I found myself sitting in the middle of a quaint mid-western town, using a fiddler’s cut, quietly humming, and wondering what shape of spoon would best fit my mouth. I’m a furniture maker. I’m not a spoon carver (well I wasn’t). I’m not even a ‘green woodworker’ (well I wasn’t). Then last Winter I tried green bowl turning for the first time. Two words: NO SAWDUST.
That was the beginning of green woodworking for me. So come June, I took a road trip to Milan Village Arts School in Milan, MN where folks congregate for a weekend at the Annual Spoon Gathering.
Green woodworking entails working with wet wood (freshly cut and unseasoned) and then drying the wood slowly to prevent cracking. There were about 130 people of various interest and skill levels in the craft of wood spoons. The full spectrum of novice to master carver with styles ranging from traditional to more avant-garde were in attendance. It was a community style of education, meaning that the more talented and knowledgeable individuals shared the tricks of the trade with pretty much anyone willing to listen.
The days were packed with presentation and hands-on demonstrations. I learned knife sharpening from Del Stubbs, a knife maker by trade. Jim Sannerud and Jarrod Stone Dahl (both professional green-wood woodworkers) taught me different cutting techniques using my Sloyd Carving knife and hook knife. There was also a spring pole lathe in action a good bit of the time providing a rhythm and intrigue all its own. Saturday night featured a slide show presentation by Robin Wood, a magnificent woodworker from the U.K., who shared his experiences with historical boat building.
Camaraderie abounded on both Friday and Saturday nights, including a bit of live music, while many ale bowls were filled and emptied. It was a priceless couple of days spent with many friendly folks including many world-class green woodworkers who were happily sharing their knowledge.
Sunday was the day to head home, but first we took a little tour around Lac Qui Parle. Minnesota is of course filled with thousands of lakes. Lac Qui Parle is an absolute gem with glistening water, surrounding forests and breathtaking camp sites. If you happen to make it to the area, remember to search for ‘The Tree’, a local landmark treat.
I left the weekend as a confident and enthusiastic new carver. I work on my spoon carving skills regularly. I’m a bit of a busy body. Spoon carving is a very nice way to sit quietly and work; or chat with friends new and old while getting something done.
Kimberly McNeelan has been a woodworker for about 14 years. She’s been coast to coast and beyond studying different woodworking techniques, learning from various masters, and working on a wide array of projects. Read more of Kimberly’s latest adventures.