Little V a g r a n c i e s

27. Artist. Bodyworker. Feminist. Backpacker. Urban Homesteader. Chicago.

How to Make a Spoon using Primitive Canoe Building Techiniques

drawings, pictures and words by Rachael McHan (littlevagrancies)


I took a class today at the local nature preserve on how native americans built canoes, and how to apply those techniques to making your own utensils, bowls & the like. I hope by sharing my experience you will make your own spoon too! Its been quite a while since I posted a How-to anyway.

Things you will need:
a hot campfire, a bottle cap, an ax, hatchet, or machete; and a piece of wood. 

Choosing your wood:

Your wood piece should be roughly twice the size of your desired end result, and it should be approximately 1-2 years old: not green or too old and rotting, sufficiently dry with a little bit of moisture retained.

Avoid pine. Ash wood is preferred: you need a good hard wood. If you do not know very much about trees, here are a few tips: Do not use wood from any tree with needles, you want wood from trees with leaves. Secondly, you want to choose wood from a tree where the branches are growing closer together instead of staggered - this is indicative of harder woods.

1. Split your wood log in half. One half will be the piece you use.
2. Using your axe, start chipping away portions of the wood. You want to strip off all the bark first, and then carefully begin chipping away the general shape of your spoon. The end result will resemble a canoeing paddle. 

3. Next, take a hot coal from the fire and place it on the spoon’s face where you want to begin digging out the curve. You should blow on the coal to keep it hot, but don’t blow so hard that it bursts into flames. If it flares up, blow it out and put the coal back. When lots of charred wood begins to appear, use your bottle cap or sea shell to scrape the charred wood away.

This process takes a while, and you will need to be patient. Keep blowing on the coal, moving it around to shape the curve, and scraping out the char as it builds.

You want to stop if it seems like your spoon is splitting, or if you are getting too close to the end: otherwise the coal will burn all the way through, and you will end up with a slotted spoon.

You make a bowl (or canoe!) in the exact same fashion as this.

Tips:
-Using a straw is helpful when blowing on the coal because you can reach underneath it better, where it needs to be hot. You can make a straw by breaking off a branch of Milkweed, and blowing out the fibers within.
-When your spoon is ‘finished’, douse it with water to stop the burning. Take it home and sand it until smooth. It will season itself if you start using it when cooking- and rubbing it with some oil helps, too.
-This is a great campfire activity for friends or families, campers, girl scouts- or whenever you want to make a nice gift for a friend.

Best,

  • 3 November 2012
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