which is the best wood for spoon carving

It’s important to get the best wood for spoon carving. When starting out I recomend willow (Salix sp), poplar (Populus sp), alder (Alnus) and lime (Tilia sp) lime in the UK is basswood in the US. These are the softest of the hardwoods. These woods carve really easily when freshly cut or green and make excellent cooking and serving spoons.
When you have more experience you can move on to harder woods, birch is wonderful only slightly harder than the other woods when green but very solid when dried. All the maples are good, in the UK sycamore (Acer pseudopltanus) is plentiful and excellent. All the fruitwoods are good and it’s fun to experiment with any wood you find, hawthorn, rowan, whitebeam, rhododendron, all sorts make good spoons and it’s a lovely way of learning the properties of different woods. I have recently become a fan of horse chestnut too.
To begin you want nice clean straight grained wood with no knots bends or twists but later on you can use crooked wood to make the very best spoons. Here my daughter JoJo is gathering crooks from a fallen sycamore for last weeks spoon course.

This sycamore is a big tree and blew down 50 yards from my workshop, there are thousands of spoons in it and I hope to work my way through it before the National Trust come and tidy it up.

This is spoon heaven, lots of nice crooks.

When running courses I also need nice straight grained wood and for this I normally visit a birch woodland which was planted by a friends 20 years ago, he is steadily thinning it and I can use the proceeds for spoons. This time I took the opportunity to experiment felling trees with my bronze axe, a Japanese axe and a little wildlife hatchet. All did the job remarkably well actually.

A small birch like this will make about a hundred spoons and the extra light will mean the trees either side can now grow larger.

6 Responses to which is the best wood for spoon carving

  1. Survival in the Wasteland July 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    i have felled trees (3) with that little wildlife hatchet- good ax

  2. Alex July 3, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Is there a particular species that is your favourite for carving? I imagine that preferences change between small spoons, cooking spoons and hand carved bowls.

  3. Gorges Smythe July 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    It's a shame that more people don't understand the idea that the cutting of some trees is good for the rest.

  4. Tina August 28, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    I was led to believe that rhododendron was pretty toxic.Is this not the case? There is certainly plenty of it about.

    • Robin Wood August 28, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

      Not sure where the ref to Rhohody was but yes there is significant toxin in the leaves but I don’t believe there to be significant toxin in the wood. I certainly have never seen any objective test result showing it.

  5. David March 22, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

    Regarding the use of rhododendron for utensils and the potential toxins, do you know anything about using the osage orange or bois d’arc tree? It is extremely hard and makes some nice things, but I have found conflicting ideas on whether it is safe for eating and cooking on. I don’t want to risk poisoning anyone.