Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lovespoon Lite or You Would Think I'd Learn!

Hi, my name is Bob, and I'm an idiot. That will become clearer as the post progresses. 

I'm going to let you look at the finished product first, and then begin beating myself about the head and shoulders while telling you why. 

I got the idea, while looking at a lovespoon site somewhere in Great Britain, to do some smaller, less complicated lovespoons for use as wedding favors or gifts to the mothers of the bride and groom. This spoon is about 6" long and 2" wide made from 1/2"x2"x6" poplar, believe it or not. I'm really pleased with the dark color. I finished it with Williamsville Wax. According to the bottle ($8.99 for 8 oz from my local Woodcraft store) it consists of beeswax, lemon oil and other natural oils with no solvents turpenoids or other nasty stuff.

From these photos you can see the most basic "uff-da" mistake I made: the design is unbalanced. The spoon bowl is too small and the entwined hearts are too large. Also I feel the strands forming the entwined hearts are too wispy. That last is due to my trying to save the spoon after having noticed the design issue during rough out. And for future reference note in the side view how thin the wood is at the first strand crossing above the bowl. You will see this material again!

All this springs from the same damn mistake I made with the first lovespoon I posted here: not working the design out full scale on paper before transfering it to the spoon. 

You see, I figured that since this was going to be a small, simple, quick-to-carve spoon, I didn't have to spend all that time drawing the design full-scale on tracing paper so I could mirror the design, making it symmetrical, work out any design issues like the proper sizes of the elements and the proper over-under sequence of the strands. 

Yeah, no prob to freehand the design onto the wood and just go to cutting! Certainly not! I don't need to follow the rules I made for myself after making this mistake before. Nah, it's just a simple spoon. No need for all that complicated stuff.

Would have saved myself a lot of aggrivation if I had, though. 

The fourth photo shows the spoon at the roughout stage. It's a little more clear here that the central elements are a little too big for the size of the spoon's bowl. It's also apparent that my pencil marks are not terribly visible against that dark wood, a point that will become important in a bit. If you enlarge the photo you can just see that I have the over-under sequence of the strands the first time they cross above the bowl shown properly. It's supposed to be over, under, over, under. 

I didn't screw up the side view too much except for ripping too far down. I wanted the strands for the entwined hearts to grow more organically out of the bowl. This is something else that would have been easier to plan for had I drawn the design out, and if I weren't such an impatient sawyer. Turned out all right, though, as you have seen above.

The fifth photo shows a little more progress. I've begun the piercing process. Here is where it became really clear to me that the design was unbalanced. What was unclear was where my pencil lines were. You see, I didn't have a real drawing of the design that I could refer to. You see where the two entwined hearts come together, that little divot on each side of the spoon handle? Now go back and look at the first photo of the finished spoon. See that divot anywhere? No. That's the way it's supposed to be. Took me a little bit to figure that out. After my wife told me to stop banging my head against the wall (she was trying to watch television, and I was making too much noise) I decided I might as well try to kill two birds with one stone. I would bring the outside edges of the two hearts in so that there was no divot and then skinny-down the strands so that they wouldn't overwhelm the bowl.

That's what the sixth photo shows. It also shows how I went over my pencil lines with a fine-point Sharpie so I could see them. What a concept! At this point I've also started relieving the strand cross-over points. It was here that I messed up the sequence. Where I had it correct before, when I drew it in with the Sharpie, I messed it up. Back to banging head on wall!

Well, I hadn't gone so far in the relieving process that I couldn't correct myself. At least in one thing I listened to David! It was, however, going to make that crossover point really thin!

As you can see in the next set of pictures, I paid for that. Told you you were going to see that thin spot again!

You can clearly see the glue joints where I broke the spoon while thinning down the strands. Super glue to the rescue! I was a bit worried about how that would look with the finish I was going to use. I haven't used Williamsville Wax before and I was afraid that the glue would cause some obvious spots on the spoon. so I carved off as much of the surface glue as I could without reducing the thickness to that of a sheet of paper. Fortunately, if you refer back to the photos of the finished spoon the joints are barely visible.

So, there you have it! My small, simple, quick-to-carve lovespoon! Actually, in spite of my bumbling, it turned out OK. Still a little unbalanced, but I can live with it.

Having gone through all the qvetching, I don't want you to think that I'm unhappy with the result or that I'm fishing for compliments. My whole purpose of doing this blog is to help others by showing everyone my own mistakes and how I went about trying to correct them. I hope, in that, that I have succeded a little bit.

Until next time, let the chips fly!

UPDATE: Go to the Woodbee Carver, Don Mertz's blog, and read his post about learning by doing. That's what this whole blog is about.


  1. Nice full description there Bob:¬) Good to see you are not too precious about explaining your mistakes:¬)

    I've just ordered a starter set of Flexcut chisels/knives so it'll be interesting to see how I take to this wood carving lark.

  2. First of all the man who does n't make a mistake does nothing.

  3. Burn Pile Baby! Just kidding, I actually thought it looked ok till you pointed out all the flaws! Now, my only thought is: BURN IT! and start over. It's not like I have never had to burn bad carvings before so no one else would see them...(shudder!) I'm not sure how much time you have invested...but that will fade eventually, and you will recarve it or move on. But hey! It's nice to know other carvers make mistakes too! lol!

  4. Chris, Flexcut makes good tools at a reasonable price. I've got some knives from them. They come sharp and stay that way for a long time. A word of advice, get their stropping kit as well and learn how to use it. Your tools will stay sharper and you'll be happier.

    Too true, John, too true.

    That's why I'm doing this, Ethan. Most crafter's blogs tell you how to do it right. They don't tell you about all the mistakes that led to them learning how to do it right. I think that's a major gap in the learning process.

  5. I enjoyed reading this post, Bob. One thing I learned a long time ago is never to point out your mistakes when in a selling situation. Anyway do not ever burn the spoon, keep it and treasure it. As said before we all learn from our mistakes, well some of us do!

    I know what you mean when you said
    "Yeah, no prob to freehand the design onto the wood and just go to cutting! Certainly not! I don't need to follow the rules I made for myself after making this mistake before."
    This has happened to me often. I must say that when making spoons now, to designs I have made before, it is great that I can just axe the wood out without marking out. This can only come from years of making.
    So I celebrate your mistakes and look forward to the spoons yet to be designed and made. One thing that I first noticed looking at your spoon was the grain on the top heart is not parallel with the spoon, this instantly made the spoon look a bit crooked.

  6. Thanks, Sean. I don't consider this blog a selling situation. This is more like a journal to help me with recognizing and documenting the mistakes I make while showing others that mistakes are learning experiences and everyone makes them.

    I didn't even notice the grain direction. And even if I had, I couldn't have done anything about it except use it for a different piece. Thanks for pointing that out. I'll keep an eye out in the future.


  7. Fortunately I too do n't have to sell my carvings to eat. We'd be eating the dogs in short time if I tried.