Bob Tinsley



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Category: Lovespoons

Lovespoon Fans Welcome

By Bob Tinsley, 2016-05-09
Lovespoon Fans Welcome

Ceri has worked hard to provide a place where aficionados of the Welsh Lovespoon can come to find such things. Click on the Stores button at the top of the page and you'll be introduced to four very skillful and creative carvers specializing in Welsh lovespoons (of whom I am one).

We're not just here to sell our wares. We also want to serve as a source of information about the history, legends and production of Welsh lovespoons in particular and the lovespoons of other cultures as well.

The Bretons, who are also Celts and have a language very similar to Welsh, also have a carved spoon tradition with romance at its center.

Click over to our stores and our timelines and see what we have to offer. Feel free to ask us questions about the history, symbology, production methods or anything else related to lovespoons. We'll be happy to answer. And if we don't know the answer, we probably know someone who does.

So come on by. The person to whom you give one of our lovespoons will remember you forever!

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A Commissioned Lovespoon Part 11

By Bob Tinsley, 2014-08-12

Finished the chip carving and put a border around it. Turned out pretty well, I think.

And now: THE BOWL! Now comes the really fun part, finishing the bowl. We can start to see the figure in the bowl. We'll have a bull's eye with some nice color: lots of different shades of brown and even some greens, very subtle. I love this part!

I'm often asked about how I avoid going too deep in the bowl and breaking out the bottom. First, don't get carried away with all the scooping (it's easy to do). Pay attention. Go slowly and keep measuring the thickness of the bowl. Some people use calipers for this, but I've found that the "Pinch Test," pinch the bowl between your thumb on the inside and your forefinger on the outside, gives me a better feel (get that? Feel! Ha!) For the thickness and the uniformity. I'll often find myself paring paper thin shavings off the outside of the bowl to match the curvature of the inside and keep the wall thickness uniform. The knives pictured with the spoon are made by Del Stubbs of Pinewood Forge.

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A Commissioned Lovespoon Part 12

By Bob Tinsley, 2014-08-12

Principal carving is done! I've still got some tweaking to do on the bowl, but I'm almost there. After the tweaking (NOT twerking!) I'll begin using the dreaded Devil's Paper. Then there will be the oiling . . . followed by the oiling . . . followed by the oiling . . . followed by the curing of the oil. All in all, probably another week before the spoon hits the mail!

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A Commissioned Lovespoon Part 10

By Bob Tinsley, 2014-08-09

Today, as you might be able to tell from the photos ;) , I began the chip carving. It's so nice finally having a knife that works! I'm generally pretty good about stropping my knives to keep them sharp as I carve, typically about every 15 to 30 minutes, but I've found that this chip carving knife performs noticibly better If I strop it after I finish a square, about 12 cuts. I mean it's NOTICABLY better. I suspect that it is more about the polish on the blade than the sharpness. Down here in Flor-I-da it's so humid that you can get microscopic beads of moisture on a metal surface after just a few minutes. Moisture on a blade means binding in the wood. At least that's my theory. When it's humid down here EVERYTHING is damp! The medallion is done and half of the squares. Tomorrow the rest, and then on to the bowl. BTW, that pile of chips is the result of about 1.5 hours of carving. Once you start on the finish work, the volume of the chip pile decreases as the carving time increases.

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A Commissioned Lovespoon Part 09

By Bob Tinsley, 2014-07-21

The last couple of days were spent in zen-like contemplation, practice and refinement. I finished the cat and began working on the chip carving for the stem. I discovered a couple of interesting things. I haven't done much chip carving in the past, because it seemed like such a struggle to get it to look right. I discovered that I just didn't have a knife properly tuned for the work. As I began working on the practice piece I got increasingly frustrated at the way my knife was behaving. I was either having to use much more force than I wanted to, or I was having to make multiple thin cuts to do what most people do in one cut. The sharpness wasn't an issue; the issue was the blade profile. Most chip carving cuts are done with the first 1/8" to 3/16" of the blade. This blade was simply too thick, so I spent about 3 to 4 hours regrinding, sharpening and polishing the blade. I changed the inluded angle of the edge to about 15 degrees or less. I also ground a small swedge on the back of the blade near the tip to decrease the friction of the blade against the wood. I also rounded the back of the blade to make it more comfortable to push against. What a difference! Chip carving changed from a chore to a pleasure in one fell swoop. I still need to make the swedge a little wider and do more polishing on the blade.

Now that things were working the way they should be, I did two styles of chip carving for the stem. The one on the right is an older, more primitive style. It looks rather like laces. The one on the left is what is more commonly seen today. The client chose the one on the left.

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A Commissioned Lovespoon Part 07

By Bob Tinsley, 2014-07-20

I've finished with the back of the bowl, pretty much. You probably can't tell the difference, but I can. I'm much happier now. As I work on the inside of the bowl I'll undoubtedly be making small adjustments to the outside, but that's normal. I started on the horse heads and got one almost done. Still have a few minor adjustments to make before I start the next one. I used the Flexcut Detail Knife to do a lot of the horse head. I like Flexcut knives. They have good steel, good heat treatment, hold a good edge a long time, but there is one thing I just can't abide: that slick, lacquer coating they use on the handles. My hands sweat when I carve, so that lacquer makes it seem like I'm holding a piece of ice. Fortunately there is a simple solution: 100-grit sandpaper. The bare wood sticks to my hand like glue. A major improvement.

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A Commissioned Lovespoon Part 08

By Bob Tinsley, 2014-07-20

I've finished both horse heads. For now. I spent most of my carving time today practicing on the chip carving. On different piece of wood! I got the cat the way I wanted it (on the practice piece) and began practicing on the squares below it. (No, you don't get to see that!) Based on what I'm seeing, I MAY need to do a fresh layout on the squares. I'm also playing with the exact angles and order of cuts. More playing needs to be done. After messing with the practice squares for a while, I decided to do the cat head on the spoon. Before I got to the nose and mouth my hands were beginning to tremble enough that I thought I'd better quit and do that tomorrow. It was a struggle to stop, though. "It's only five more little lines. I can do that in my sleep. Just five lines. Come on, you can do it," I said to myself. Fortunately, I noticed that I couldn't even draw the guidelines properly, so, descretion being the better part of valor, I decided to wait until tomorrow.

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A Commissioned Lovespoon Part 06

By Bob Tinsley, 2014-07-13

Today I got the back of the spoon about 98% finished. I've marked one area where I need to take off just a little more wood to get the symmetry I'm looking for. I'm probably going a little OCD on this, but that's me and spoon bowls. Once I move that wood I'll start on the horses, move on to the chip carving and do the inside of the bowl last.

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A Commissioned Lovespoon Part 05

By Bob Tinsley, 2014-07-06

More work on the back of the bowl. The first three photos show the right side of the bowl almost to its final shape. I say "almost" because as I "symetricize" (that's probably not a word, but it should be!) the other side of the bowl I will need to adjust the right side to match. 


The last three photos show the first half of the work on the left side. This is fiddly work, but rewarding.

So far I've spent a little more than four hours just on the back of the bowl. I always work on the back of the bowl first. That allows me to refine the shape. To my mind digging out the hollow of the bowl first just doesn't allow for the minor adjustments and refinements that make the difference between an eating or cooking spoon and a lovespoon.


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A Commissioned Lovespoon Part 04

By Bob Tinsley, 2014-07-01

Today was a light carving day. That off-side thumb was demanding a day off, but what I did today didn't put much of a strain on it. It kept its complaints to a dull roar. ;) The first photo shows the transition from the medallion to the ridged stem on the back. 

I did this a day or two ago, but never posted a photo of it. I spent today working on the back of the bowl. I'll often spend as much time working on the bowl as I spend carving the entire rest of the spoon. To me, the bowl is the most important part of the spoon. Without a bowl a spoon is just a stick. I've been smoothing and shaping the bowl with the knives shown. 

The two on the left were made by Ralph Long, and the one on the right was made by Allen Goodman. I normally rough out the outside of the bowl with my Regular Sloyd from Del Stubbs. I like the longer blades for bowl work because they allow longer slices and I can control the transition from one curve to another better. Shorter blades leave me with a choppy feel. Once the rough-out is done I change to a much thinner blade, though still long. 

I lay the blade almost flat on the wood and use it like a plane or spokeshave. Using this technique I can get a surface that on anything other than a lovespoon would be considered finished. 

It only requires a couple of minutes work with sandpaper to get it baby-butt smooth. Any technique that lets me minimize the use of The Devil's Paper is worth the time it takes. 

I use the short bladed knife to do the short-radius, scooping cuts at the transition from the stem to the bowl. Now that I've removed more wood and smoothed out the surface the figure of the wood is becoming more apparent even in my poor photographs. 

This variation in color is what I love about poplar. You can get all shades of brown, greens, yellows and even purple. It's a terriffic looking wood and easy to carve.

I do all my carving with hand tools, 99% of which are knives. I do it this way for two reasons: 1) I try to emulate the traditional way of working. The young men of rural Wales (or Scandanavia) who began this tradition didn't have elaborate shops with lots of tools. They worked from the heart with what they had. That's the feeling I want to put in my spoons. 2) I hate power tools! They are noisy, dirty and dangerous. The only concession I make to modern tools is the use of a battery-powered hand drill to start the piercings on my spoon, and the only reason I do that is that it allows me to hold the piece in my hand while I'm drilling. A hand drill requires the use of two hands, and since my wife and I live on a 28-foot sailboat we don't have the room for a bench I can clamp the piece to while I drill.

I'm still trying to figure out the stem-bowl transition. I cut a little and stare a little. Cut a little more and stare a little more. It's time to do a lot more staring and thinking.

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