Who Likes Bowls? Sy'n Hoffi Powlenni?



I have a question I would like for you to answer, but first, some background.

I love bowls, spoon bowls, that is! After all, a bowl is THE defining element of a spoon. A spoon without a bowl is just a stick. Have you ever tried eating soup with a stick?

On a lovespoon, in my most humble opinion, the bowl is as important a design element as any other part of the spoon. It is the foundation that supports the entire design. It has to flow with the rest of the spoon.

I experience physical pain when I see a bowl treated as an afterthought. You've all seen them, the tourist dreck with the tiny bowl hollowed out with a router. Ick!

The lovespoon bowl should be smooth. When you pick up the spoon your dominant hand automatically gravitates to the bowl, thumb in the hollow, forefinger cradling the back. There is an uncontrollable urge to rub the bowl gently between your thumb and forefinger, caressing the surface as if it were your lover's ear. It's a calming experience. Serenity in your hand.

There are two ways to achieve that smoothness: with the use of The Devil's Paper (that is, [shudder] sandpaper), and, if you are skilled (or compulsive) enough, the edge of your knife. You might be able to tell from the previous sentence into which camp I fall.

I do [gag] sand the bowls of my commission pieces, because in the formative days of my lovespoon education I got the impression, rightly or wrongly, that clients demand a sanded bowl. In my Greenwood Series spoons I finish the bowls with the edge of my knife.

Visually there's not a great deal of difference. Pictured below are the bowls of two of my spoons, front and back, for comparison. The first bowl in each pair was sanded (not that there's anything wrong with that). The second bowl in each pair was finished with the edge of my knife by a slicing motion.

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In the front views the two surfaces appear virtually identical. In the back views if you look closely at the second bowl you can just make out the tiny facets left by the knife.

The two tactile experiences are different, but equally satisfying. The sanded bowl is smooth and regular with a slightly velvety feel. This comes as a result of the micro fibers left standing above the surface of the wood by the abrasive action of the sandpaper. Even 1000-grit sandpaper, used by the TRULY anal carver, will leave this micro fiber fuzz behind. And there's nothing wrong with that!

The knife edge, on the other hand, leaves behind a hard, polished surface, smooth as glass, but warm! You can feel, on both the inside and the outside, the tiny irregularities where one cut ends and another begins, like footprints the knife left as it traveled from one part of the bowl to another.

THIS is the finish I prefer! It is evidence, physical and conclusive, that this spoon was carved by a human, fallible, however skilled. This Humanity is the essence of the Lovespoon, the foundation of all the emotion represented by the symbols incorporated into the design. THIS is why a spoon ground out by a machine in China for sale in tourist shops for the price of a cup of coffee will never replace a hand-carved Lovespoon.

All that being said, and I mean this sincerely, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG with a sanded finish. I do it. That Humanity comes out in other portions of the spoon. For instance, Laura Gorun's humanity shines through in the absolutely mind boggling delicacy of her work. There's no way a machine could do that in wood.

It's all a matter of preference, that of the client first, and the carver second.

And now, Dear Reader, if you have actually read this far without dropping into slumber (for which I most humbly thank you!), the question I need you to answer for me and all the other carvers: Which would you prefer for the bowl on your spoon, the sanded finish or the edge finish?

Please respond in the comments.

Cofion gorau!

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