Of Beefwood and Yew

For the last dozen years or so I’ve used a red oak wooden spatula, found on eBay, I think it was priced at four dollars. The fellow selling them had several for sale and I’m certain that he made them himself. I have an intuition, perhaps false, that he did not receive a lot of love at home for these labors of love. This post is in part to say that the what was made was perfect. Thank you, and not only for the that tool, but the inspiration and the knowledge that one can just, jiffy-quick, make your own.

Australian beefwood is a wonderful wood. It grows now, I think invasively, in Florida. Storm damage creates some supply here in the US. I received a large piece several years ago for my birthday. A small cut-off was all that was needed.

Tung oil, of course, with limonene, my default simple finish.

An emerging Buddha offers it to your attention.

As for yew, a wood noted for strength and flexibility, of English longbow fame, I had several yews at the front of the house and saved some trimmings. Same idea, a trivial making, quick, useful.

I won’t belabor the narrative. Simple things speak for themselves.

Further Tales of the War Spoon

There are so many questions you may ask. The original, the Progenitor, is woken! It is not known if he visited R’lyeh in his mute and broken time. The wise will form their own opinions.

It so happened that the war spoon faithfully say upon my desk. It would assist in scratching my back when called but otherwise abide in quiet readiness. It was unfortunate that the cleaning ladies did not accord him sufficient recognition. Thrice they accidentally cast him to the stone floor, perhaps more than that, but at least thrice was his beak broken.

The first two times ordinary repairs were undertaken. Considerable thoughtfulness was exercised in terms of grain orientation (for strength). Mahogany dust was mixed with the glue to give right color. The third time, however, insufficient thoughtfulness ruled the day. I’d carved a rough new beak and glued it well. By rough I mean that it was not fully shaped. The shaping I’d do after the glue had set. For some reason, however, I decided to use the tool of terror (there should be special music for this).

Aptly named, the tool of terror not only tore off the unformed beak but also broke the neck of the Progenitor. In two. Decapitated. Much worse than anything that might happen in the chair of a dentist. The corpse of Ted Williams twitched. For many moons did things so remain.

We can rebuild him! Better, stronger, faster … bionic spoon!

Pieces of orange osage were cut and approximately fitted. Ridiculous ingenuity was applied in the gluing the second bond in the neck.

The beak was carefully set

Careful shaping followed.

and once again, perhaps even better than ever, the Progenitor quietly abides. His current beak and the additional neck length have improved his back scratching ability. What a long journey even the simplest of continuities can be.

Spoon 5

Cumaru was the driver here, that I’d never worked with it (as true of most woods) and that, having designs to make a few other things with it, to make a spoon would be a good way to learn how it responds to tools.

Spoon 5 Rough 1 Spoon 5 Rough 1 Detail

I cut the shape with a jigsaw and a Ryoba.  The bowl I did as a tiered excavation with a router, later to be smoothed with a few different bits via Dremel.

Spoon 5 Up Spoon 5 Down

Sanded to 220, standard finish of tung oil cut 50/50 with limonene.  The wood was delightful to work, heavy, holds detail, beautiful smell.


In progress.

First, featuring sustainability (all wood sourced from town wood pile), no metal (no screws or nails, just dowels) and hopefully sturdiness (remains to be seen) begins to take shape.  An Adirondack chair, first chair I’ve ever built, design my own too – I’m really scared it will be a fail.  Most of wood is white oak (there were at least a dozen board feet of it lying graciously atop the pile on Tuesday), then there’s some oak from what looks like was an armoire, really lovely wood, might even be brown oak, and (we have a great scrap pile in this town) some mahogany to hold the back slats.  OK, ok, I confess there’s one piece of hickory that was not dump scrap but it had this cool fire pattern and I did not want to cut it in any way and I wanted a place for that pattern to be displayed so it becomes the back.  The stencil carve outs were in the brown oak already.  Weird spade hearts?

IMAG0224 IMAG0225

Second, featuring one of my favored woods (orange osage) the first and second rounds of cuts in what is wanting to become a goose neck ladle.

IMAG0226 IMAG0227


And third, what will become Box 12.  It’s grossly done but not glued or pinned or finished.  I really like the grain on the box (red birch).  The joints are as good as I’ve done yet, all tablesaw and careful measuring.  I am short some 1/4 inch walnut dowels to pin with, so it’s on pause.  The lid has assorted exotic but I am not much impressed, other than it looks fancy, that it’s good design or will endure.




Anyway, that’s July 5.  Reports will follow

Spoon 4 – New War Spoon

April and May 2013

The tribal version.  If a war spoon is to be wielded by the head of a family as appropriate for the nurture and protection of that family then a more substantial version would be needed by the head of a tribe.  Indeed, were there to be a national war spoon it would be the size of a great tree and could only be wielded by the great Spirit.

This tribal war spoon is about twenty inches long and is made of orange osage, a fabulous wood, very heavy and strong, yellow with distinct grains.

New War Spoon Detail New War Spoon

Spoon 3 – Lilac

March 13, 2013

Yes, lilac.  There are some old lilacs (at least forty years) in front of the house and sometimes an older branch will fall off due to exhaustion, ants, old age, all of these.  Such a branch was on the ground this March, thick for lilac at almost two inches.  It called me.

First, I noticed the purple heartwood, and that it was very hard wood.  I guess it’s a cousin of olive.  Then I learned a little about ants, when I had run the thickest part through the table saw I saw them, still frozen in the saw dust, slowly shake off the cold and start to stagger around.  Carpenter ants.  The wood has a very distinct smell, not exactly like the flower but somehow related.  There are still ant tunnels in the handle.

Lilac Back Lilac Front


Spoon 2 – Rustic Ladle

Late February

Of mahogany.  The grooves meant to suggest a twisting were interesting.  As usual I learned that having a design well represented goes a long way.  I did not but I would like to come back to this theme perhaps even with a three strand braided attempt and more thoughtful execution.

Rustic Ladle almost there


Spoon 1 – Progenitor – “War Spoon”

If such a fancy name can be applied, if thinking of spoons in such grand terms is not outright silly, if having fun is ok.

Of course all progenitors have their own progenitors and it’s the shoulders of giants (or turtles) all the way down.  The specific ancestors of this spoon were also mahogany but had not wings or beaks or eyes or tails – mute and flightless spoons they were indeed.

To nurture and protect, never knowing which function is called for – standing ready.

New War Spoon Archetype