Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spoon making: From firewood to finished spoon

I thought it would be interesting to folks if I posted a series of pictures showing different stages of making a spoon.  I will be doing posts about each step in the process and how to do them with both power tools and hand tools in case any of you would like to try your hand.  But for now this will give you an idea of the process.

Here I have rough hollowed the bowl of the spoon in a rough billet of air dried Mesquite.  You can also use green wood but you will have to wait till your spoon dries to do the final shaping and sanding.  By cutting in from outside of the tree you will get a nice pattern of concentric rings.  In woods with different colored sap wood like this Mesquite you will get the light rim around the bowl and a dark oval of heart wood in the bottom of the bowl.  This is my favorite way to work.  There are many ways to start a spoon.  You can draw the shape of the entire spoon, cut it out and then hollow the bowl.  But I like to start with the bowl first .  Because of the shape of my billet this will be a left handed spoon.

After drawing some rough lines to indicate the plan view of the spoon I have removed the waste with my 18 inch bandsaw.  This step can also be done with a hand saw, drawknife or a hatchet.  The shape will be further refined in later steps.

In the above two pictures I have removed most of the waste with the bandsaw and the draw knife.  You just keep removing wood in small cuts, sneaking up on the shape.  This is all done by eye.  Now I am ready to do the final shaping with a spoke shave and a patternmaker"s rasp.

In the last two pictures I have deepened and refined the hollow of the bowl and done the final shaping of the spoon with the patternmaker's rasp.  Some fine adjustments to the shape will be made during sanding.  This spoon will now be sanded to 320 grit and the grain will be raised between sanding to prepare the spoon for use in the kitchen.  Then it will be steeped in a bath of hot beeswax and mineral oil.

That's it.  Your first one will take you a day or two to finish.  After some practice you will be able to do one in a couple hours.  That is the beauty of spoon making.  Grab any old piece of wood and with a a few simple tools you can make something nice in no time at all.  And this is the most laid back kind of wood working.  Notice I did not mention a tape measure at all.  Your eyes and your fingers are all the measuring devices you will need.  In the next instalment I'll tell you how to choose your wood.

The spoon all finished.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Excellent Green Chili


  Colorado is Green Chili country.  Each September Chili sellers come up from Hatch, New Mexico with truckloads of Chilies.  You can buy a bushel for about $15.oo and they roast them for you right there in a special roaster.  I am a Green Chili aficionado, but I could never make it as good as what I got in restaurants.  It was always too thin and lacked flavor.  I finally found the secret which is using cream of chicken soup instead of chicken broth.  This recipe is quick and easy to make using canned chilies and it tastes as good as any I have had.  The Pork Tenderloin has a nice grain to it and it melts in your mouth.  You can roast your own Chilies but it’s a bit more work.   This recipe is very mild with just a hint of heat.  You won’t need to make a rue to thicken this recipe.  The cream of chicken soup and the chili puree act as thickeners.

2 lbs. Pork Tenderloin roast cut into 1 inch pieces.
1 27 oz. can whole Green Chilies.  These are the long Anaheim chilies, not                    Jalapenos.
1 28 oz. can of Cream of Chicken soup.
1 medium white Onion, chopped medium fine.
¼ Teaspoon ground Cumin
½ Tablespoon Oregano.
4 cloves of Garlic, roasted.
Black Pepper to taste.
For hot chili add 1 or 2 Jalapeno or Serrano chilies, roasted.

Brown the Pork pieces in some oil.  While they are browning put your Garlic and Jalapeno or Serrano chilies into a dry skillet over medium heat and roast them turning often until they are blackened in places and soft,  about 10-15 min.  Your chilies should be blackened and blistered.  After the meat is browned remove it, add more oil and sauté the Onions.  While they are cooking open the canned chillies, pour out the liquid and rinse them in cold water.  Save out 5 or six and put the rest in a blender and add in the Garlic.  Cut your roasted Jalapeños, if you’re using them, in half longwise and scrape out the seed pods and the light colored ribs unless you like your chili really hot.  Add them in the blender as well as your Oregano and Cumin and enough water to purée. Cut the remaining chilies into small pieces.  Add the Cream of Chicken soup and 1 can of water to the Onions.  Add the purée and the cut up chilies and the Pork.  Add fresh ground pepper to taste.  I usually do all this in a Dutch oven, bring it all to a boil and then put it into a 275 degree oven for about 2-3 hrs.  Or you can bring it to a boil and put it in a crock pot for several hours.  Or simmer it for a couple hours on low on the stove, stirring often.  The longer it cooks the more tender the pork will be.  I like to serve with shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese sprinkled on the top and a little sour cream and some fresh chives from my herb garden.

For a great Smokey flavor soak a dried Chipotle Chili in hot water for 30 min. and add to the blender when you purée.

Add in 2 cups cooked Posole or hominy.  Here in Colorado it comes frozen and needs to be boiled for 3 hours before adding to the Chili.  I have tried the canned kind and it is not as good.  Too mushy,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spoon making 101 - Work holding devices.

If you want to try your hand at spoon carving then the first thing you will need is a way to hold your work while you carve away.  The shaving horse is without a doubt the best tool for the job.  Shaving horses have existed in one form or another for hundreds of years.  There is a seat, a platform and a dumbhead that holds the work down on the platform.  The dumbhead is attached to a foot peddle and pushing down on the peddle brings the dumbhead down to press the piece you are working against the platform.  Simple and efficient.  It is designed for working somewhat long pieces of wood with the draw knife or spoke shave.  In days past most things were made by splitting or riving green wood into sections or billets and then worked down with the draw knife.  Axe handles, wooden hay forks, rakes, basket handles and especially post and rung chair parts.  My shaving horse is sort of special.  Its a combination of a standard horse and a bodger's horse.  Bodgers where people in England who lived out in the woods and made chair parts to sell to Windsor chair makers in towns.  They cut down beech trees, rived them into billets, shaved the billets down and then turned them on spring pole lathes that they built right in the forest.

My shaving horse came from Country Workshops in western North Carolina. A  school for traditional woodworking,  they teach traditional Swedish bowl and spoon carving as well as all manner of chair making.  They have a fantastic tool store where you can get really fine hand tools, many of them handmade by master Swedish smiths.  The horse, which they call a Shaving Mule,  has an adjustable table that helps when working different sized pieces.  A small block of Maple which pivots is mounted between arms connected to the peddle which pivot on a bolt run through the beam of the horse.  If you need to turn the piece just let up pressure on the peddle, turn to the desired position and reapply pressure.  I use mine for shaving the rough billets to rasping and final sanding.  There is a piece of leather glued to one side of the pivot block that helps protect the work piece.  It is an elegantly simple and highly enjoyable thing to use.  The  best $250.00 ever spent and it is an absolute people magnet at shows and demonstrations.  Next time I'll tell you about another device to hold your work as well as the tools you will need.  Here is the link for the Country Workshops store:  www.countryworkshops.org/Store.html

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Asparagus time

Went picking wild Asparagus this evening along the ditch that brings water from the Rio Grande River to our property for irrigation.  We live in the San Luis valley of Southern Colorado, at an altitude of 7,200 ft. and spring does not really arrive  until late may or even early June.  This is the time we pick the wild asparagus when the water starts flowing down the ditches and things green up.  We took our three Sable Saanen  goats along.  Their names are Hurcules, Rocky and Juniper.  The kids always have to run ahead to pick the tender spears, some thick as your thumb,  before the goats see them.  We could leave them home but there is something so peaceful about walking with goats.  On the way back we stopped under a big Cottonwood tree to let them munch on the tender shoots of new trees coming up in the ditch bank.  A gentle breeze was blowing out of the west and it smelled of cool water and new leaves and fresh turned earth from the field next to the ditch and new sprouting Wheat.  I just closed my eyes and took in a deep breath through my nose.  I feel so blessed to live out in the country and to be able to pick wild Asparagus in the spring.  What a wonderful world we live in.

My favorite way to cook this Springtime treat is to saute it in butter with a little Garlic salt and some ground Pepper.

Didn't know I had a blog.

The other day I saw I had a referral to my Etsy site from this blog.  I didn't even know I had a blog.  It didn't take me long to figure out that my 14 year old daughter had created it.  Shiny.  So I'll be posting some of my favorite recipes as well as some tips and techniques I have learned about spoon carving in the last 10 years in case any of you would like to try your hand at this wonderful and stress relieving activity.