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This blog features the current woodcraft, Art and Graphic work of David Stanley.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wedding Lovespoon and Workspace

After seeing Laura Jenkins' blog entry showing her work space for love spoon carving I thought that I would show my very similar setup for anyone interested. I do most of my lovespoon carving seated in an armchair with a lap bench/tool holder on which I do the work.

The lap bench sits across my lap as I sit in the chair.
Old towels placed over the work board are used to protect the work and to collect chips. 

The lap board itself has a part circle cut-out in the front and a purpose-shaped section added to the back acting as a shelf to hold some folding tool racks.

Some small cup hooks allow restraining rubber bands to secure the tool racks to the work board. The rubber bands attach over the back to a hinged section which holds the tool racks in place. 

The rubber bands and the hinged section prevent the tool racks from falling off the board when it is moved.

A towel with a clipped on neck-strap lays over the work board surface and is pinned in place with drawing pins when in use.

Carving work is carried out on the towel surface and the neck strap and towel can be folded forward after work is finished thus protecting the work and capturing all the chips an other carving debris. 

Some of my tools are kept in  small tool rolls sewn together from some scraps of leather that I'd collected from a throw-out years ago. Some of the tools shown here include a number of home made tools from music wire which can be bent into any needed shape and held in small chucked tool holder.

These home-made tools are very easy to make, very cheap and mostly, extremely useful, because they were made for a specific purpose.

I have been working on this love spoon for a little while now. It is intended for my daughter's wedding coming up soon. The spoon is being carved in English Cherry and features a swivel at the top and a loose heart captured  by a cherry blossom cage leading to the stem and bowl. Towards the top of the spoon are the couples initials ( Brad and Jessica ). Under the initials is a single strand celtic knot.

The initials are set above a heart shape and are entirely under-cut except where they attach to the outer rim of the hollowed heart shape. It was this under cutting which necessitated the making of some heavily cranked mini chisels to reach into the more restricted areas.

There were some even more restricted areas to carve with the cherry blossom cage with the loose heart.

I worked on the initials first to solve some of the problems to be encountered reaching those difficult to get at areas that i knew would be even more critical when I attempted the cage area.

The initials had some sections where they would pierce one another and I will be spending some time on these later to achieve nice transitions and fair curves in an area likely to attract more close scrutiny and so finicky attention to detail will pay off.

One of the difficulties in the cage section would be the lack of depth in the blank. I could have used a bit more thickness here to get some more depth and robustness to the leaves and flowers not to mention space to free the heart shape within.

As it turned out it these elements are about as thin and delicate as I dare make them and the upper flowers will be a little flatter than I'd like.

It is this sort of situation where the cranked chisel bits are at their most useful in paring the waste from under overlapping elements that need complete separation. 


  1. Thanks for showing your setup! I think I may try the towel thing. As for the spoon, WOW! Those initials and cage are absolutely incredible! I have been thinking of a flat item in a cage for a while, too, as I have difficulty incorporating normal narrow and deep cages into designs, so I am just in love with that cage! I find that under-cutting thing very gratifying. Do you? Ok, time for me to get some scraps of piano wire. ;) how are you feeling about the cherry?

    1. Thank you for your comments Laura, I thought you would be interested in the towel idea. The towel takes care of nearly all the chips and can be just shaken outside for clean up.

      I had tried carving a large flat object in a cage before, though it was a regular style cage with four posts. Looked alright in plan view but after all the carving work of freeing the shape, it simply slipped right through. Comically, it was time well wasted! 'Well wasted', because I'd learnt something about thinking through the third dimension of the design, before committing too much to intuitive processes later.

      The idea of a flat object in a cage still appealed to me and so did including an element inspired by ryussa netsuke. However freeing the heart shape in this spoon proved to be far more difficult than it ought to be, as there were some places that were so ridiculously difficult to reach, that eventually getting there was less gratifying, than just simply a relief and the knowledge that I'd had a close call. A quarter inch more thickness would have made all the difference I think.
      The flat ryussa like cage is certainly worth doing for the extra design possibilities it provides, but next time I'll plan more carefully.

      The cherry is good to carve, holds detail well but is just a bit splintery when carving across the grain. I've read that cherry is difficult to finish well and that the best finish is boiled linseed oil and time. A decade or two they say and then it's spectacular. I might try the linseed oil if I finish in time for the oil to cure prior to the wax I use.

  2. I'm in awe... It is so inspiring to see what's possible, and to see your talent at work! The design is superb, love to see how you brought the initials, the various hart shapes, symbolic knot and the cherry blossom and twigs come together!!! And so real and tactile. That cage is so fit for the deeper meaning of this spoon; your daughters marriage. You must love her very much to create this "labour of love".

    Another thing; great piece of apparatus you've got there! Thank you very much for sharing that. Your little head phone is not mandatory, i take it? :))) All the rest makes perfect sense in every way. I must confess I envy your wide range of tools there. But ooh well, working at this level there seems no escaping of making your own tools. And i run into it more and more nowadays... fiddling with left over pieces of hardened steel... ending not always satisfactory. So here's my question; as i'm not a native speaker, could you tell me what piano wire is? It doesn't seem to be a snare as i would think it would be. It looks more like thick rod that you've worked to get the desired shape and cutting edge? If you could enlighten me there i'd be much obliged!

    All in all a great post, with wonderful pictures! Thanks

    1. Thank you Debora, I have admired miniature furniture making for quite a while and have often thought of trying it but there is only just so much time and so many interesting things that could be done. I have enjoyed looking at the miniature furniture you have made and it is truly inspiring. Magnificent work. I particularly like the dolphins coffee table carved from pear wood, superb.

      About the piano wire. It is sometimes called music wire and is usually sold in model and hobby shops. The undercarriage of model aeroplanes is usually based on a piano wire structure. Piano wire is tempered high carbon steel. It is tempered enough so that it can be bent but still hard enough to cut timber. It is in rod form of various diameters sold in 90cm lengths. I find that the one to one and a half millimetre diameter wire is the most useful.

      I will add a post to my blog soon, describing the simple process I use to make these home made tools.

    2. Thanks David, for explaining 'piano wire'. There are many things people use to custom build their tools. I had a go at left over jig saw blades and even grinded down the eyes of old needles to make micro gouges of them. Not all to my liking, so i'm keen to see your approach on this.

      And thank you for your compliment, the dolphins were a real joy to make, although there is much room for improvement. But that for another time. Like you said, live is too short to try everything. I'm glad i got hooked by carving. Till then i was wondering the world of crafts....

  3. After seeing your workspace I now don't mind not having a workbench. I do have a big chair and if I can move my dog I might even get to use it. I normally sit on the floor when I carve.
    I use a carpet piece instead of a towel though I must admit the towel seems to be a better idea.
    I still have problems doing a swivel and wondered if you could show your technique and what tools you use? It's hard to fit in the open space even with the wire tools I made.
    Any help would be appreciated.

  4. Mike, next time I am carving a swivel I will post a detailed step by step account of the progress. It might be a while until I get around to that however. I know that David Western's book shows how to carve a swivel.

    There is also a tutorial on Wood Carving Illustrated web forum by 'Fly Fisher' carving an extreme miniature swivel.

    1. from mlthomas36
      thanks david, i tried to make a tool like fly fisher but i seem to need too much clearance. i will reread DW's book and try again. many thanks for both your blog and the reply.