dry for a few weeks.

Then apply a food safe oil like mineral
Spirits , not a food oil that can go putrid.

I don’t think cherry is all that toxic in my opinion.it has the best characteristics for easy carving. Next would be Walnut.
 
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