Sunday, 29 January 2012

Swedish Spoon Carving

If you are prone to trawling the net with certain keywords in mind and in search engine (whittling, greenwood carving, etc.), you might be forgiven for feeling that the discipline of spoon carving is, to use the term of William Gibson, at a nodal point. Some confluence of events, zeitgeist, advertisements, internal realisations, leads to the emergence of a micro-trend. A decade or so of Ray Mears on the telly and a furtive wish to get "back to the land" are two of the identifiable ingredients that have led a remarkable number of middle-aged men (give or take a few years, and, unfortunately, they are almost all men) to spend a hundred quid on an axe and a few knives. I know this because they've made blogs.

It's a good thing, I think, and interesting that today it is a consumer-choice-identity-statement to purchase items that would have been in every house one hundred years ago. That much is a truism of late-capital.

Every time someone (me) starts moaning about the latest cycling trend, I can't help but find some zero-level happiness that more people are on bikes. Likewise the new spoon men. A good tool is a good investment, especially if it involves supporting some of the smaller and more interesting forges -- Gränsfors Bruks, Svante Djärv, Ben Orford, Ray Iles spring to mind. Provided they don't chop down too many trees, the worst case scenario is a stockpile of high quality steel for after the apocalypse.

Here is a video from a Jubilee Fair in Sweden, 1923. I suppose it would have been shown as a newsreel before films, something like that. The crafts shown were being presented with an air of nostalgia and pastoral nationalism (cf. Knut Hamsun over the border in Norway). Already at that time, industrial processes were coming to occupy the minds of Swedish designers. The clip of a man carving a spoon illustrates perfectly the point that it is always worth watching a master at their craft. Note the various techniques, different axe and knife grips, supporting the work with the chest, armpit, knee, and his little leather chest apron; a richness of experience and muscle-memory. There is much to be learned from these two minutes of footage.

A longer video from the same newsreel, with chair and clog making, can be found here.


  1. Keep a whittling fellas and fellarinos x

  2. Thanks for the share!

    Best regards,

    A Novice spoonmaker
    The Netherlands

  3. Wonderful video! I just want to watch it over and over and study his every move. Thank you for posting it!

  4. Need a hook knife for spoon carving, Any suggestions

  5. Need a hook knife for spoon carving, Any suggestions