Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Jonathan Sussman. I am far more than a simple spoon carver. In fact, spoon carving is relatively new to me. It has become quite an obsession. Even so, I am still definitely an amateur. And even though I make a few bucks making spoons, it is by no means my job. After a lot of time and money spent searching for my career, I have finally found it. I am now on track to become an elementary music teacher. I am a very good fit for the job, which says a lot about who I am. I am passionate, enthusiastic, and with and endless supply of energy. I just got a new recorder/flute and am super excited! I make most of my money singing semi-professionally as a classical tenor. I do mostly choral gigs and church jobs, with the occasional solo. I recently conducted a choir for the first time! I posted that performance on Instagram recently.
That is one of the quirks of my Instagram I post a little of my weird life, as well as some pretty spoons. For example, I just posted a picture of my future wife, Eve. She is beautiful and the light of my life. We are getting married this summer! After being together for nearly half of our lives, we are finally taking the plunge. I am ecstatic. If you want to help me pay for this rather large wedding, please buy a spoon.
You recently celebrated your one year mark of carving. Why did you start carving and what are some lessons you learned in the past year?
This has been quite a journey. Like any kid, I used my pocket knife to turn regular sticks into pointy sticks. But I began carving last year when I got a camping knife, the Morakniv Companion. I picked up a piece of wood on the forest floor and turned it into a training knife. Strange looking and useless, but when I picked it up, it was just a branch on the ground.
I imagine my next step was a slightly unusual one. I loved using the knife so much than I got into knife sharpening. Instead of getting crazy into whittling and other forms of woodworking, my weirdo brain got me interested in sharpening knives the ‘correct’ way. This may not be the normal direction, but it has helped immensely. Once I did make the connection between loving my knife and using it to carve, my knife was already very sharp and ready to safely use.
I made a spatula. It is flat, made from an old pine 2×4, and sanded to death, but this flat spatula inspired my passion for practical carving. It is still one of my most used utensils. In fact I recently jazzed it up with some decoration. This is a very roundabout way of telling you how easy it is to get into the hobby and community. It takes next to no money or experience to make something you can use forever.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
All you need to make a spoon is a (sharp) pocketknife and some scrap wood. Of course, once you get into the hobby, you will find yourself wanting to buy $300 axes and gouges. You do not need them! Look around at the straight and hooked knives that nearly every spoon carver uses. They are the Mora Mora 120 or Mora 106 and the Mora 164 hook knife.
The trick to these, or any, knives is knowing how to sharpen them. Tom Scandian has fantastic videos on how to do it well. The best part is that you can do it using inexpensive sandpaper instead of hyperexpensive waterstones. This can be a very inexpensive and highly rewarding hobby. I love this hobby because although there have been many failing spoons this past year, nearly every spoon I make is my new favorite. Every new spoon is an experiment and improves upon the last. More than in any hobby I have tried in the past, I feel growth. If you look back at my spoon journey, you can pretty easily see the strides I have made in this past year. It just goes to show what a little dedication and practice will do. Give it a try, worst case scenario, you bought a knife and had a nice walk in the woods.
Talk about your worry spoons.
I love these little guys. One of the first spoons I carved was this little spoon I wear around my neck. At first it was made just to show off something I liked to do, but I found it useful for relieving anxiety. I found myself rubbing my pointer finger or thumb in the bowl of the spoon whenever I felt anxious or just needed to fidget. The spoon soon became incredibly smooth from my natural oils and all the rubbing. With the popularity of fidget toys exploding, the benefits of a classy fidget toy were pretty evident. I started making them for my friends, and then their friends. Soon, I had a little thing going. Now I have some new tools that help speed up the process. If you want one, let me know. Depending on the wood I use, they are usually $20-25. Any worry spoon owners can tell you that they really help relieve stress and are great for fidgeters. The arrive silky smooth, but only get smoother with time. They look cute and are all unique and hand carved. I am currently carving them out of olive wood, a very hard and colorful wood with beautiful grain. I can also make them for a necklace or earrings or for a keychain. The ones for jewelry have a slightly different shape, but the idea is the same. Let me know, I’ll hook you up.
It appears that you have been experimenting with scorching and gouges to embellish your spoon handles, but also milk paint. Please talk about both your carving and finishing techniques?
This whole hobby began on a whim. I see no reason why the hobby shouldn’t grow in a similar way. I am always experimenting. I love figuring it out. Even in the past few months I have experimented with paints, torching, kolrosing, chip carving, the works. Get into a hobby and try everything! It is so much fun flailing then finding yourself on top. Pick a hobby and flippin’ DO IT. Doesn’t hurt to buy a book about it.
Are your spoons for sale? And how can someone buy them?
Nearly all of my spoons are made-to-order. I have no stock. If you want a spoon, we have a quick conversation through Instagram, @corndogspoons, or by email. I will find out what type of spoon you want, be it for cooking, baking, scooping tea, measuring coffee, and I begin my process.
Where can people find you online?
Thanks Jonathan! As I have said previously, my goals with this website are to learn more about spoon carving and connect with the great community of spoon carvers out there. I welcome carvers to contact me if you would like to be interviewed to share your thoughts on the craft of spoon carving.