Burning a Spoon Bowl in the Field

Wood carving is a handy skill that can whittle away the hours around a campfire, and end with a useful tool. Spoons are a popular item to practice with, and many methods exist for carving out the hollow bowl of the spoon that gives it utility.

The fastest, easiest, and most fun method I’ve tried involves burning out the bowl with a hot coal. This process is much easier with a small tube or other mechanism to concentrate and direct the flow of air to adjust the speed and direction of burn. A favorite woodland tool of mine is the ONI mini fire tool. I recommend this not only for bowl burning, but as an adjunct to any fire kit to easily coax stubborn, damp fuel into flames.

In the absence of a pocket bellows or antenna section, you could easily use a hollow reed (which will likely need to be replaced regularly as the tip burns), or simply pinch together the thumb and index fingers of each hand, put the tips together to create a small hole, press fingers against your lips, and blow through the hole to direct the air flow.

The spoon is started by splitting a dry, dead log about 2-3 inches in diameter lengthwise. The rough shape of the spoon is suggested with an axe.

A coal is plucked from the fire with a couple of sticks, and placed on the spoon. Air is blown onto the coal to heat it up and begin burning. As the wood blackens, use a small, coarse stone to grind out the charred material.

Continue alternating between charring wood and scraping. With the aid of a blow tube, the process is very rapid.

Detail work is done using smaller coals and carefully directing the air flow to remove small bumps in the bowl.

Once you’re happy with the bowl depth and shape, use the stone or a knife to clean up the spoon, and that’s it.

This technique can be used for spoons, cups, bowls, dugout canoes, or other items like the lamp pictured above. Made of maple, it burns vegetable oil on a mushroom fiber wick.

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