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Turning Spoons

Monday 9 July 2018

Spoons are another particular aspect of multi-axis turning which use just two axes. The two axes are at 90° to each other; the first turning is as for spindle turning, i.e. the grain is parallel to the lathe axis. The second turning is 'cross grain,' turning as in turning cross grained bowls where the grain is at 90° to the lathe axis. The two axes are necessary to turn first, the outside shape of the spoon's bowl, then the inside of the bowl.

The big challenge is the chucking for the cross grain part, using various wood jaws to grip the spoon's bowl to be sure the inside and the outside shapes are concentric. Then there is a process where a spoon can be turned on one axis.

Spoon design principles

The basic turning process we are using dictates that the bowl of the spoon is spherical; the design of the bowl then comes down to how much of the sphere is used, either half or more than half. And if the rim is flat or curved. The handle is created by turning, scroll sawing or bandsawing, and sanding. The basic shape of the underside of the handle is turned, then refined. The handle creates much of the character of the spoon – straight or slightly curved is very functional – but if you are looking for something a little 'arty,' then a curved handle can look great.


As spoons are likely to come into contact with food, I would suggest a close grained hard wood such as, sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), fruit woods or beech (Fagus sylvatica). I like laburnum (Laburnum anagyroides) and yew (Taxus baccata) for spoons.

Spoon design 1

The simplest form of spoon is half a sphere – turned between centres – then split in half to create two spoons. Curve the handle to the maximum amount within the blank size, then curve the rim of the bowl so that it flows into the handle to create an elegant piece.


Chucking sequence

The first holding is between centres to make a spigot for the second chucking. You need to hold using a spigot chuck.

Chucking techniques

The simplest way to hold the spoon for the third chucking is to:

1. Mount a 38mm (1 1/2in) thick disc on a faceplate

2. Next, turn a 'V' shaped recess the size of the spoon bowl, as per drawing 1b

3. Cut a groove across the disc which will hold the handle so that part of the handle lies proud of the surface. The other side of the groove will give access to the fingers, which will allow you to feel the thickness of the bowl

4. Make a wooden clip to go across the handle and hold it in place with two screws

5. The blank is now secure for turning out the bowl

If you have a four-jaw chuck with wood-jaw plates, then turn a recess as above, but this time it will take a wider range of spoon sizes. If in doubt about the security of the blank, then a wooden clip can be used as before.


1. Mount the blank between centres

2. Rough down to a cylinder with the spindle roughing gouge and make a spigot with the deep fluted gouge

3. Hold in a spigot chuck

4. Turn the spherical end first with the deep fluted gouge or shallow fluted gouge

5. Refine the shape of the bowl with

a large scraper

6. Turn the handle shape, blending into the sphere with the deep fluted gouge or shallow fluted gouge

7. Sand to a finish

8. Remove from the chuck – by parting off if there is excess wood

9. Separate the two halves, either on the band/scrollsaw or by splitting along the glue line

10. Cut off the excess wood to the sides of the handle

11. Cut off the excess wood to the top of the handle

12. Mount in wood jaws – holding on the spherical part of the bowl. This will automatically centre the bowl for turning. Take care as to the alignment of the handle

13. Hollow the bowl with the deep fluted gouge

14. You can now refine the shape with a curved scraper

15. Finally finish the handle by sanding on a flat disc then use a drum sander to shape the rim of the bowl

16. For a functional spoon, a finish isn't necessary, though a little edible oil will help to bring out the grain

Spoon design 2

To make a spoon where the bowl is greater than a hemisphere, only one spoon can be made from each turning blank. The handle can be a completely turned handle when the bowl is greater than a hemisphere. The sphere and handle are turned in the second chucking operation. This is a chance for you to create your own design of handle, texturing, fluting, etc. The top of the sphere can be cut off or turned off in the third holding.

For the third holding, the angle the handle is held at dictates the relationship between the handle and the rim of the bowl.

If the handle is long and slim it is advisable to provide some support from the tailstock while turning the handle, as the sphere can be large in relation to the handle diameter. Leave just a small nib on to take the point of a revolving centre.

Spoon design 3

The turning procedure is the same as 'spoon 1' except when it comes to cutting off the excess wood after the outside shape is turned. Gripping in the wooden jaws is easier and more secure as the bowl is greater than a hemisphere.

Spoon design 4

It is possible to create a round spoon bowl by turning only on the 'cross grain axis' in two stages. The bowl will still be round but it doesn't have to be spherical. Deeper or shallower than a hemisphere – you have the choice. The one design restriction is the way in which the handle joins the bowl. The handle is above the bowl and comes up from the rim. This is because the bowl can't be turned any higher without cutting the handle. The excess wood from that area is cut or sanded off.


Using a scroll chuck to hold a rectangular spoon blank, which looks like you are going to make a pipe, you need just two jaws with a groove on each edge, which will operate like

a vice.

To make the wooden jaws, machine a groove along the edge of a strip of wood, accurately mark the position of the metal plates then cut the semi-circle shapes on the bandsaw. Take care when fixing to the plates to position them accurately.

To help position the blank for both chucking stages, you need to hold a piece of wood in the jaws – the same thickness as the depth of the groove – switch on the lathe and mark the centre with a pencil. Stop the lathe and draw a line through the point at right angles to the jaw face. You could have put this line on at the marking out stage, but if the fixing of the jaws was a little off, the line would have been off as well.

For the second holding, turn a hollow or straight hole which will allow the bowl to sit in.


The same as for the other spoons, but it is easier if it is planed wood for accuracy of locating in the chuck.


1. Mark out the position of the spoon on the top of the blank then scribe a line through the centre of the bowl, around the blank

2. Cut out the block below the handle

3. Mount the blank in the chuck – top face in the chuck – lining up the centreline of the bowl with the lines on the jaws

4. Shape the outside of the bowl, and the joint section to the handle, with the deep fluted gouge

5. Refine the shape with a scraper

6. Sand the turned surfaces

7. Remount the blank in the jaws by flipping the blank over along its length (not rolling from side to side). Again, line up the centreline with the line on the jaws. Also, make the blank surface parallel with the jaw surface

8. Hollow out the bowl and turn the top face of the joint to the handle

9. Sand and finish the surface

10. Remove the blank from the lathe, bandsaw the shape of the handle, then refine the shape and the rim of the bowl while sanding on a small drum and disc sander

Spoon design 5

Getting down to the very basic 'wooden spoon' shouldn't take much working out after making the fancy ones.


1. Take a 12 x 50 x 255mm (1/2 x 2 x 10in) long piece of wood

2. Mark out the spoon on the surface

3. Roughly bandsaw the shape, leaving enough wood at the ends to be held between centres

4. Hold between centres, then turn the circular end and the handle

5. You can now sand

6. Hold in the two-jaw wooden chuck and slightly hollow the bowl

7. Refine the back of the bowl on a flat disc


You should never be short of a spoon for any occasion; they also make very nice gifts. This has been an interesting exercise in making wooden jaws to suit the particular spoons. Once you are set up, they can be very quick to make and this is a good way of using up small scraps of wood you have around the workshop