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This article is from Issue 8 of Woodcraft Magazine.
Perfect for the delicate coating on Teflon cookware, these wooden spatulas add a warm touch to the kitchen that any cook will appreciate.
Tools: Square, bandsaw, vise, spokeshave, fine-toothed rasp, coarse rasp, half-round rasp.
TIME: A few hours
Materials: 2" x 4" x 14" hardwood blank, sandpaper in various grits up to 220, oil finish
Copy these images, cut out and apply to your choice of wood to use for patterns to accurately make your spatulas.
When my wife noticed that her favorite wooden cooking spatula was fraying near the edge, she asked if I could repair it. Upon inspection, it was clear that with a little sanding it would be as good as new.
But as I sanded out the worn edge, I wondered what it was about this tool that made it her favorite. I held it as if stirring an imaginary dish on my workbench and noticed that it curved downward and to the right. I realized that these curves made stirring more comfortable by minimizing the raising of the elbow and bending of the wrist required when using straight spatulas. What’s more, a wooden spatula poses no danger of melting like plastic ones, or burning fingers on overheated metal. Besides, the wood just feels good in your hands.
I thought these would make great gifts for the cooks in my family. When I considered how to make a spatula like this in my own shop, it reminded me of the process used to make the compound curves in saber feet and cabriole legs in some of my furniture.
I chose cherry for this project, but almost any nonporous hardwood will work. Dimension a blank to 2" x 4" x 14". Use a square and pencil to draw lines on the front and side of the blank in order to align the two patterns with each other, and trace their shapes (Fig. 1). For a left-handed spatula, flip the front pattern over before tracing its shape.
Saw to the lines on one side of the blank. Take your time and make one continuous cut, then tape the waste pieces back on (Fig. 2). Turn the blank onto its side and saw to the pencil lines. Remove all of the waste to reveal the roughed out spatula.
Shaping your spatula could be done fairly quickly using a combination belt/disk sander, but you’d create a mountain of sawdust in the process. Here’s how to do it with hand tools, and create far less mess.
Clamp the handle into a vise and use a spokeshave to smooth and flatten the surface nearest the scraping edge (Fig. 3). Smooth the curves of the handle on all four sides keeping the cross section of the handle square for the moment. Clamp the handle into a vise with the spatula overhanging the edge of the workbench and use a hand plane to shape the back until the scraping edge tapers to a thickness of about 1/16" (Fig. 4). Initially, have the plane blade set for a thick shaving and then adjust the blade for a fine shaving when the edge reaches about 3/16" in thickness.
Clamp the spatula in the vise so that the handles of the spokeshave won’t hit the bench as you shape the back (Fig. 5). Use a spokeshave and a fine-toothed rasp to blend the facets on the back together as much as possible.
Hold the workpiece in your hand and place the end of the handle against a stop on your bench as you shape the handle with a coarse rasp (Fig. 6). To shape the end of the handle you may need to let it overhang the edge of your bench. Switching to a fine-toothed rasp, remove the grooves created by the coarse rasp and continue to blend the facets together. When working the concave areas use a half-round rasp.
Starting with 100-grit sandpaper and working up to 220-grit, give the spatula a thorough sanding. Apply mineral oil or salad bowl finish with a clean, soft cloth. Avoid vegetable oils, which can turn rancid over time. Paraffin wax is food-safe and can be used to polish the spatula.
As the owner and instructor of a woodworking school specializing in traditional hand tool methods, George Huron spends most of his time teaching, designing new classes and performing live demonstrations. He is currently producing, filming and editing instructional woodworking videos. He spends his time away from the shop with his wife Pat and their two pugs Maggie and Mollie.
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