A couple of weeks ago, Dan gladly spent the day learning how to carve spoons with EJ Osborne of Hatchet + Bear. For the first time ever in the history of Littlegreenshed, I’m handing over the reins to him… over to you Dan.
The Hatchet and Bear spoon carving workshop felt a little like stepping back in time. Back to a time when I was a boy scout, playing with ropes and knives. Its a simple setup: A chair, a stump for carving on, a hatchet, a knife and a crook knife. That’s three tools. You could also count a pencil and lots of tea and coffee…and also something called a Beetle.
I’ve done my fair share of DIY, and I’ve split a bit of fire wood, too, but I’ve never done anything like carving before. My Dad is something of a crafting genius and I was proud to tell him that I was going to make a spoon. EJ starts by demonstrating how to split a round of Birch in to two halves. A few firm knocks with the Beetle on the back of the hatchet blade and the birch splits in two. We learn how to select the best piece, with fewest inclusions and defects, and then we take it in turns splitting our own rounds until we have a 1″ thick billet for a spoon.
A sharp Hatchet is a great tool. EJ has us peel the thin bark from a branch and create pointy stakes and spears – all great handling practice for what is to come. We sketch out the shape of the spoon on the billet and rough out the shape with the axe. The more material you can remove with the axe, the less work you need to do with the knife. But the knives are sharp and the birch was still growing two days earlier, so it cuts and peels in clean and satisfying curls.
The knife demands safe handling, so we’re shown a group of holds and cutting techniques, then we hone down our spoons in to shape. There were one or two cut fingers on the day, but nothing serious.
EJ served a delicious and wholesome lunch of vegetarian Chilli, with a side of Chorizo, excellent bread and local cheeses. We ate using some of EJ’s own carved eating spoons, a great reminder of her skill. Each spoon was unique, each was very beautiful and each was utterly practical.
EJ is truly very talented and undoubtedly the real deal. As she talks she references other makers, acknowledges other techniques and ultimately explains her own philosophy through spoon carving. She enthuses passionately about different woods and tools and filled me with confidence to gather my own collection of tools at home.
After spending a day learning the basics, I appreciate EJ’s skill even more. I found the actual act of making a spoon to be very simple. Its pretty clear that I could spend the rest of my life perfecting the art of spoon carving, and I hope I will. I set out to make a usable spoon, not a spoon for the mantle piece. I came back with a fairly chunky, quite handsome, multi-multi-faceted, wonky, cooking spoon. But it was made entirely by me. With practice I think I can make something to be really proud of and I’m looking forward to showing the kids how its done too.
The spoon has had about a week to dry, and I’ve rubbed it with some olive oil. This morning it stirred its first pan of porridge. Tomorrow it will probably make a risotto. Must make more spoons!
I love Dan’s spoon. It’s wobbly, hand crafted and perfect in my eyes. If you fancy spending a day learning to shape wood, then please visit Hatchet + Bear for more details on EJ’s workshops. Or if you’d rather buy something handcrafted EJ sells wonderful spoons, bowls and other lovely things in her online shop. (she will also be stocking a small range in the new Anthropologie in Bath when it opens at the end of the month).
all words and images by Dan Taylor.