I'm not a professional page writer, so it takes a bit for me to get this
much formatting! It's the info that's important, not the bells and
Like most people, I like wood
and I like hand-crafted art. The last art
class I can recall was in junior high, where I distinctly remember
crafting a crude nondescript clay animal while watching my table
partner carve a cat that actually looked like a cat. Mine was
suitable for the dump heap when it was done, and I realized that perhaps
my talent wasn't along the art lines.
I made no more serous attempts at art
outside of the sewing and quilting arena until
first met Dan Dustin at
the League of NH Craftsmen
Art Fair in Sunapee. His spoons were gorgeous, but I
couldn't put my finger on what it was that was so wonderful
I didn't buy a spoon from Dan that first year, but several years
later I went back and bought my salad set. My fortuitous
2004 search of a similar salad set for a wedding gift led me to learn spoon
carving. At that art fair, Dan informed me he was teaching his craft
at the Kimball
Jenkins Art School. So, now I'm a lawyer, seamstress,
reenactor, and a quilt and spoon maker, and of course a mom!
That's a forever thing.
If you want to learn more about spoons
making from Dan, you can listen to NH's Public Radio's "Front Porch" interview
on Dan's spoons.
The secret to the spoons is in the firing, which involves heating
them slowly in a mixture of beeswax and walnut oil. That method
"make the wood think it's still green" according to Dan, and make
the spoons a lot stronger.
Dan discusses his method of "firing" spoons
in his Front Porch interview, but in setting up my firing station,
I needed to consult with him.
It was a bit more complicated than I first expected,
but nothing terrible. The worst thing was the cost of the thermostat,
which was almost $200. The next most complicated decision
was the dimmer on the unit, which needed to handle the 600 watts
of the oven. My husband found it at an electrical supply place,
as Home Depot didn't have one powerful enough. The night
light shows me visually that the dimmer is working, and I can estimate
the power to the roaster. The clamp on the front is a low-tech
plastic clamp with a magnet to hold the end of the oven thermostat probe
high enough that the wiring doesn't sink into the hot wax and oil mixture.
I have an alarm on that thermostat, and use it to see the actual temperature.
It will also send me an alarm if the mixture gets too high.
For the record, you start the spoons out at the
melting point of the beeswax and oil mixture, which is about 150
F. I washed and rinsed them first in sudsy hot water, so they
were warm when I threw them in the pot. Then you raise the temp
SLOWLY. I used the setting at about 11 o'clock on the
dimmer switch, and raised the setting about 10 degrees per hour until
they are just over boiling. Once the bubbles rise consistently but
not violently, simmer for about six - 10 hours. In my first
batch, the spoons were still bubbling, so I reluctantly went to bed, and
they wound up cooking for another five hours. I then turned the
temp back to 150 on my first firing, (OK - Ric turned them down before
he went to work) so I could cool them slowly and fish them out while my
medium was still liquid. That seemed to work fine, although Dan
discusses tossing them in an insulated cooler to cool slowly in his radio
interview, so I do that now as well. I had a lot of wax to
wipe off before I could scrape the spoons down, so I started taking them
out at 160 and that works much better.
Close up of control panel. It helps
if your husband is an electrical engineer in setting this up.
Here's a collection of things I tried my first year -
spoons, a fork, natural needles, a " 'noggin," and a couple of "thread
winders" ready to be fired. Most folks wouldn't bother to carve the
thread winders, but I reenact, so I thought I'd try a couple.
The 'noggin cracked in firing. I keep it in the wood tool
storage bin for holding the leather price tags. Every once in a while
I take it out and try to sand it into something beautiful, but so far, I
havent' had a lot of luck with that. Try again. . . . . .
Here are some of the 2004 items pictured above
finished. Don't ask me what that twisted piece of wood is.
It just was a scrap from the floor of the art studio and wanted to
be carved. It's a bit big to use as a necklace. As
this was the first firing from my new wood cooker, I was very pleased
with the results. Could you tell the second spoon from the left
here is from the uncarved wood on the above-picture at the right?
The big spoon on the right was my "class best"
spoon, so I tossed it in the picture. The fork is for
reenacting. They hadn't thought of more than two tines in
1776. Hey, it beats the Pilgrims. They hadn't invented
forks yet, so if you go for Thanksgiving dinner at Plimouth Plantation, you get a spoon
to eat with - period.
Dan discusses in his Front Porch interview
the fact that many of his student's spoons don't make it to the
end of the class because they're given away. These made
it to the end, but only because he did a firing just before the last
class in December. They were Christmas presents.
2005 - 2006
I'm getting more prolific, so I've added a page on Spoons for Sale.
Most of them are there. Here are some of my favorites I've
kept or given as gifts.
I wanted to learn how to carve
small spoons this year. This was my best attempt. I think I did fairly
well, no? I used the Manzanita I picked up n the summer of 2005 in
California. I'm going
to see if I can make some small salt bowls to use it with the spoon. Look ma, my first piece of drug paraphernalia!
(OK in the interest of full disclosure, it's the first one I've made
- I tossed my much beloved and only other piece of drug paraphernalia when
Hannah was about three. It had been nothing more than a fond remberance
for many years by then anyway.)
The needles will be useful as bodkins for lacing
women's reenacting clothing.
I had spare piece of wood that wanted to be a small bowl - somewhat
like the bowl I want to carve for the small spoon above. That's the
left hand bowl. I carved it, and tossed it on my dresser to hold earrings
and my wedding ring. When I found a slightly bigger piece of wood that
also wanted to be a bowl, I carved that for my daughter. I'm jealous.
It looks like a perfect miniature trencher. I like Michelle's much
better. Oh well, there will be more where that came from.
I made this spoon with the flat leading edge
for stir frying right after the 2005 spoons class was over. Dan really
liked it! We use it a lot.
This spoon is slightly longer than the wok spoon. It's
hard to see the lovely curve of the handle.
I stopped by Dan's house in spring 2006 to see
if he had my student art show spoon when I saw his car out front. He
didn't, but he gave two of these bowls he had carved. They
split, so they're no good for selling, but I stayed up all night
to see how it sanded out. Even imperfection can be beautiful.
I love it!
Links of Interest for wood affectionados:
What would a hobby page be without a couple of links to some wonderful
links so you can check out other folk's ideas?
The best part of taking the spoons class twice was that I wouldn't
have found out about the book that was inspired by Dan Dustin.
It's written by a Dartmouth professor, and is quite good. A lot
of Dan in it, but he's much more the quintessential 60's hippie who never
went through the awful hippie-correction stage - the "yuppie" stage. I
also refused to go through the "yuppie" stage, but I was just a little too
young for total immersion in '60s culture. At any rate, the book is
Pick up a copy if you're into spoons. It's quite good!
On the family vacation to visit Ric's brother and sister in California
and Oregon last summer, we stumbled across "It's a Burl". I was enthralled,
bought a couple of burls I tossed in my suitcases on the way home, and
decided maybe some year when we go out there, I'll put the trip together
with some paid instruction. Not a thing like spoons, but this guy
has some GREAT stuff, most made out of various kinds of burls mostly, including
Manzanita. The next town we hit after we visited here, I insisted
Ric buy me a pocket saw to get some fresh. See the itty bitty Manzanita
spoon and needles further up. They look ENTIRELY different than the burl
work this guy does.
I don't tend to need a lot of support to have fun doing something,
but if you're a woman into woodworking, and you want to make some contacts,
this is the place to do
And of course there are some spoon maker and other wood
crafter sites. In no particular order:
Sartorious - he and Dan had an audiotapecorrespondence going for a
while. I'm sure Dan was happy to tell him he was doing things all
wrong, but he has spoons featured in June 2006
Woodwork Magazine. They're
Another spoon maker was featured in Woodwork Magazine,same issue.
You'd think we have a shortage of spoons in this country.
Barry Gordon He's from Syracuse,
and he also teaches.
Then there is "Spoonlady"
from California. Not as individualized, but lovely.