What began as a ploy to gain access to the woodshop has now turned into a full-fledged club: the Spoon Club. Founders LSA sophomores Regan Pitts and Will Townsend crafted their idea from their love for their furniture design class and the desire to continue their carving, sawing, and sanding. When one of their friends expressed interest in carving a spoon, the Spoon Club was born.
It all starts with a scrap of wood discarded from the furniture design class. Before the process begins, the wood must be carefully analyzed. “At first it sees simple, and it is very simple, but as you go deeper into the process, there are little tricks and things you can do to make it easier,” Pitts explains. “The way that the grain grows in the wood or how it is cut from the tree influences how you can carve the spoon in order to avoid the wood chipping or splintering.”
The carver must also determine what they want their spoon to look like and how to work with what they have. Club members sit in a circle and carve their spoons, complimenting one another on their creative spoon handles, the rings in the wood, and even smelling the wood to determine what kind of tree it came from.
There are two types of spoons that club members make: flat serving spoons and a new design the club just adopted. Pitts decided to take a leap of faith today and try this new carving technique that would create a spoon with a more practical handle. “The new way we just started doing is more of an ergonomic design,” Pitts says. Instead of the handle coming off the bowl of the spoon parallel to the bowl, like a serving or mixing spoon, it comes off at a slight angle, making it more conducive to…eating soup perhaps.
At the end of the year, the Spoon Club partners with the Residential College Ceramics Club for the Empty Bowls project. The Ceramics Club and the Spoon Club come together to accept donations for their handmade bowls and spoons filled with soup. All the proceeds go towards the Food Gatherers in Ann Arbor which provides fresh produce to people without access to it.
Now comes the most meticulous part of the process: carving out the bowl. They start by carving out the bowl because it has to be clamped down and it’s easier to clamp before the rest of the spoon has been carved away. While this part may seem painstaking, this seems to be where all the fun happens. Carving out the bowl little by little, curl by curl, is therapeutic — a break from the hustle and bustle of college life. “Especially throughout a stressful year [spoon carving] can be a great break to just go and do something with your hands,” Pitts says. Then it’s back to the bandsaw to carve away the excess wood. This is the part where you can really start to see the spoon coming together.
Another way to speed up the process is by using a belt sander. While this isn’t the traditional way to carve and sand spoons, using tools such as the band saw and the belt sander, it allows the club to make more spoons and raise more money.
For the spots you can’t reach with the belt sander, carvers must manually sand the spoon to smooth away imperfections. “And when you’re eating [with it] you don’t want it to be bumpy,” Pitts remarks.
With one final swipe of the sandpaper, the spoon is finished! At this point, carvers can get creative by carving intricate designs or burning words into the handle or the bowl. But the thing about the spoon club is that you can really do whatever you want. “One of our core values is that we want to include anyone in this process, regardless of previous experience, because it can be a fun new thing to learn,” Pitts says. “Including everybody, being creative, being sustainable, and giving back to the community. Anyone can design a spoon, anyone can carve a spoon, anyone can make a spoon.”
There is one rule, however. You can’t say the word fork.