There is no spoon

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Project by Dan Lyke posted 07-23-2012 01:41 AM 2594 views 4 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I think it must have been nearly two years ago at a Sonoma County Woodworkers Association meeting. There were a couple of presentations that evening, there was a presentation about a router lathe that was used to mill spindles for a spectacular cherry cradle in that year’s Artistry in Wood exhibit, a few from a guy who made some gorgeous inlaid doors, a talk about rasps (yes, even grab-bag evenings at the SCWA are usually amazing), and David Marks suggested spoons as an “I want to hang out in the shop but don’t have any other ideas” project.

We (Charlene, my partner and all things, and I) have a group of kids whose families have been through the local homeless shelters that we do projects with, and we thought spoons was a grand idea. Hand tools! Scrapers! Coping saws! How could this go wrong? So I posted to our local Freecycle group that if anyone was pruning a fruit tree it’d be fun to get some of their cast-offs, and I got a box of cherry branches.

Well that box of limbs got tossed in to a corner and moved from place to place, and we didn’t have enough volunteers to drag in to watch the kids use coping saws (the facility that we do this program at has some rules about adult to child ratios and use of tools that are kinda stifling, but also probably not unreasonable), but in the mean-time one of those kids whose parents we’re on good terms with said he wanted to make a bow. I downloaded instructions for a basic oak bow off the internet, and he quickly lost interest ‘cause the various archery programs we helped hook him up with had fiberglass bows for him to use, but…

In the mean-time, every time I walked by that half-finished bow in the shop I tossed it on the tillering stand, drew a few marks, and hit it with the plane or the spoke shave to move it along. And I realized that there’s something amazingly calming and centering about pulling curls off a stick of wood with a well tuned plane or spoke shave. It’s great to put together a chair or a cabinet or whatever, but the quiet contemplation of “let’s pull a hundredth of an inch off there and see what happens” is like a well executed Tai Chi set.

This last week, Charlene brought her developmentally disabled brother up for a stay. I love the guy, but he lives in a group home, operates at a pretty low level, and after a week babysitting I… well… It is this just about annual ritual that reminds me that I am not a nice person. I can play at being a nice person. For a long time, even. But, after a while, I start to have dark thoughts.

When that happened, I retreated to the shop, grabbed one of those cherry sticks, and started in on it. It started with hand tools: pull saw, spoke shave, scrapers, although on the second one there I slapped that sucker in the milling machine with a bullnose bit to route out the bowl.

But even at that, David Marks is right: There is something amazingly calming and soothing in going from a block of wood with bark on it, and cutting away everything that doesn’t look like a spoon. Shaving handles, scraping out bowls, sanding off the saw marks, and finally applying the walnut oil and seeing that wood go from “that’s nice” to “wow”, and the stress level go from “I’m gonna lay waste” to “ommmm”.

So: Two spoons, in cherry. With a new appreciation for the wooden spoons and salad servers we’ve bought by the handful. It turns out that this would have been a horrendously bad idea to do with the kids: Cherry is hard wood, there’s a lot of cross-grain cutting, I ended up using everything including from the angle grinder to mallet hammered round chisels to a lot of time just sitting there listening to a podcast working sandpaper on the thing, so it’s good to try it myself before I foist it off on children. But it worked for me.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

11 comments so far

View Kevin's profile


562 posts in 2803 days

#1 posted 07-23-2012 01:49 AM

Wow, the spoons look great. I used to do a little carving, was never very good at it but it definetly did relax me. Haven’t done it in forever. I guess I’m gonna have to give it a try again. Also liked the Matrix reference.

-- Measure twice, cut once, then sand a whole bunch

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

23362 posts in 3610 days

#2 posted 07-23-2012 02:11 AM

Nice spoons. The work is relaxing!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30439 posts in 2842 days

#3 posted 07-23-2012 07:32 AM

Nice looking spoons.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Sodabowski's profile


2388 posts in 3337 days

#4 posted 07-23-2012 12:30 PM

I like the spoons but prefer the story actually :)

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

View jeepturner's profile


941 posts in 3297 days

#5 posted 07-23-2012 02:12 PM

Nice spoons, but like S. above I prefer the story.
I have met nice people in my life, but most people are like us and we have to try, to be nice. I work on it day by day, and I do know how challenging it can be when dealing with family. I have also made spoons in a moment of need, not in need of a spoon, but in need of the work.

-- Mel,

View nobuckle's profile


1120 posts in 3265 days

#6 posted 07-23-2012 11:35 PM

A spoon seems like such a simple thing to make. I’m sure that’s not true. You did a nice job on those. And remember “Don’t try to bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Only try to realize the truth, that there is no spoon”

-- Doug - Make an effort to live by the slogan "We try harder"

View mafe's profile


12104 posts in 3593 days

#7 posted 07-24-2012 09:50 AM

Beautiful spoons.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View stefang's profile


16722 posts in 3838 days

#8 posted 07-24-2012 05:34 PM

Great looking spoons and nice wood too. ‘Nice’ can be confining. ‘Normal’ is somewhere between nice and not so nice, so welcome to the club!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4629 days

#9 posted 07-24-2012 06:41 PM

Thanks, all. I’m not really a Matrix fan, though I did think the reference was cute, but as I thought about this more I realize that, yes, it was amazingly appropriate. In a way that has bent this materialist’s mind a bit.

Now I can get back to kicking real things off my “to-do” lists.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View whitewulf's profile


456 posts in 3441 days

#10 posted 09-10-2012 07:03 PM


-- "ButI'mMuchBetterNow"

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4629 days

#11 posted 09-10-2012 11:56 PM

Grin. Yeah, the first thing I need to do is put a real edge on it.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

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