Carve a Spoon by Hand




About: I have been working with wood since I could stumble into the shop with my dad. About a year ago I moved into a house with no space for a full shop so I decided to take up all hand tool wood working. That sta...

Spoon carving is an art as old as stone tools themselves. Carving a spoon can be a relaxing job that allows you to take a block of wood and end up with a piece of art that is also a functional kitchen utensil. This spoon is made from walnut and can be made in a matter of hours with basic tools. Though this task may look complicated and daunting, it is simple and most anyone can pick up on their first try. Don't expect perfection on your first spoon, however, be proud and happy of the work you've done. Feel free to use a block of firewood, though the softer the wood like poplar, walnut or cherry, the easier it is to carve. You could even do this with a piece of soft pine.

Supplies and Tools


Chisel Set:



9-1/2" Ryoba ( Double Edge):

Hook Knife:

Card scraper:

Carving Gouge:

Boiled Linseed Oil:

Paste Wax:


Step 1: Step 1 Design the Spoon

You can make the spoon however you want. It is yours and whatever design you would like. This is a good chance to express yourself and have a little bit of fun. Usually, I like to work from a stock piece of wood that's about 3 in wide by 1 in thick by however long I want the spoon to be. However, this can be made out of most any material size you have on hand or even firewood.

On mine, I chose to be a little bit fancy, and go for an artistic flair with a swooping handle and a fish tail end. Start by drawing the general shape you want on the block of wood. This does not have to be specific as you can always change the shape later on.

Step 2: Step 2 Remove the Majority of the Waste

This step is by far the most difficult and can take the most time. The fastest method is to use a hatchet and a chopping block to chop off the majority of the waste. This method does take a bit of skill, but it is very fast and efficient. The second option is to use a chisel and mallet to carve out the wood. Simply clamp it in the bench vise and work down towards your marks.

In the end, you should be left with a block that is roughly spoon-shaped but has no grace or elegance to it.

Step 3: Step 3 Refine the Handle

At this point, the handle is 1 inch thick as the original block of rough cut wood was 1 inch thick. However, I really only want the handle to be between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch thick, so I can rip down the backside of the handle and remove a lot of the waste with a hand saw.

After that is done, we can start refining the handle and bring it down to a round shape. I like to start with a spokeshave and remove most of the material that way. Once I get it to the shape that I want, I can bring in a card scraper and refine that further. This will remove the facets from the spokeshave and leave you with a nice clean surface.

Step 4: Step 4 Shape the Bowl

Shaping the bowl is a lot of fun and the point at which the spoon begins to come to life. I like to start with a carving gouge and cut in line with the wood from one end of the bowl towards the middle. Next, I turn around and carve from the other end of the bowl toward where I just stopped. After that, I come in from the sides and cut cross grain to clean out any of the tear out left from the previous to cut. Lastly, I repeat this step again and again until I'm down to the depth that I want. On my spoon it is about 1/2 inch deep at the bottom of the bowl.

Once the bowl is shaped, I can come in with a hook knife and clean out all of the facets left from the carving gouge. The hook knife can cut or it can scrape out the bow and bring it almost to its finished smoothness.

Step 5: Step 5 Shape and Smooth All Surfaces

At this point, you have a functioning spoon. But we need to do a little bit more refining work to bring it down to its final smoothness and ready for finish. I like to use a combination of a spokeshave and card scraper to get rid of all of the facets. A round card scraper or a gooseneck card scraper are great choices for the final cleaning on the inside of the bowl. Once everything has been cleaned up and is smooth, it is ready for finish. I choose to use some 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface a little bit. This will allow the finish to be absorbed into the surface a bit more.

Step 6: Step 6 Finish the Spoon

For a finish, you are probably going to want to use a food-safe finish and most finishes are food safe once they have cured. However, some people tend to be a bit picky about what they want touching their food. The common choice is to use mineral oil, but my choice is to use a homemade boiled linseed oil and paste wax. I would not use the stuff you can buy at the store as it will have a chemical dryer that you probably do not want in your mouth. I have other videos on how to make your own boiled linseed oil and paste wax here.

I apply three or four coats of boiled linseed oil waiting about 15 to 20 minutes in between coats. Next, I dry off the excess oil and apply a coat of paste wax. Make sure to rub the paste wax deep into the surface. Once the paste wax has dried, then the surface can be buffed off and shined up. Congratulations, now you have a finished spoon made only with hand tools.



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    16 Discussions


    8 months ago

    I would love to make a spoon like that. i have plenty of exotic very hard wood. my only problem is when making that spoon the waste is 3 times more of that beautiful wood than what was needed for the spoon. How does one make the "bowl" and the handle separately and join them together? What does one use for the connection? I have never seen anyone tackle that problem.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 months ago

    It seems like it would be a challenge to carve the handle and bowl separately, though by no means impossible. A dowel joint could work well if you have a good drill press vice (or a good eye). I would finish carving it after the joint is finished. However, cutting out a blank with a bandsaw or similar would be simpler and leave the waste in solid, useable pieces.


    9 months ago

    I'm surprised you didn't use Walnut Oil. It is a drying oil, unlike most other vegetable oils, and would suit that wood perfectly. I have used it for years on similar kitchen ware and also on metal surfaces like my carbon steel Chinese cleaver for rust prevention.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 months ago

    I have used walnut oil in the past, but one of my kids is alergic to nuts. where as the wood is no thret the oil is drived from the nut and even after polimerizeing still contains the compound that can cause a reaction. so for most people that is a great option but for my familt I make my own BLO.

    spark master

    9 months ago

    I have made many spoons out of wahtever I have around, never anything as nice a wood as you have. I use mine from time to time. I use mineral oil but a paste wax made with mineral oil and bees wax is ok. If just using oil get'm soaked wrap in clean rag then in a plastic bag for a night then redo.

    Also if they are ultilitarian consider making the bowls a specific size, that is take a measure , and measure out a tablespoon, put in the bowl, as you carve to make sure it is 1 tablespoon. STOP, when you get the size you want.

    Never in a dishwasher always hand clean and dry, and feel free to oil'm on occassion. like almost everytime you use them. Or store them in a cotton sack impregnated with oil then stored in plastic outer bag.


    Reply 9 months ago

    Spoons, cups, bowls, spatulas, etc. They are all things that people make that are in to woodworking, and/or bushcraft. If you're worries about shaving grams off your load out, I wouldn't do it. But if you want to bust out an awesome looking spoon that you hand carved out of some hardwood that reaches all the way to the bottom of your jetboil cup, then hell yeah, do it up!. If you're unsure about your woods strength (haha), maybe just quickly carve out the handle portion and see what kind of force you can put on it. If you're comfortable with its strength, then continue on.


    Reply 9 months ago

    all depends on the wood you use. Pine, Probably not. Hickory or maple, sure!


    9 months ago

    Nice work, Very nice work. I’ve made three spoons (I’m an accomplished woodworker) and my third one was not as nice as your first. I did the rough scooping of the “bowl” fInst, just after the overall shaping. Did you consider doing it this way? I also found that mineral oil worked under wax and I felt food safer that way but I admit it’s being “picky” and maybe completely unfounded.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.


    9 months ago on Step 6

    Nice job. Read the label on any boiled linseed oil that you buy. The cheap stuff is made with metals that might be toxic. Also, oils that can go rancid arent a good choice (canola oil, olive oil, etc.) Mineral oil is a safe bet as well as some others. Also, be really careful with the rags you use ... Boiled linseed oil, in particular, can self-combust! The rags should go in water or a fire-safe cannister.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 months ago

    Correct. Do not use store-bought BLO that is why I use and recommend making your own. Once it cures it does not go rancid.