Choosing the right wood for carving spoons is very crucial to the project. You should understand the different types to make an informed decision when choosing the best.
First, you should know the difference between softwoods and hardwoods. Softwoods are not good for spoon carving. Their grain is widely spaced and the soft surface makes them prone to tearing. Hardwoods tend to be close-grained and very strong, making them ideal for making spoons, bowls, and objects used daily.
Second, greenwood and seasoned wood each have advantages and disadvantages when carving. Green wood is easier to use because the high moisture content makes the fibers soft and flexible, so your knife easily cuts through. However, as greenwood carvings dry off, cracks and splits can appear. Seasoned wood is tougher to carve because the dry fibers are hard and rigid. When working with seasoned wood, you will need to sharpen your knives more frequently.
With that in mind, here are some best woods for carving spoons.
Alder is one of the softest hardwoods (2,600N Janka hardness), slightly harder than basswood. It is a cream-colored wood with orange lines running through when green but changes light brown as it dries. Because it is soft than other hardwoods, it is an excellent option for carving spoons, cabinetry, bedding, and other decorative wooden objects in your home.
For spoon carving, alder carves cleanly, and you can use either hand or power tools. Though the soft properties make it great for carving, the downside is it does not allow for detailed carving.
This wood is another interesting one to use for spoon carving. It is easy to carve and can have some very interesting color tones between the heartwood and lighter sapwood. One disadvantage of carving apple wood is the wood tends to crack easily as you’re working on it.
Once you carve your applewood spoons, you should also dry them slowly to avoid cracks and splits. However, spoons carved out of apple wood are beautiful and durable when done right.
There are different species of maple you can use for spoon carving. I love silver maple and red maple, which are very closely resembling and can be hard to tell exactly which you’ve got. Silver maple is sometimes referred to as soft maple, creek maple, river maple, white maple, and water maple. It is softer than other maple species with a Janka hardness of 3,110N. This makes it great for spoon carving, but you’ll need to keep your knives sharp to carve them.
All maple wood species are good to work with and have a beautiful grain. Spalted maple, a defect created by growing conditions, is also loved by spoon carvers for the color.
Birch is one of the favorite choices for Scandinavian wood carvers. Paper birch with a Janka hardness of 4,000N is the birch species I use to carve spoons. Birch gets very hard as it dries up, so to carve it using hand tools, use it when it is still green.
Paper birch can be identified by its white bark. Its heartwood is light reddish, while the sapwood is nearly white. The grain can be straight or slightly wavy, making it easier to work with hand tools.
Cherry is easily worked when green and has a light orange color when dry. With a Janka hardness of 4,200N, I love carving black cherry. However, most species of cherry wood can be carved beautifully. You can also get two different tones when using the different cherry species.
When dry, cherry is very hard to carve and requires sharp knives. However, you can carve out very beautiful details and get a very good finish once done.
This is the choice of wood for Welsh love-spoon carvers. Like other hardwoods, sycamore is easy to carve when green. When it dries, it is hard and extremely unpredictable. However, sycamore has a subtle sheen and smooth finish, making it attractive for wood carving.
Spoons carved out of sycamore wood have a hard-wearing edge and are not prone to brittleness. The American sycamore has a color similar to some maple species with a light tan sapwood and a darker reddish heartwood. Spoons can also exhibit a freckled appearance, which adds to the beauty of the wood.
Apart from these, there are many wood species out there you can try out. It is always great to work with what you have locally, especially when starting. I often choose wood for its practicality. However, when I have different woods to choose from, I’ll decide based on aesthetics and how I want the spoon to look.