Have you ever seen a hand carved item and thought "I would like to try making something like that" but when you went to look at the tools you needed you either could not find any available or you saw the prices and changed your mind.
Well I found some spoon carving knives on Amazon which were only 4.90 CAD - that's 3.69 USD, 3.04 GPB, 35.65 SEK or 5.44 AUD (according to current exchange rates).
For this price you get one wood carving straight knife and one hook knife which is used to hollow out a spoon bowl.
I wanted to buy this set and carve a spoon with them to see if it could be done and also perhaps encourage others to try spoon carving to see if they liked it, before investing a good amount of money in proper tools.
So lets take a look at these knives:
They came in this box, nothing fancy but had cardboard and rubber guards to keep everything safe and in place.
Square handles with "ETEPON" on the handle, when the seller's name is "Longrunner" like it says on the box. I don't know why this is nor do I really care, It's just the way it is sometimes with cheap mass produced stuff.
Let's take a look at the blades, first up we have the hook knife which is meant to hollow out the spoon bowls:
I thought there was some damage to the front tip but it ended up just being some crud which I was able to pry off. The tip of the knife is bent though as can be seen and there is some very obvious damage to the hook blade, chipping all along along the edge. I left a review of 1 star on Amazon to see if the seller will reach out about this.
Next up, the straight carving knife:
This blade had no damage and it actually is not bad at all, I might even say it's quite good looking (especially considering the price tag). The only thing to mention so far is that the listing shows a knife with a pointy tip whereas this one has a rounded tip. I actually don't mind the rounded tip as that's great for beginners as its easy to stab yourself with a pointy carving knife when you're just getting used to it.
So from this point on I prepared myself a spoon blank to carve, I wanted to carve a spoon which was not too small and not too long. The challenge is to do absolutely all the knife carving with these two knives.
With the axe work completed, I started to carve with the knives. Let's have a look at the spoon blank I began with showing the back of blank first (this is sugar maple wood by the way, mostly dry):
Next picture is a look at the front of the spoon blank pictured with the knives:
This shows my prepared spoon blank, for which any sharp hatchet or lighter weight axe can be used. I simply drew the design free handed and axed around it on a wooden carving block. It does take a considerable amount of practice to get this part right however, your spoon can be whatever shape and as simple or as complicated as you like - there is no one way to do this. I will write a blog post for this step someday soon as well.
First step I took with these knives was with the straight blade. I went around the template to smooth out the axe marks. Right away I was happy with the knife as it was able to cut around the edges with ease. I used it right out of the box without sharpening or even taking it to the leather strop, and although I had the leather strops ready to go I carved the entire spoon without using them to see how it would hold up.
The straight knife did a fabulous job and held up really well. This sugar maple is very hard and pretty much dry so the fact that it had no issues was a very pleasant surprise. The only thing that it had any kind of problem with were the tight curves where the spoon handle meets the spoon bowl. This was due to the fact that the knife has a rounded tip. I was able to get the grain to match up but a beginner might want to make a more gradual curve just to play it safe.
Also just to mention, the back of the blade is squared off making thumb push cuts quite uncomfortable.
Once I had the sides and back of the bowl smoothed out, I moved on to the hook knife for the bowl hollowing:
So right off the first few cuts with the hook knife, I could see some scratch lines in the wood from the chipped blade. The knife was not sharp and due to the chipped edge, it made it a challenge to get all the way through with complete slices. I had to go chip by chip and gradually close the spaces in between.
I resisted the urge to sharpen or strop the knife because I wanted to stay true to the cheap knife challenge. I worked my way back and forth to eliminate these scratch marks as much as possible, then I finished the handle and evened it out. The next picture shows the near final result.
It was pretty challenging to use the hook knife alone to finish the bowl, mainly at the very end of the bowl and around all the edges. What I did was scrape close as I could to the edges with the hook, and then finished around the bowl with the tip of the straight knife.
After I finished with the knife work, I decided to push the challenge even further. I wanted to find out for myself what is possible using only cheap mass produced knives. I wanted to make some designs and have some fun with it.
Switching back to the straight knife, I applied some kolrosing designs (which I will do a separate blog post about sometime soon). I did this on the front of the handle as well as the bowl. The designs can be seen here without any oiling or pigment:
I should mention that before adding the kolrosing designs, I burnished the entire surface of the spoon with a smooth stone which I am happy to report, removed most of the visible rough marks left by the chipped and dull hook knife.
As of this point there was no more knife work, time to oil the spoon apply some pigment to the kolrosing cuts. After which, one last burnishing will complete the spoon.
The final result can be seen here:
So back to the knives. I definitely recommend them as how can you go wrong for under 5 dollars? I have shown here what is possible using only these cheap knifes and a sharp hatchet.
For the straight knife alone it is definitely worth it. As for the hook knife, if you are able to sharpen it first and then strop as you go you will have a much more enjoyable time using it. That is unless you get lucky and yours arrives undamaged and without a chipped blade.
If you are interested in these cheap knives and you cannot locate them on Amazon, just send me a message here or via my social media pages and I will send you the link I used (I have the Canadian link so I am unsure if they are available on any other regions for Amazon).
Thanks for joining me here! I will be making more blog posts about spoon carving, kolrosing as well as knife sharpening in the near future and will let you know via my social media when each is completed.