Hey, that’s my dog!

I promise I’ll get better at my titles but I couldn’t help it. This post was based on a question Eric Goodson asked about the dog I have in my stump (chopping block). Dogs are generally used on benches, and Felibien and Moxon had dog holes all over their benches, although I’m not sure that they called them that. In the pictures of their benches there are holdfasts and planing stops, and the uses are very basic. Planing stops were used by placing the stock against the stop, and it’s teeth kept it in place while you went to town with your plane. Holdfasts were set into the dog hole with the stock between the foot of the holdfast and the bench. When struck with a mallet the lateral pressure inside the dog hole keeps the holdfast pressed down hard on your stock, then by striking the back of the stem it comes loose. Keep stock put so you can work on it; simple stuff, but indispensable on a joiners bench.


Moxon’s bench (planing stop on left, holdfast on right)


My dog is used much like a planing stop or dog on a bench, but adapted to be used on a very modern tree stump. The dog is a piece of a 3/4″ inch oak dowel and it fits into a hole around 1.5″ deep. I use the dog for two parts of my process. First is if I need to make any saw cuts I place the spoon blank on the far side of the dog to keep it put while sawing. I use a Japanese saw so it cuts on the pull stroke. Of course a western saw could be used, but the blank would go between you and the dog to push the saw and have the dog support the blank in the cut. This is especially useful as the blank for an eating spoon is 6-8 inches long and awkward to hold without clamping or using a vise.


The dotted lines are where i will make my saw cuts

I make the cut, then flip the blank and make the other cut looking from above to make sure I stay close to my line.

The second use of the dog is for one particular axe cut. When shaping a blank with the axe it is important to have a good unobstructed view to insure consistent thickness and symmetry. In most cuts this just means finding a good way to grip the blank safely and lining your eye up with the cutting edge of the axe to always insure you are staying close to your drawn or imaginary line. The cut that always gave me trouble was thinning the thickness of the end of the bowl and keeping the shape I was going for. One way this cut can be made is to cut cross-grain with the spoon blank parallel to the surface of the stump. The problem I have with that is I can only see the thickness of one half of the bowl, leaving the half you are cutting blind. One of the other problems is you can blow out the whole side of the bowl if you are not careful.


My solution is by placing the end of the blank handle against the dog I can stop the blank from moving while making a cut at the very end of the bowl towards the dog. Also, it helps make a dangerous cut a little safer by having the dog between my hand and the axe (although my fingers are kind of hanging out there). I don’t recommend beginners or those skittish around axes to jump right into this cut but it can be very useful. The big benefit of this cut is that I can see the axe entering the bowl and make sure it is removing an even amount of waste left to right.



I then stand the blank vertical and remove the waste.


Now I’m ready to move to the hook knife.

I’m a sucker for efficiency and this cut reduces the amount of hook knife work dramatically. There are a few other times having the dog comes in handy, but these two functions are why I installed it in the first place. Please understand axes are very dangerous and I have a few years experience using them in close quarters to my hands. Alright now don’t blame me for anything that happens to you and have a great day!!


It’s been a while

     So to say this last year was busy would be an extreme understatement and I will elaborate in the future. For now I’m going to try and make this WordPress site a priority and get some content on here. If you’re visiting for the first time, Hi, my name is ben and I’m addicted to carving spoons.

    There’s a thousand things I’d like to cover in blog form and I’m by no stretch computer literate. For now I do everything from my phone so things won’t look pretty but that’s life.


                                          My set up at American Field

    Two weekends ago I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop taught by Jögge Sundqvist. My wife and I planned an 11 day vacation around an American made only pop-up market in Boston (american field) and the workshop at the lie-Nielsen headquarters. In attendance were some heavy hitters in green woodworking and spoon/bowl carving: Drew Langsner, Peter Follansbee and David Fisher just to name a few. It was an inspirational experience that I will remember for as long as my brain works. We were supposed to be working on our projects but all I could do was blab on and on about techniques and tools and wood and grasps, I am thankful for the patience of all the guys there. One thing I think is very funny is having played in a band for so long I’ve seen and met a few “famous” people and I’m never star struck the way I am around people that are experts in woodworking or craft. I guess that I have a pretty good understanding of music and performance so it’s not as awe inspiring to meet someone that does the same. But meeting someone that wrestles logs into beautiful objects is another story and there’s so much that I don’t understand that it makes it seem superhuman.



    Another tie to music is when you play a historic room or stage that greats have also played there’s mojo. A lingering feeling or energy that stays fixed to that place or person. I have had limited experience with it but it’s certainly a real thing, probably all mental but it takes over the moment and you always want it back. Well that workshop was no exception, there was mojo, but the greats were there! It would be like a brand new local band with three shows under their belt opening for the rolling stones. I was hewing some birch and Jögge Sundqvist was right there! It was just a treat to be on the same piece of earth with everyone there. That concludes my gushing for now.

    When I got home from the trip after unpacking and catching up on sleep I had so many things on my mind, Form, function, technique, tools and spoons! I was anxious to make a spoon as the whole weekend I didn’t make any. Eric Goodson gave me some rhododendron and from it I made what I think is my favorite one yet!




Next post will be for Eric explaining the dog I use on my chopping block.


well that’s just plum cherry

     Ok, actually it’s cherry plum…..I think. All i know is this stuff is pink!

     The phloem and cambium layers are bright pink while the sap and heartwood of the tree have streaks of pale pink, fingers crossed it doesn’t fade as it dries.


     This tree has had a tough go at life and just doesn’t want to stay standing so i am dismantling it crook by crook. Here is one of the stars of the show:


I’m very excited to keep hacking at this tree. I can see so many spoons just waiting to jump out. Today i got 4 roughed out, all crazy bent spoons. (the above crook is the top spoon in the picture below)


It’s hard to see the pink color but it’s there. Better photos to follow….            -bk

one of many ways to skin a spoon

I figured i would do a start to semi-finished spoon. We’ll stop at drying on this one. maybe i’ll show it later when it gets it’s wings. This is also helpful to show that i don’t use router jigs or magic wands to get a spoon from a tree.


step one: I’ll cut a length suitable for something. Here i’m going for a serving spoon. Note: this is a straight chunk of branch, crooks will make an appearance soon.


You’ll see that there’s a branch interrupting the party so i cut just before it.



So here’s our piece. Next is to drive a wedge shaped object through it to split it in half. My weapon of choice is an old blacksmithed froe.


both of these will be spoons eventually. next i flattened any high spots to give me a square blank with even, parallel planes. Next is a step i don’t always do: drawing shapes. I have been trying to chop shapes without a guide recently to get better at seeing the spoon in the material.


Another step i skip sometimes is sawing relief cuts. for the sake of being thorough i’ll do it here. in the photo the dotted lines are the guide for said saw cuts.

Next up is to cleave the waste off the handle to the relief cut to give us more of a spoon shape.


A little bit of axe work here and there to make the form come out.


Next is knife work. Occasionally i will go to the hook but on this one the straight knife told the story first.


Here’s a side shot to show the profile and relation between handle, stem and bowl.Image

All that’s left before drying is to carve the bowl with the hook which i didn’t capture by itself so it’ll be joined with it’s siblings from todays session. (second from the top)


those spoons will dry in my bag for a few days then i will finish cut, engrave and oil them.


That’s all for today, not too exciting for those experienced or those who don’t give a crap about carving spoons!




lie-nielsen spoon carving class

Hi, I figured after following Peter Follansbee’s blog for the last three years and starting into a whole new type of woodwork, i would start up one of these fancy wordpress sites. This picture is from this past weekend. It is courtesy of Lie-Nielsen Tool works facebook page. I attended their 2 day spoon carving workshop taught by Peter. I was thrilled to be in the same room as other spoon carvers, that rarely happens in my life. Needless to say we had an absolute blast!
Check back soon for more super exciting blog posts about the obscure work i do and the nice little life i live.


lie-nielsen spoon carving class