The Wood I use in My Spoons and UtensilsI have tried a lot of different woods and like to have a variety in my display for sale at a fair or market. The exact types of wood change according to what has come into my hands at a particular time, but since I like to use mainly the woods that grow where I am when I am carving, these days I use mainly maple, birch, apple, wild cherry, and beech wood. I also use saskatoon (service berry), hop hornbeam (ironwood) and lilac.
If I suspect that the wood may be unhealthy to put in a pot of soup, I make things like flour scoops that would ordinarily be used only for dry stuff.
Much of the wood I have been using comes from my own property in Roseburn on the lower slopes of Campbell's Mountain, Inverness County, Nova Scotia, Canada.
I follow the grain of the wood, because if you don't, the resulting shape will likely break. Besides, there is a beauty in the way the tree grows that I want to leave visible.
Apple WoodApple is tough and strong and can be almost shiny when a wooden spoon is done, but can be a nuisance to work. When green it is one of the worst woods for the sap sticking to the band saw blade causing a build-up of sawdust that throws the blade off track. It also turns brown when exposed to air as a cut apple will do. This colour penetrates into the wood to the degree that it requires a lot of sanding to get it off, which results in a blotchy appearance if it is only partly removed.
Beech WoodBeech is easy to work with abrasives and at the same time is quite strong. It also has a nice grain and colour, so I like to use it. But most of the beech in this area is disfigured by many small dead spots caused by a disease, so that it is hard to find a good piece.
Cherry WoodThe wild cherry here is pin cherry (Prunus pennsylvanica) which is a little on the soft side, but I use it because of its colour and grain that has many dark flecks in it.
I like to use other fruit woods such as sweet cherry and prune plum, but those are not easy to come by around here. At the moment I have none of them.
Birch WoodBefore I got power tools and figured out how to make wooden spoons with them I made a few anyhow. In those days I used white birch because it is easy to work with hatchet, knife and gouge. Now I use yellow birch more often because of its strength and toughness. It is so tough fishermen used to make rope out of thin splits of it twisted together, which would survive in water for mooring nets.
Saskatoon (Service Berry) WoodSaskatoon, also called service berry or Indian pear, and probably some other names, (genus Amelanchier), is a bush that grows in an upright form from coast to coast and is one of the earliest things to bloom. It is related to apple and pear and its showy white blossoms resemble apple blossoms with longer petals. Most plants of it are too small to use but if it gets the chance it will grow 3 to 6 inches in diameter and occasionally into a real tree about the size of an apple tree. The wood is very strong.
When a person comes to me and says, “I always break my wooden spoons mixing bread dough”, I say, “You need one of saskatoon wood because your arm is not strong enough to break it.” It is also beautiful wood with dark brown flecks in a yellowish background. If I had more big enough ones available I would make more of my spoons out of it.
Maple WoodThe maple on my place is what is called white maple or soft maple locally, or red maple (Acer rubrum) by the botanists. The wood can be very white. It is not as hard and strong as rock maple, or sugar maple (Acer saccharum), but it is plenty hard and strong enough, harder than white birch which is itself harder that wild cherry. It is a certain amount of a nuisance to work because it is quite particular regarding the direction you sand it with respect to the grain.
Rock maple is of course very hard and strong. It is common in certain areas around here, so that if I buy a load of firewood, rock maple is likely to be in it.
Both kinds of maple can have beautiful rippled grain, which I like to use if I come across pieces displaying it. I have recently made a number of wooden ladles using pieces where there were lumps on the wood due to the tree growing over the broken stub of a limb.