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Carving a Traditional Lovespoon

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Classic heart design is a great project for novice carvers

This simple design is the pattern I use with beginner carvers in my lovespoon carving classes. Although it is a straightforward design, it contains several elements that will assist new carvers in learning important carving techniques.

Shaping the abundant curved edges will vividly illustrate the importance of following the wood's grain. The design also contains over-under work, which will prepare you for undertaking more complicated knotwork patterns as your skills progress. The opportunity to do some cutting out (known as fretwork) will develop patience, tenacity, and motor skills. I recommend carving your first spoon from an easily worked timber such as basswood, poplar, or alder. Using pine or similar softwoods will make for easier carving, but will require razor-sharp edges on the tools for a crisp finish.

Materials & Tools

 Materials:

  • ¾ x 3" x 11" baswood or wood of choice
  • Deft clear Danish oil
  • Assorted grits of sandpaper (optional)

 Tools:

  • Scroll saw
  • Carving knife of choice
  • Bent knife (to shape inside of bowl)
  • Drill with 1/8"-diameter bit (blade-entry holes)
  • Paintbrush and rags to apply Danish oil

What Makes a Good Design?

Poor Design

The first thing you notice about this design is the spoon bowl is not quite symmetrical. The top heart is too small and the shape is incongruent with the rest of the design. The overall design is boring and repetitious with nothing to grab a viewer's interest. The scrolls are too thick and feel too big. The elements, stacked on top of each other, have no flow. Your eye stops each time it encounters a new design element.

Balance and Symmetry

The design presented here is symmetrical and balanced. The elements are connected and there is a flow between the sections. The eye travels freely up and down the handle. The central heart breaks up the repitition of the scrolled designs and gives the spoon a strong focal point. The scrolls are unobtrusive and don't feel contrived or forced. The overall spoon feels natural and cohesive.

Fine Art of Carving Lovespoons

By David Western
Learn to create beautiful lovespoons– handcarved symbols of love and deep affection that have been popular for centuries. With three step-by-step projects and 15 original patterns, this book will help you enjoy the craft no matter what your carving skill level. Sections on the history of lovespoon carving, selecting woods, using and maintaining tools, applying long-lasting finishes, and customizing your own designs ensure every aspect of your lovespoon carving project goes smoothly.
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Comments (35 posted):

Keoma on 11/04/2008 10:36:57
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Hello! Is this a special issue? Or will ir come with my subscription? And do I still have a subscription?! Love spoons are one of my favorite things to carve. I think I will have to pick up this book! Does anyone else have it?
BobD on 11/04/2008 10:41:21
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It's the upcoming holiday issue...if you e-mail our customer service department (customerservice@foxchapelpublishing.com) they'll be able to tell you about your sub. Bob
CarverFromNoWhere on 11/04/2008 10:56:00
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Thanks Bob I have been looking at buying that new book, also wondering about my subcription seems like it has been a while since the last issue showed up. Carl
western on 11/13/2008 20:40:26
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Hi Carl and Keoma I'm going to unashamedly plug my book "The Fine Art of Carving Lovespoons" and hope that you check it out! If you like lovespoons, then this is the book for you. I have thrown everything I have in me at the project and I believe that this is the most complete book on the subject currently available. Lovespoons are my passion, and it is my hope that carvers will see the value of this tradition and will join in. If you'd like to see what I do, please visit me at index.html Several of the spoons in the book are shown on the site and hopefully it will give you some idea of what lovespoon carving can be! Good luck with your carving!! Best wishes Dave
CarverFromNoWhere on 11/14/2008 15:40:19
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Nice to meet you Dave, I am planing to purchase your book, just have not placed the order yet, have to get over $75 so I can get another shirt :D. Thanks for the link, you do some really beautiful and amazing work. Carl
western on 11/15/2008 18:41:11
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Hi Carl Thank you for the welcome and the kind words about my spoons! If you do get the book, I'd be very interested to hear your feedback on it. Especially if I missed something you would have liked to have seen. Cheers Dave
Ron T on 11/15/2008 22:43:44
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Hello and welcome, Western. You've got an impressive body of work. They'e very inspirational, especially since I've been planning on doing a spoon.
western on 11/16/2008 12:14:53
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Hi Ron Thank you! I had a look at your walking sticks, they are really nice! I especially liked the Mongo 2 stick and the Indian Redo. The only problem with them is they are so nice, you'd be scared to use them in case you damaged the carving!! I hope you give spoon carving a try as I'm sure you'd come up with some very cool ideas! Best wishes Dave
MackTheKnife on 11/19/2008 17:04:53
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Hi, Dave. I just ordered your book. I've been wanting to try lovespoons for a while. I've already got a nice bent knife and sloyd from Pinewood Forge. Poplar in board form seems to be easy to find in this area, so this weekend I'm going to get me a piece and try the pattern in your article. Your website is extremely well done. Beautiful photos and a huge amount of information. Some of your pieces look so fragile I'd be afraid to pick them up. You just may have a new convert. Bob
western on 11/19/2008 23:53:57
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Hi Bob Thanks for your note, please let me know how you get on with the poplar. I use poplar a lot, especially if I can find some with that nice green and purple streaking that it sometimes gets. The poplar is great for lovespoons as it is fairly smooth and consistant and doesn't splinter. Good luck with it!! Cheers Dave
Joy on 11/20/2008 06:55:37
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Welcome Dave! I ordered your book yesterday. I'm glad to hear about the poplar. Now I can have some wood ready when I receive the book.
western on 11/20/2008 12:07:00
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Hi Joy Thank you for ordering my book! I hope you enjoy it and that you pick up lots of useful information from it. The nice thing about lovespoon carving is that it doesn't require a great deal of material, so we can often make use of cast offs and pieces of wood that get overlooked for larger woodwork projects. I encourage all aspiring and seasoned spooncarvers to try locally 'overlooked' woods like poplar, alder and sycamore. Often, beautifully figured pieces are available which yield beautiful spoons! I hope you enjoy your spoon carving and I look forward to seeing the results and to hearing any comments or suggestions you might have on the book. Cheers Dave
MackTheKnife on 11/20/2008 15:45:06
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Dave: One thing is not clear to me (well, one thing right now; others may obfuscate themselves from me as time goes on): is the "handle" of the love spoon maintained at full thickness or is it carved down to be more in scale with the fretwork and other elements? Bob
western on 11/28/2008 17:42:44
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Hi Bob I generally leave my spoons a bit thicker than final requirements while I carve the front. That gives me room should I make an error and it also lends some structural support. Once I am satisfied with the front, I thin down the back and carve it. Many of my spoons have a variety of depths (depending on the elements being carved) so this method allows me room for that. Of course, many times I'll use a recycled piece of wood which may already be as thin as I feel safe to go. In that case I carve front and back as I go. I hope that helps you and hasn't muddied the water even more! Cheers Dave
toycarver on 11/29/2008 10:14:52
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Hi Dave, Your book was on my Christmas list, and I know it has arrived. I have to wait until Christmas to see it though!..hurry Santa!
MackTheKnife on 12/22/2008 12:10:35
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OK, guys and gals. Here's my first attempt at a lovespoon from the David Western Pattern in WCI. It was made from a 1"x3"x12" poplar board. It was a lot of fun to carve, not to mention a challenge since I used no power tools what so ever, not even a scroll saw. I used a Pinewood Forge hook knife for the bowl and a Pinewood Forge small sloyd for the rest of it. I didn't sand it, but used a scraper on the inside of the bowl. Bob
mlthomas36 on 12/22/2008 15:36:38
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I currently have Dave's book and I am carving one of the spoon patterns in it. The book is great but I might add that his blog is helping fill in a few gaps. I use a fret saw instead of a scroll saw so it takes a little longer. I have been carving spoons for a little over 10 years and have learned more from Dave's book than any of the others. Thanks Dave and keep the blog going. Mike
tucker1931 on 12/22/2008 15:40:55
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Mack, I just had to jump in here and say "congratulations" on a job well done. I admire the love spoons but quite honestly don't think I would have the patience to see one thru. Thanks for posting your creation. Cliff
MackTheKnife on 12/22/2008 17:06:51
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Thanks, Cliff. I wondered about the patience part, too, but have to admit, once you get started on a love spoon, it's really kind of addictive. It's almost like a zen exercise, taking small, thin cuts and being ultra sensitive about where the grain changes and the edge of the knife begins to dig in. Everything around me seems to stop. Mike, what's the difference between a fret saw and a coping saw. I used a coping saw to do the piercings, and unshipping that blade got to be a real pain in the tuchus! I agree that David's blog is great. Bob
Joy on 12/22/2008 18:55:25
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That is a good looking love spoon. Does the wife get first dibs?
mlthomas36 on 12/22/2008 19:03:39
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Bob, the biggest difference between a fret saw and a coping saw is the size of the blade. The fret saw is very small, I buy my blades at the jeweler's supply. The blades do break frequently but if you run them through bees wax they cut better and last longer. The pattern I'm carving is the Celtic Dragon on page 170. It's the actual size in the book not enlarged 135%. Making it from Maple, which very hard. If I don't mess up I will try to take a picture. I figure maybe 80 hrs all told. Mike
MackTheKnife on 12/22/2008 19:39:35
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Thanks, Joy. Number One rule of keeping a marriage going: wifey ALWAYS gets first dibs! :) Bob
mlthomas36 on 12/23/2008 04:46:23
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Bob, this is my 2nd try at an answer so hope it works. The fret saw is from the jewelry trade and is a very small blade used to cut fine lines in tight spaces. The handle is similar to the coping saw but the blade is clamped under tension. I use bee's wax to lube the blade when sawing the pierced openings. You are right about clamping and unclamping the blade when doing the pierced openings, it can be very trying. I'm currently doing the Celtic Dragon on page 170 in Maple. Mike
MackTheKnife on 12/23/2008 11:08:36
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Thanks, Mike. The idea of lubricating the blade with beeswax is an excellent one. I'll have to try it. I looked at that dragon, but decided I'd go with the one in chapter nine. Bob
Hi_Ho_Sliver on 12/24/2008 10:52:53
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I have to lubricate my knife too....I get going so fast, its just a blur...I use 30 weight Pennzoil.....but the heat is amazing...nice in the winter tho lol ;) (I tried Ricks Arctic banana oil, but the smell just made me hungry for banana snow cones ha ha)
mlthomas36 on 12/27/2008 19:28:50
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This is a photo of a WIP Celtic Dragon from David's book. The wood is Maple. It's taking a little longer due other things that need to be done. Hope to be ready to put a finish on it in a week. Mike
MackTheKnife on 12/27/2008 19:49:05
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That's great, Mike! That's going to come out beautifully. Bob
MackTheKnife on 12/29/2008 09:53:04
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Another bit of news, hot off the press! David Western asked me to be a guest blogger to talk about my experience with carving in general and about my experience carving my first lovespoon. The post is up now at David Western's Portland Eisteddfod Lovespoon Drop by and take a look. I went into a great deal more detail on the process than I did here. Bob
LBlake on 01/08/2009 01:35:56
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Wow - David Western.... I just have to say - I really enjoy your work. Someone referred me to it last spring, and I was blown away. I love how organic your designs are. Just beautiful. I used to want to be a luthier (violins, etc.), but since I discovered Welsh Lovespoons, and people like you & Mike Davies, I think I can spend the rest of my life drawing Welsh Lovespoon designs, and still never reach the caliber of you guys. I just hope some day I might manage to come close. :) Thanks for the inspiration! I also really appreciate how informative your site is, and great to hear that you have a book. Also, btw, I'm so jealous that they let you back into the boxes at St. Fagan's! You're right - that museum is great. Sorry for all the gushing - I'm just so excited at all the great stuff I'm finding on this message board! :)
Filter on 01/14/2009 11:51:49
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Another bit of news, hot off the press! David Western asked me to be a guest blogger to talk about my experience with carving in general and about my experience carving my first lovespoon. The post is up now at David Western's Portland Eisteddfod Lovespoon Drop by and take a look. I went into a great deal more detail on the process than I did here. Bob Really nice job Bob. I really like how you introduced yourself. Maybe you should make a Santa Love Spoon!!:Thumbs Up: Tom
MackTheKnife on 01/14/2009 15:55:43
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Thanks, Tom. You know, a Santa lovespoon isn't a bad idea. :Smile: Bob
Robert Cahill on 01/15/2009 11:55:31
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While searching the web yesterday I came across Donna Menke's site and she had a spoon that looked similar to the celtic spoon in Rick Butzs book but the back of the spoon had rattles the front had a snakes head. She did say calling it a lovespoon was an oxymoron [url=http://www.woodworks-by-donna.com/woodcarvings.htmlving.html]www.woodworks-by-donna.com/woodcarvings.htmlving.html
tucker1931 on 01/15/2009 12:26:16
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Hi Robert, the site you show does not open for some reason. Did you enter it correctly. Cliff
Robert Cahill on 01/15/2009 13:11:46
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Cliff I tried it and it re-directed me try this one. then go to her woodcarving section. woodworks-by-donna hope this works for you. sorry for the error but I thought I copied it correctly
tucker1931 on 01/15/2009 13:43:10
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Thanks buddy, quite a site for sure Cliff
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Author info
David Western
David Western constantly endeavors to expand the artistic boundaries of lovespoon carving. David was born in Cardiff, Wales, and now resides in Victoria, B.C., Canada. A self-taught carver, David graduated from the London College of Furniture with certification in cabinetmaking and advanced furniture design. He also holds a degree in education from the University of British Columbia.

While running a cabinetmaking shop in Victoria, David's casual interest in Welsh lovespoons grew into an overwhelming passion. Carving lovespoons to order is now his livelihood. David also teaches lovespoon carving at Camosun College in Victoria.

David specializes in complicated and delicate Celtic knotwork. He also draws ideas from Art Deco, Northwest Coast First Nations, and Islamic art forms when creating his unique designs. He keeps a foot firmly in tradition though: each of his spoons is handcarved from a single piece of wood. All of David's spoons also demonstrate the deep passion and commitment that separate genuine lovespoons from mere souvenirs. more