Finishing Oak Spoons

In 2010 I was invited by the Sylva Foundation to become a partner in the OneOak Project. As a spoon carver I therefore felt obliged to make some spoons from the OneOak tree despite the fact that oak is not normally used for such pieces.

From Richard Mabey's book Food for Free and Wild Food by Roger Phillips I was aware that the Native Americans used acorns as a foodstuff.  Although high in tannin which causes a bitter taste, they solved this by washing them with large amounts of water.  In addition, Gwyndaf Breese describes in his book Traditional Spooncarving in Wales how in the past some spoon carvers boiled their spoons.

Based on this I decided to boil the oak spoons that I had made as part of the OneOak Project.

Due to the release of tannic acid I used a stainless steel preserving pan for the boiling.

The spoons were boiled for about one hour with three or four changes of water.  This produces an evil looking "spoon soup" as shown.

Spoon soup

A batch of oak spoons having just been removed from the boiling water.

At this point I was concerned that I had just ruined a lot of spoons and produced a pile of dull brown kindling.

The spoons were left for about two weeks to dry before I tried to finish them.

During this time I recalled that historically oak bark had been used in the tanning industry.  It therefore appeared that I had unintentionally "tanned" the spoons!

Oak spoons after boiling

After two weeks drying the spoons had become lighter in colour but retained a flat dull appearance.

Oak spoons after drying

The first few spoons were sanded by hand and then oiled using food grade linseed oil.  This resulted in an attractive "antique" oak appearance.

One of the earliest spoons I made from the OneOak tree was one for Norman D. Stevens' "Gathering of Spoons" collection.

Finished hand carved oak spoon

Other spoons were finished in a variety of ways including (from left to right):

  • Sanded.
  • Handle and back sanded, inside of bowl re-carved to give lighter tooled finish.
  • Sanded.
  • Inside of bowl re-carved to give lighter tooled finish.  Rest of spoon left as originally carved.

All spoons sealed using food grade linseed oil.

Selection of hand carved oak spoons