spooncarving course with Fritiof Runhall

Fritiof Runhall is one of Sweden’s best spooncarvers, which also probably makes him one of the best spooncarvers in the world. It has been a real pleasure then to learn from him as he came to teach a masterclass course for us in Edale.

I feel spooncarving in the UK has come a long way in the last 5 years but has reached a sort of plateau, the spoons that are being produced have reached a good level but I know that much more is possible and wanted to share the inspiration I have found in Sweden with others. Fritiof is teaching 2 courses and we have many of the UK’s top carvers and teachers coming, professionals alongside dedicated amateurs.We all learnt a lot on the first course and had a great time too. Fritof and I started with a day spent visiting my favourite wood collecting haunts from tree surgeons to this lovely birch woodland planted by a friend 20 years ago.

 Frtiof was very pleased and we picked out 2 birch which had lots of natural crooks in to fell. We made the felling cut high so we could get a really low cut to get the best from the bottom crook.

After a quick run through the various knife grips Fritiof gave us all a blank to carve, an interesting way to teach. He knocked out blanks at great speed.

 One of the things I picked up from him was the great benefit of being able to carve left handed, often it allows him to get the blank symmetrical and to see the line he is cutting to where if you were to turn the blank over to carve right handed then you can not see the line.

 I thought I was pretty skilled with the axe but I do have to look what I am cutting.

 These are the roughed out blanks, you can see where Fritiof has hollowed the bowl with 3 cuts with the axe, I sometimes do this with an adze but it takes a second to swap tools and it is quick and easy with the axe, saves a lot of time and wrist strain with the hook knife.

 close up of a blank.

Here are a few shots of Fritiof carving a spoon, flattening the upper surface of the bowl.

 Marking three points along the centre line, top of handle, narrow part of neck and centre of bowl, get these 3 in line and everything else will follow.

 powerful controlled carving onto a block.

 smoothing the line across the end grain.

 a grip I use very little hollowing with the hook. Native American carvers use this grip a lot pushing and pivoting with the wrist is very powerful.

 starting the distinctive grooves in the bowl.

 and finishing them off.

The proof of the value of any spooncarving course is in the work of the students and I was very impressed.

 The course was a useful mix of time spent carving

 demonstrations of technique

and individual attention to help tweak our designs to get the best out of each piece.

 Fritiof really enjoyed teaching a bunch of folk who already had a good skill level and were at the stage where they could understand the difference between an OK spoon and a great one.

 Last few shots of students work

 Thanks all for a great time.

edit to add post course comments

“many thanks for a truly inspirational time with you and Fritiof, it
took the craft of spoon carving to a new level. It will take me some time
and much practice to approach that level of skill but, it is great to have a
high pinnacle to aim for” Richard Charles

“I think this was/is a seminal course.  Spoon carving in the UK will improve.
Fritof is a great teacher, like you, he has an amazing laid back style, but with the steel of hard production.” Richard Law

“inspirational examples, challenging techniques, considerate help, fine weather, convivial company, good food, blood-free zone … I’m sure the list could go on
For me, some of the key advances this week were:
Extending my mental model of what understated elegance is possible
Seeing potential spoons within surprisingly small stock
Appreciating the disproportionate visual effect of very subtle features, e.g. chamfers
Completing more of the spoon with the axe
Reducing the fluffy bits where the grain reverses
Nibbling less and making longer cuts with the knife
Realising that I can develop a reliable, left handed draw stroke” David Atkin

“thank you Fritiof it was inspiring meeting a true craftsman, I know for a fact that my work will improve immeasurably for the experience.”
John Mullaney

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4 Responses to spooncarving course with Fritiof Runhall

  1. pdcawley September 30, 2011 at 7:58 pm #

    I got my ax and knives out for the first time in too long last weekend and carved a too deep spoon and I was completely bushed by the time I'd finished doing the bowl. How the hell did he get the bowl started with the axe though? I can't begin to work it out.

  2. Simon Frez-Albrecht October 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    I am also curious about those axe cuts to start the bowl. I would love to see a video clip. In fact, if you happen to have a clip of Fritiof carving at all, I would love to see it. I really like to see skilled and efficient craftspeople at work.I've started using similar cuts in the bowl that are parallel to the length of the spoon. I prefer to not use sandpaper, and I find that the lengthwise cuts feel smoother on the lips than cross gain cuts that I use to rough the bowl out. The difference is that I typically try to make them disappear instead of stylising them. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Simon Frez-Albrecht October 2, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    This evening I tried out cutting the back of the handle with the top of the handle braced on the block as shown Fritiof is doing in the photo, I was very pleased with the line I got. Very smooth and clean.

  4. Robin Wood October 2, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    I am afraid I don't have video I find it intrusive videoing during a course. The axe cuts are done with three cuts, the first using the bottom point of the axe, the second with the top point, these two meet to form a v deepest in the centre at the base of the bowl, once they are done a third cut across the grain releases the chip just like giant chip carving.

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