best spoon carving courses in the UK?

I started carving spoons 21 years ago inspired by Wille Sundqvists book “Swedish Carving Technique” back then there were no spoon carving courses the UK green woodworking scene was all about making windsor chairs on pole lathes.

I was totally inspired by Wille Sunqvist “Carved utensils and other objects are a joy to use and live with. They are the lasting result of meaningful work. Beyond this, carving is a way of having fun together.”

Wille Sunqvist spoons
Robin Wood with Wille Sunqvist

Having spent more than 10 years full time as a woodworker in 2005 I decided it was time to start passing my skills on and I felt spoon carving and the skills of axe and knife use were the thing that the UK green wood scene was missing, incredible as it may seem given the current interest no one was doing it then. Whilst I enjoy my day job of making wooden utensils I really enjoyed the teaching, particularly watching beginners go from first awkward attempts to skilled and confident knife users in just a few days. Then there were the messages from students like this from Sarah Blackwell after I ran a course for Forest school teachers.

“Robin I had a wonderful time and I know the feedback from everyone was superb. Everyone felt empowered by the way you taught and how you demonstrated a gradual build up of understanding and progression of skills and understanding throughout the weekend.”

Well 7 years on and several hundred students later there seem to be lots of spooncarving courses out there, quite a few run by friends and past students so I thought it would be good to post pics and links to  some of the best spoon carving courses in the UK, I have not been on any of these courses but I do know all these folk carve decent spoons, carving good spoons doesn’t necessarily make you a good teacher but it is a good step along the way. Likewise the fact I haven’t included someone here doesn’t mean anything either, other than lack of space or perhaps I don’t know of them.

First up the reason I started this blog post, in the current edition of Living Woods magazine there is an advert for a spooncarving course with “Jack Raven Bushcraft” in Kent, I had not heard of them but the nice pic showed good spoons, several of which were in styles I knew well.

A flick through the website shows their carving instructor is Dave Hoyle, a lovely chap who has been on all my courses and also the course we organised with Fritiof Runhal last year.
This is Dave on a sharpening day  I ran last year and carving on Fritiof’s course

In the Lake District my good friend and excellent carver Steve Tomlin runs courses. Steve also came on Fritiof’s course see his write up here. Steve is one of the most skillful and multi-talented craftspeople I know.
Fritiof Runhall, Steve Tomlin, Barn Carder

Martin Damen is another past student who has done most of my courses and now teaches in Oxfordshire.

Riichard Law is another very nice chap and past student who teaches in Yorkshire I love his dry yorkshire humour.

My good friend Barn Carder (Barn the spoon) has helped me run many courses, carved more spoons than anyone in the UK and teaches
I am not sure if he has current course dates up anywhere here are some or contact him to see where and when he is teaching.

One friend that has never been on a course but I would be happy to recommend is Sean Hellman, another very talented green woodworker in Devon. Though Sean is offering one day courses in spoon carving including sharpening. I did these when I started and it is what people ask for but I having experimented I find 3 days is the perfect time to learn and embed the skills, one day is really only a taster.

My friend Guy Mallinson has one of the most beautiful woodland workshops in the country as seen on Monty Don’s mastercrafts series. Ben Orford teaches his spoon courses, I have known Ben over ten years since he was an apprentice with Mike Abbott and Gudrun Lietz and have helped him develop his bowl turning and spoon carving tools, he is a good carver and nice guy.

Having bigged up everybody else I should post a link to my own spooncarving course page and also to SPOONFEST which promises to be a fantastic weekend either as an introduction to what is possible spooncarving or as inspiration for those that are well along the way.
Then for the sake of completeness I shall include various other courses I know of but have no experience of if you know others let me know and I’ll add them in here.

Jon  Mac in Devon, spooncarving with a bushcraft slant.

David Knight in the North East

It really is incredible to see how the interest in spoons has ballooned in such a short time. I think it is just such a great way to work green wood and fits into our lifestyles today. You only need a few tools, no dedicated workshop space and small diameter green wood as your raw material which is freely available everywhere. It’s amazing really that the current spooncarving resurgence didn’t start years ago.

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5 Responses to best spoon carving courses in the UK?

  1. Sean Hellman July 14, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    Thanks for the heads up Robin. What interests me is how the internet, especially through blogs and forums has pushed the quality of spoon making and design on by leaps and bounds. For to many years I worked in a vaccum and it helps so much having a community to share with, to be inspired by.

  2. Robin Wood July 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    I think the internet can't do that on it's own Sean it is only individuals like yourself willing to experiment with new things and share their knowledge for free. It is just easier for us to do that today than in the past. For me personally virtually all the big steps in my learning have been through physical meetings in the real world, handling spoons and watching them made though the web sometimes shows me who I need to go and visit.

  3. Alex July 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    I agree with Sean on the Internet. We watched the Mastercrafts series and thought the green woodworking looked accessible. Vikki searched on the internet and the thing that was easiest to find, and in the best location for us, was Robin's bowl carving course. I don't think we would have bought specialist magazines.We watched some of Robin's youtube carving videos before Vikki went on the course, and have looked at quite a few of Sean's and Barn's as well now. They give you quick access to ideas to try and then hopefully talk to real people about. I am really looking forward to spoonfest, and hope you can make it an annual event.

  4. Alex July 17, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    I forgot to say that after us both doing the spoon carving course, the advanced course has never been at a good time for us, the sharpening course was a brilliant use of a day. The confidence to sharpen our tools properly, the joy of using a fantastically honed axe to make some cherry cooking utensils is just fantastic.

  5. Woodsman Crafts July 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    I was taught how to carve a spoon 8 years ago on a bushcraft course, but credit should be given to you Robin as your blog has been very helpful with images of the shapes and methods to help fill the gaps. Others have helped too. If I had the money, I think I would have come on a course or two to speed things up. Loads of practice over the years and I'm getting there and running a few courses too. People love it and I look forward to filling more gaps at spoonfest :)

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