with Love Spoon Carver Chris Watkins
This Valentine’s Day, surprise your true love with a hand-carved token of your affection. Decorative utensils, such as this one, have been used for centuries by Welsh men to impress their lady loves. And whether you’re a novice or an advanced carver, you’ll find the instructions from Welsh spoon carver Chris Watkins easy to follow. (See page 71 for the tools and materials you will need.)
1 Plane and cut out a blank (Chris used poplar) to ¼ x 2½ x 11". Now, make a photocopy of the spoon pattern on page 71 and copy that pattern onto the blank using transfer paper and pencil. Hold the pattern firmly in place with one hand or with tape. Or you can spray-adhere the pattern to the blank.
2 Remove the pattern and transfer paper, then scribe a perfect circle at the top of the keyhole with a compass.
3 Working in small strokes and with the grain, carve the spoon bowl front with a 3/8" #5 Pfeil gouge. Make cuts inside the inner oval to a center depth of 1/8".
4 Using an 18½ tpi (teeth per inch) blade, scrollsaw the bowl to shape, cutting on the pattern and going no farther than the first heart as shown.
5 Switch to a detail knife and shape the gentle convex back of the bowl. Support the fragile neck as shown to prevent breakage. Sand the bowl front and back using a progression of 80-, 100-, and 180-grit sandpapers.
6 Mark blade start holes in the heart and keyhole openings with an awl. Next, chuck in a 1/8" bit and drill a hole in each of the heart openings. Change to a 1/4" bit and drill through the center of the keyhole circle as shown.
7 Place the blank in a woodworking vise, drill a hole large enough for the 3/8" cabinetmaker’s round file, and then remove most of the waste in the keyhole circle with a straight up and down abrasive motion. Make cigarette-sized rolls of sandpaper in grits mentioned earlier and sand the opening to the line.
8 Scrollsaw out the openings, going from the top heart and working down to the bowl. Apply downward pressure with your fingers to prevent the workpiece from chattering and breaking. Now, sandwich the faces of the workpiece in the vise and sand the inside edges of the openings, using narrow strips of sandpaper to remove saw marks. Finally, saw away the waste on the outside of the spoon handle as shown.
9 Return the workpiece to the vise, or hold it firmly in one hand, and use a detail sander in grits from 100 to 180 to clean up the outside edges as shown.
Meet the CARVER
A native of the Vale of Neath in Wales, Chris Watkins emigrated to the United States in 2000, after marrying his Ohio-born wife. Now a resident of Wooster, Ohio, he tends to his spoon carving business Llwyau Sgwd (Waterfall Love Spoons), which he began in 2004 with his father. Together they carve about 100 spoons a year, selling them at festivals and at waterfall-lovespoons.com.
10 Create the illusion of intertwining hearts by first making a stop cut at joint locations. To do this, hold a palm gouge vertically and sink the sharp edge 1/16" into the lower heart segment. (See the opening photo on page 68 as a relief guide.) Now, angle the palm gouge and shave off the 1/16" of wood leading up to the stopped cut as shown above. Consider using the palm gouge and detail knife in combination.
11 Remove the waste between the side-by-side hearts with a chip-carving approach. First, using the detail knife, angle-cut into the area to be recessed from one side, and then slice in from the opposite side at the same angle, lifting out a crescent-shaped sliver of wood. Similarly remove the triangle of waste between the single and side-by-side hearts, carefully scoring along the contours of the surrounding hearts as shown. Scrollsawing out the waste is another way to go.
12 Score a 1/32" stopped cut around the lower edges of the bottom-most (solid-wood) heart to relieve it from the stem leading into the bowl. Peel off a thin layer of waste coming from the direction of the spoon's bowl.
13 Carve a round-over on the upper-most heart to give it a pillow-like appearance with the detail knife. While you are at it, break the front-face edges of the linking hearts and solid lower-most heart.
14 Finish-sand the workpiece, removing all knife and saw marks. Move through 100, 120, 180, and 600 grits. Either fully support the workpiece in the palm of your hand when sanding, or press it firmly on a workbench top as shown.
15 Finally, apply wax to finish the silky-smooth wood, using your fingers or a Q- tip to work it into the grain as shown at right. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, then wipe off the excess with a soft cotton cloth. Continue rubbing the spoon with the rag to achieve a pleasing luster.
ABOUT WELSH LOVE SPOONS
Love spoons were hand-carved by the men of Wales and offered to a lady as a token of affection. Decorated with romantic symbols, they convey the feelings of the carver toward the spoon’s recipient. During the early 1900s, the Welsh love spoon tradition experienced a rebirth. Love spoons are now the ideal gift to friends and loved ones worldwide, for weddings, anniversaries, engagements, birthdays, and other special occasions. Any tight-grain wood can be used, such as poplar seen here, walnut, butternut, maple, bass, and cherry.
Common Love Spoon Symbols
• Hearts: love
• Bells: wedding or anniversary
• Balls in a cage: captured love, number of children
• Chains: together forever
• Cross: Christian faith
• Diamond: good fortune
• Flowers: love that grows
• Heart-shaped bowl: a life full of happiness
• Horseshoe: good luck
• Key/keyhole: key to my heart
• Twisted stem: two become one