I started carving spoons two years ago, and early on as I searched for resources to learn more about this craft, I stumbled upon Tom’s Scandian’s YouTube channel. I was elated to find such a valuable learning resource. After I signed up for Instagram, I quickly followed Tom (@spoon_carving_with_Tom) there too. One consistent thing that I so value about Tom is his eagerness and willingness to share knowledge and carving/sharpening techniques for free; his honesty about the good and bad experiences with his carving; and perhaps most importantly, his sincere connections and conversations with everyone in the carving world. When I recently reached out to him about doing an interview, he responded immediately, so I’m elated to share his answers below.
Tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Tom. I’m 27 years old and the owner of my own business “Spoon Carving With Tom”. I set up my business in 2016 to spread the word of traditional slöjd using very modern methods – on and across various social media platforms. I live in Australia where I make and sell spoons, kangaroo leather and suede strops and other sharpening systems specific for our carving tools. I also have a YouTube channel dedicated to teaching all I know about craft and everything that surrounds it.
How long have you been carving and how did you first get interested in it?
I carved my first spoon about 11 years ago, it’s a spoon that’s still going strong. It’s wonderful to know that even at your most inexperienced stage, you can make a useful object that will last decades and still bring you much joy. I was first inspired by Ray Mears to carve a spoon after watching his episode in Belarus.
What are a few of your favorite spoon carving tools?
I am very much of the belief that fewer tools make you more efficient. You build an intricate knowledge and understanding of exactly how to use them. I find that the more I swap tools out, the less efficient I become. My 3 primary tools are : A Hans Karlsson slojd knife, a custom Matt White hook knife and a Hans Karlsson carving axe. Having tried dozens of tools over the years, I have found these to suit me best. I’m always open to trying new tools though and enjoy the process of testing them!
Any suggestions of books or websites to learn about spoon carving or woodwork?
Of course I must advertise my own YouTube channel! There are going to be dramatic improvements in the content there very shortly having upgraded to professional lighting, backdrops, cameras, audio equipment and editing software. It will be a fresh start and all new content, of course all free! I’m not the biggest fan of learning through books, I find that as times change books become outdated. It’s one of the reasons online learning is so efficient. New grinds come along, new ideas, processes, tools etc. I can upload a video and a week later find an improvement in something I previously shared. I can therefore upload another and improve on it. However with books this isn’t the case. The basics can be learnt from books, but I don’t think, if someone really wants to learn, that it’s the best way. Far better is to watch videos and follow live feeds and posts on social media shared by competent and skilled carvers which convey and share close up detailed camera angles and descriptions.
Are there any particular spoon carvers who inspire you in your work?
Yes, a man from the USA, Darrick Sanderson was one of my earliest inspirations. Darrick was always welcoming and supportive and is what shaped me to share and do what I do, in the way I do, to this day! Now days, my inspiration comes mostly from a blend of different peoples work, traditional designs and my own ideas.
How have your spoon carving techniques changed over time?
I don’t think my techniques have changed drastically overtime, but become more refined. The basic cuts you learn are the foundation to the craft of which you tweak to improve and make them more efficient over time. A thumb push cut is taught by pressing with your thumb on the blades spine. It’s a useful, powerful and controlled cut. To further improve this though, I have found squeezing the thumb on the spine while pulling the piece with your index finger of the same hand, while squeezing the blank to close your fist to not only be far more powerful and efficient, it’s less effort to make the cut. I now call it a hand squeeze grip as it better reflects the action you do.
What are your thoughts on popular decorative techniques like milk paint, kolrosing, or chip carving?
I like them all so long as they are subtle and they aren’t used to cover up a poorly made spoon. I think for anyone starting, focus on the foundations of what make a spoon work, then your tool finish and only then consider adding decoration. The time spent decorating could be better spent learning more about function and how it can be improved. No matter how beautiful a spoon looks, if it doesn’t function well, you’ll not use it. It will be as new today as it will in 40 years. This is very much a functional craft for me and therefore the main priority. I’d much rather a simple spoon that works great, than lots of decoration on one that doesn’t.
What do craft, sloyd, or wood culture mean to you?
It means empowerment. To be able to say no to mass production where possible and create what we need that’ll warm the home that have skill and passion behind them. I don’t think turning your back on modern technology is the answer, but blending the old and new. Being more reliant on yourself and making exactly what you need instead of making do.
If you had to pick few songs to listen to while carving, what would they be?
Anyone who has joined me in my live videos will know I sing along to anything even though it’s painful for them to listen to sometimes! I don’t carve to any set music, but just play whatever feels right at the time for my mood!
Lastly, why do you carve spoons?
I carve spoons because it’s a creative outlet and a challenge. I don’t like asking for help when I don’t know something, instead I prefer the challenge to figure things out for myself. When there is no challenge, things become mundane and boring. Spoon carving has yet to cease being a challenge and even after all these years it still gives me as much joy as it did on that very first spoon.
Thanks Tom! You can follow him and inquire about purchasing his spoons or sharening tools on Instagram at @spoon_carving_with_Tom or learn more about spoon carving and everything related to it on his YouTube channel.
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.