Since this blog space is paid for I’m going to use it to document a project I’ve started. I’m documenting it for my own benefit. I pretty much have said all I want to say on the subject of “transition” which was the original motive for this blog.
Many years ago I started carving. A year ago I started carving in earnest. A few months ago I got into carving spoons (also forks, bowls and kuksas—a wood cup). I am “self-taught” in the way that anyone is self-taught in the age of Youtube. There are many, many excellent instruction videos on how to carve spoons, bowls and kuksas (a traditional cup from Scandinavia). There is an amazing Facebook page where carvers post photos of their work and where one can learn about and discuss techniques, tools, finishes, etc. There’s another Facebook page where carving tools are sold.
Carving is addictive. Some might say “meditative.” I don’t use it for meditation, however, because while I carve I listen to audio books. Often when I look at a piece I’ve carved I recall what I was listening to at the time. There’s a “Dearie” spoon for that Julia Childs biography, an “Inferno” spoon for that great book on WWII that took forever to get through. There’s a Jack Reacher kuksa. Time flies while one carves.
It’s pretty easy to carve something that looks like a spoon. It’s difficult to carve a really good one. I feel like I’ve moved out of the beginner stage and am somewhere in the vicinity of intermediate. I can tell by the photos spoon carvers post that I’m a long way from expert. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell’s well-read book, we were told it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery of a skill. At three to four hours a day I might not live long enough to achieve “mastery.” I am willing to set my sights lower than “mastery” and “expert.” But, why would anyone want to spend several hours a day whittling on pieces of wood anyway? I can’t answer that. I have never been willing to spend hours a day doing any one function having always been something of a dilettante. There is something magical about taking a chunk of firewood or a piece of old 2″ X 4″ and reforming it with hand tools into something useful, sometimes even artful. There is a connection to transition and self-reliance as well.
Yesterday I spent several hours hacking away a big kuksa (cup) that I was trying to carve out of a piece of cedar 6″ X 6″ that I found in my lumber pile. Dry wood is harder to carve than wet and cedar has a big tendency to rip, tear and shred. I was really unhappy with the wood but refused to give up. I wasn’t happy with the finished kuksa either. Finished, it looked like something one might have dug out of the ruins of a pioneer home. Very crude. Rough. Uneven. If it had been my intention to make something that looked really old I might have been happy with it. But, it was an accident. The point being that in time past people carved their tableware, bowls, plates, cups, etc. Some of what they did, maybe most of what they did, might have looked as crude as this:
So, I decided to set a goal of carving 300 spoons in 2016 to see if I get better or just plateau somewhere. Certainly, technique is involved. Tools are important. You need to learn how to sharpen really well. But, I expect, that somewhere along the line I will find out if I have any natural ability (talent) for the process.
If I don’t become too obsessive carving will be a fine way to pass the time.
And, it’s a great way to read!