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Knife, Wood, Spoon

“To practice any art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” Kurt Vonnegut

spoon

let there be spoons

I’m beginning to see the shining light of these encouraging words as I stumble forward on my new journey. The momentum has taken over and I have no choice but to follow my self like a moth to the light. I might be cut and bleed but I won’t be burnt by that to which I’m drawn.

My past year has been relatively quiet on the blogging front as other interests have successfully lessened my screen time. That is not to say that I didn’t often think about writing about what I was doing. No, it just didn’t feel right, yet. Now is that time.

spoon

handmade woodness

I have always been into wood. Wood feels good. Either I was carving walking sticks or a bit of relief carving and I knew and felt that that was something I should become more serious about, but never did. Other things occupied my life and a long while elapsed without wood. Then a couple of years ago I got into it again with an evening sculpting course. I loved that and recognized a new like, however sculpting didn’t have the hook nor I the talent I wanted to combine and my enthusiasm wore and then waned.

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my first ugly duckling spoon

It was through the various Youtube channels and whatnot that I one day came across a spoon. A simple wooden spoon. Someone had made it and that someone demonstrated how to make one. I can do that I thought to myself and before I knew it I had laboriously and rather in-expertly crafted my first functional wooden. It was Magnolia wood, wasn’t pretty but it was usable.

A few months passed and I began to collect bits of wood, larger pieces, branches and log sections as I read up on and watch this or that youtube clip on how to work green wood into usable things. This new spark of curiosity caught and had begun to glow warm. And it’s heat increased my desire to learn more, try more and do this.

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early efforts and means

As with first steps for any venture I soon learned what would help me along and soon fell head over heals in love with Swedish steel and touted wizards of wickedly sharp blades. MoraGransfors Bruk, Svante Djarv and Hans Karlsson now make up my Swedish heavy metal team. A truly special bit of hardware comes from Wales by the one and only Nic Westermann who forges superbly crafted bowl blades among other edged goodness.

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basic joy & happiness kit

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Nic Westermann TWCA cam and Finishing blade goodness

It took a little while to finetune my desired kit, discover my direction and learn what it meant to feel the passion but I think I’m on the right track. Wood simply makes me feel good.

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warped and twisted lessons

And it is confirmed every time I spend time making chips, making a mistake, creating something beautiful, seeing a form develop, smelling the sweet near almond like smell of fresh cherry wood or the scent of apple when roughing out new spoon blanks. It is an intoxicating endeavour.

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coffee sips get cold when making chips

Seems every waking moment is filled with only thoughts of wood, where to get it, what to do with it and spending time doing just that. It’s a happy thing and I’m thankful for feeling that way. Joy is in the simple things.

spoon

vivid juniper surprise

At this point of the journey I’m not as skilled as I want to be but I’m on my sloyd way. Sundry wood stock is stacked in the shop, metal edges honed to this side of fear, the good wood releases new forms that function and chips are flying.

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pear spirit sipper

Wood is good. May your hands be strong and your blades wicked sharp.

Outdoor Lore and the Lure of a Good Cup of Coffee

Autumn … let that sink in for brief moment.

Dense fog and moisture in the air, dewy wetness on all things still green and those turning color too.Rusting leafy foliage falling away baring their now stark treed host. Dried corn plants shuffling their crinkly leaves await the harvesters blade and the pale early morning sky fuzzy misted over as the sun begins to burn through with a cool and bright effort. And pumpkins dotting this or that field or ornamenting this or that farmer stand or door steps.

Yup, it’s fallish out there folks.

And I’ve got a hankerin’ to be out there, to spend time in the thinning woods. Where green turns to rust and mushrooms show themselves off against the leaf littered forest floor, some pretty, some ugly and all of them fascinating.

Yesterday I gave in to that hankering and hunkered down the evening before to prepare my daypack for a short day trip into the local deciduous woods. The air felt fresher, the temperatures chillier and my step quicker so as to generate a bit more body temperature even though my wool mix hoodie kept me snug and warm.

It being a Saturday morning, the forest lanes and roadways (this is Germany and the woods are crisscrossed with ‘Waldwege’) were empty. I had the place mostly to myself. And as I often do, I wondered where the wild boars were. But most of all I was anticipating my first cup of outside coffee.

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goodness (ciaodarlingciao.wordpress.com)

If you’ve ever made a delicious cup of hot coffee outside you may know the pleasure I speak of. No, not a cup of instant crap but the real ma-coy, boiling water poured into a coffee filter over a large cup. The result a brew so good that it nearly blends into the surrounding beauty. Ah ok, so the heady scent of a freshly brewed cup of java out there is kinda out of place as it were but it does the body good. If you prefer a good hot cup of tea would also do the trick I suppose but coffee is my choice for moments like that.

I spent some time looking around and gathering a bit of firewood, smallish bits and processed them into suitable sizes to accommodate my Bush Box multi fuel pocket stoves’ small size and then set to building the fire that would boil the water that would release the intense flavored coffee into my cup and then my mouth. It took a little while but the time spent doing the work was well worth the efforts.

Bush Box

By the time my cup was filled, the sun had begun to shine on the spot I’d selected for the coffee ritual.

I sat back and just liked being there.

The Wood is the Journey

Wood. It’s everywhere. It’s all around us. I’m looking at some right now. My feet are firmly planted on some too. I like it. I’ve always liked wood. That’s an ingrained thing. Wood makes me feel good.

I’ve always done things with wood, carving walking sticks or carving other things. But many years ago I put the more serious carving aside. You just know.

Perhaps you dear reader have experienced something similar with your toolbox of human talents and creative skills. You sense it and you can’t really ignore when something within you refuses to be abandoned, when the pilot light of creativity remains alight. Time goes by but the thoughts, ideas and dreams keep coming. And so it was. And so it is. And so I returned to the tools, the feel and the wood.

A dear friend was instrumental in this return and I am thankful for that. I simply joined the wood sculpting course he was in an the rest took and is taking care if itself. The feeling of relief a sure sign that I was doing the right thing. That I was doing what I should be doing. That it was good to touch the wood and to reconnect with the familiar. I began with a warmup piece, creating in a larger scale the same spiral lines I usually use on walking sticks, this time on a birch log. I still need to finish that one, it is roughed out and ready for finishing work it was a warmup piece and remains a work in progress.

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When the wood feeling firmed up, I bought tools and will buy more tools

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A second piece began to take shape and is leading me along an unfamiliar path which is intriguing and a bit frustrating at the same time because it is drawing me out of my comfort zone.

And then I found olive, or it found me. Actually a largish chunk of olive trunk wood. Wow. What a find. The possibilities …

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top view with wet core

The piece was wet wood, freshly cut when I put it in storage for observation and to let it dry out. Over the next few weeks I peeled off the rough bark, giddy with impatience to expose the fantasy shapes, twists, hollows and bulges that are this piece of wood. Ok, so olive wood is fairly rare in these southern parts of Germany. Finding a piece like that not an everyday occurrence and no, I didn’t find it digitally although a few of my carving colleagues in the course found and bought olive wood pieces online. I am fully aware of the coolness of this score. The trunk is approx. 45cm in diameter and 65cm tall and I guess that the tree must have been close to 60 years old when it succumbed to the worms that were working their way through the centre core.

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peeled with mirror

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rough start

It is one thing to begin a piece. It is another to finish it. And yet another to turn a project into firewood. THAT is not an option and so I bridled my excitement and only then laid tool to the wood when the moment felt right. But once I began the project grabbed my by the neck with such intensity and urgency that the first 60 hours few by.

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roughed out

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smoother

chiseled and riffled

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roughing out

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roughing out

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opening at bottom

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impression

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exposed and finishing

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hollow

So far I’ve whacked away at the piece with carving tools letting the mouthwatering olive smelling chips fly. I’ve spent days in an intensely focused meditative state with long thin riflers in nearly cramped gloved hands creating shapes, rasping lines and following as best I can the dictating flow of the myriad emerging flowing grains and contrasting dark/light patterns that make this wood so unique. And to satisfy my most irritating perfectionist urges, countless pieces of paper parted from sand in varying grades, shimmied to and fro, back and forth, across and with the grain to render by hand a nearly baby bottom smooth finish.

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riffling

 

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shapes

 

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lines & grain

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interior view

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smoothed surface

At this stage of the project I can see at least 60 hours into the future and perhaps beyond but there is not real rush and I have no deadline other than to create something interesting, something that takes the eye on a visual journey … into the olive wood and I have the finished piece also firmly in mind, yet open to changes as fluid as its grain. The openings into the core of the piece drawing the eye inward, the colorful grain triggering day dreams. All that said, a photo of the finished piece will be added as an update.  Das Holz ist der Weg

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Spoons Are For the Mouth

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Spoon on Spoons

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Neatly Arranged

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Arranged Another Way

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Spoons at Angles

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Spoon Shapes

Wooden Profile

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Position of Faith

The Kitchen – The Work Shop

The Kitchen – It is either a place to throw together some good old KD, nuke something in the microwave or an inspired cook’s workshop where sumptuous meals are created and always the place where mouthwatering aromas emanate, kicking endorphins into overdrive.

The kitchen ‘is’ the households’ central nerve centre. Its importance ranks before any other room in the house, be it the living room, the adjoining dinning room, master bedroom or the bathrooms.

Well, ok, even though I religiously avoided it for the first 20 or so years of my life, I’ve come to love working in the kitchen. Pretty much any kitchen too.

I love what the kitchen stands for. It means good food, great company and a wee bit too much wine with dinner. If you’re not broke, like to try new things, don’t eat out or order in a lot, your kitchen represents the ultimate horn of plenty. In this temple to things that taste good I must meet at least two daily deadlines; sometimes at the drop of a hat.

At it’s stations, countless delectable culinary creations are cobbled together, new recipes are born and mistakes quietly or humiliatingly and in-front of suddenly mean looking dinner guests slipped into the rubbish bin before reaching for a nearby phone.

While I admit that I don’t prepare cookbook recipes the same way twice and promulgate improvisation to be very alive and kicking in this kitchen, the same daring and at time cunning manipulation of ingredients inevitably gets the better of me when I try my ham-fisted mitts at baking.

Disaster always lurks when I attempt this science like discipline, something I had little interest for in school. Lucky for me my ‘better half’ handles that oven trick with the greatest of ease, much to my bellies delight.

Consider that the kitchen as we know it got its start as bit of fire in a hole in the ground. As long as there is fire i.e. gas range, barbeque or fire pit, a creative or suddenly challenged cook is capable of producing roughly the same result as a chef styling away in a grandiosely appointed kitchen.

And who doesn’t dream of that magazine cover version of the home kitchen? Not being one able to boast about any skill or much experience in the renovation field, the kitchen is very likely the only room of a house that I would even consider remodeling or sinking some serious coin into but…

The Work Shop – When you compare kitchens to wood workshops and avid cooks to equally avid woodworkers, it is not at all surprising that the obsessive natures of these enthusiasts are pretty much identical. If I had a well-appointed woodwork shop I’d probably argue long and hard to have it situated right next to the kitchen. These creative spaces share much in common. For one, they share the same humble beginnings in the mists of time.

Let me illustrate. We already know what the modern kitchen evolved from and thus it’s no great leap to consider that the modern woodwork shop started millions of years ago as a pointy chunk of rock.

Depending on your skill levels and the quality of your chosen tools, the cook or a woodworker can conjure up some heavenly and amazing feasts or blunder along to another obviously rough and borderline useful bird housing project, whacked together with so many too big nails.

Consider for a moment the matter of aromas of cooking foods and the fragrances of raw woods. Spices and cooking aromas drift from the kitchen through the house while the pungent scents of exotic woods fills the workshop during various processes that shape the end result.

From custom cutting boards or work tables, rolling pins using rare woods to hand carved wooden spoons’, is it any surprise that these objects fashioned in the workshop end up in the kitchen?

Then there is the little matter of tools’n things; read gadgets.
Something that will probably go on for as long as man survives on this blue marble is trying to satisfy his unending need for tools. You can never have too many tools in these arenas of production. And the suppliers of fine utensils and tools are all to keenly aware of this.

Offer up a new tool or utensil and rabid cooks and crafts persons alike snap it up, before its real purpose is even revealed. It looks neat and you don’t yet own one of them.

Just think about it. How many tools, utensils or gadgets claim storage space in your kitchen/workshop? The ones you ‘never ever’ use, the ones that you will never ever use. Ever. A handful at least. A rack or wall full in the extreme cases of ‘need-one-of-eachitis’.

I could go on, escalating the simple function of these spaces, spiraling out of control as I try to keep up with the latest offerings of the innumerable glossy magazines that cater to glassy eyed people like me. But I’m getting off right here.

Got to go stir the soup with that certain wooden spoon (sorry, I didn’t make that one), however I did build that soup in that food related work shop.