In addition to interviews with spoon carvers, I hope to share conversations with tool makers too. I’m so happy to kick this off with the very talented knife maker Rune Randall.
Tell us about yourself.
My last name is Randall. Rune is a nickname, but it’s what I go by.
Father of three pretty amazing daughters and they are my main source of inspiration honestly. All three are competitive dancers, and watching them, and the creativity and work ethic needed is pretty inspiring.
My father was instrumental in pretty much everything I do from the basic skills acquired for both my trade and smithing. He wasn’t a smith; however, he was one of those men who would tackle ANY job. Pick just about any trade, and he has done it to some degree. He always included my brother and me in all his projects and didn’t have tolerance for “I don’t know how” mindset. The only way to know is by jumping in.
I was a professional painter/finisher by trade. It has given me a lot of the motor skills/mindset needed to try smithing. It’s been a challenging undertaking, but one I’ve enjoyed and appreciate the dedication it has taken and continues to take. It’s one of those trades you never really “relax” into, in my opinion. Always something to learn.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve always been an outdoor guy. A lot of my inspiration, in general, comes from a deep love of nature, trees, mountains, and the local environment. I was lucky enough to be raised in Spokane, is a pretty substantial city in Washington State, it only takes a short drive in just about any direction to be free of it, and find some secluded natural areas.
How long have you been making carving-related tools and how did you first get interested in it?
I’ve been smithing for a little over two years. It all started with me handling Lauri, Enzo, and other “Scandinavian” style blades. I’ve pretty deep family roots from Sweden, and this style of cutting tools has always interested me. I purchased my first Mora back in the late 1990s, and that had me looking into more traditional tools. This was also around the time I tried carving spoons. I was about to become a father for the first time, so this “spark” would have to wait. But the idea of making my tools was rolling around back then.
You also carve spoons. How does carving inform your tool making and vice versa?
Carving is something I’ve dabbled into some degree for years. Life got REAL busy for me between 2000 and 2004, so it went dormant for quite a while. The act of using an edged tool, and natural material, to create something useful has fascinated me for years. Be it as simple as a tent peg, or more complicated as a spoon, to cutting birch bark for weaving. It all inspires me and dictates what I’m after with the tools I make. The flow and form a spoon takes, has prescribed a lot of forms my tools have. Carving is a reset act for me as well. Smithing can take a toll on you, and the simple act of stepping away, carving for a bit, can reset the pallet. Admittedly after axing out a blank, creating some form and crank, and hollowing a bowl, I lose interest.
In your opinion and practice, what do you look for in a well made spoon carving tool?
There’s a loaded question. The tools one uses to create with or work with can be so personal. However, there are the standard characteristics, of course.
- well made and designed blade that is heat-treated/tempered properly.
- ease of maintaining the tool (this can be tricky)
- pleasing both to the eye, and of course in use
- designed to be an extension of the worker’s hand
I prefer a 2-3/4″ (70mm) Sloyd style with a bit of belly last third of the blade. I also prefer more open sweep hooks to compound shapes. However, I can get along with just about anything that cuts, to be honest. My ambition to make Sloyd/carving tools was as much/more about learning to smith as it was about the style of blades I chose to make. I noticed that there just aren’t that many Smiths making Sloyd style carving tools. I might have just as easily landed on making dedicated outdoor blades.
I landed on 80crv2 steel due to its specific properties, ease in forging, and heat treatment. I’ve forged quite a few different steels, and 80crv2 has been by far my favorite, and I appreciate the properties I’m able to bring out in it.
Are there any particular toolmakers who inspire your work? How inspiring spoon carvers?
Of course, there are toolmakers that very much influenced me. Del Stubbs, Nick Westermann, and Reid Schwartz.
I purchased a sloyd and hook from Del back in 2004/2005 (do not remember precisely when honestly) His tools are the first hand made carving tools I had ever used. Again, this fire to possibly make tools for my self was lit but had to wait.
Both Nick and Reid have influenced my work from afar, and I’ve been honest in my quest to produce a well-made carving tool, with my own hand/character present, within those influences. I owe homage to all three of them, but also so many more. The “Puukko” as a tool is an inspiration in itself. This minimal yet useful tool is a motivator for me to be a better tool maker.
Any suggestions for books or websites to learn about spoon carving and toolmaking?
This is a bit off the wall but ‘Call of the Wild’ by Jack London (read it at least ten times). I realize it’s not about knifemaking, or carving, however it fueled an already pretty intense desire for all things “outdoor” for me. My main reason to become a Smith was not to make tools specifically. It was to learn an ancient trade. Wishing that I was able to produce a useful skill that connected me to that passion. A knife/cutting tool was a natural draw for me in that quest.
I realize you’re asking me to suggest books written about forging/carving/tool-making, but I’ve honestly not read any. I have, however, pored over more info than I care to recount on the web. There is A LOT of information out there: some useful, some ridiculous. Two that I’d suggest to check out would be Wayne Goddard and Ed Fowler. Both have a lot of material and have forgotten more about forging than I’m likely to learn.
How have your toolmaking techniques changed over time? And s your tools changed, how did it impact your carving?
Besides the fact that I still produce a carving tool, there isn’t much that hasn’t changed. When I started forging, I was using a rather thick stock of 1084 steel. I used this because I could thin it out, and I wanted to remove/grind out the forging marks. Still, no idea why I felt this was what folks would find appealing. It didn’t take long before I just asked the question. Of course, most said, “leave the forging marks”!
To boil it down, I’ve become much more efficient at producing a rough form. I’ve also adapted/made many different tools and fittings to help me produce hooks. My initial tools, especially hooks, were not good. I suppose for my first efforts, they were useful. However, where I’m at now actually surprises me honestly. I’ve sent a lot of blades/hooks out to some very talented carvers for different opinions. Their insight has pushed me along.
Honestly, my carving has flatlined a bit. As my “part-time” business, making tools has grown, it has almost overwhelmed me. Still a very busy/involved Dad with my girls, and I love to skate. At 47, I still skate bowls and curbs. It’s taken a bit of a backseat. Although I still carve at least weekly.
As your tools changed, how did it impact your carving?
I’ve been told I use the “Hellman” method, although I didn’t know that’s what it was called, nor did I learn it from anyone.
I lay the entire bevel flat and use a “stabbing” motion. Heel to tip while drifting away from the edge. This is an easy way to keep the edge from rocking and creating a convex.
Hook knives I do in two different stages. Firstly I use hard surface/sandpaper or diamond plate to do the “flat” just off the edge. I use a softer surface (sanding pad) clamped in a vise and sandpaper to do the curved back.
My hooks have a hollow and rails. This makes it a bit easier to just sharpen the rail, and strop the bevel side for maintaining. There are a million ways to do it. I feel we get all together crazy (and trendy) when it comes to sharpening.
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
Craft means specifically a “journey” to me. Whatever it may be something you pursue for the pure sake of learning and creating. Not because it’s trendy, or the latest # movement. It’s a skill you wish to hone by simply jumping in and learning.
If you had to pick a few songs to listen to your shop, what would they be?
Easy question. Any song in the Led Zeppelin catalog. End of answer.
Thank you, Daniel. This was fun, and you got me to remember why I started this all.
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.