Green wood carving is a phrase that describes the process of carving green wood – that is wood that hasn’t been dried. Wood is best harvested in late Autumn, when the sap has settled. The logs are stored in the round, and provided they’re in a shaded spot, they will stay green in this climate for a year or so, drying out gradually. The drying process can be slowed further by sealing the ends of the logs.
Why carve green wood? Well, the main reason is that when the wood is wet, it’s easier to carve. The knives go through it more easily, with less force required. This means that it’s easier to carve green wood with hand tools, thus leading to the other meaning of “green” wood carving – wood that’s carved without using power tools.
You may wonder why I don’t sand the treen to a smooth finish. I leave the marks made by the knife deliberately, and this is why…
A finish created by a clean cut with a sharp tool may appear rough, particularly if there are large facets on a spoon. A freshly sanded spoon by contrast feels silky smooth. However, if you look at the sanded surface under the microscope, you find that the fibres have been abraded, and the spaces between the abraded fibres are filled with the fine dust from the sandpaper – which feels smooth. When we wash it the dust washes away and the abraded fibres swell leaving something that looks under the microscope like a shagpile carpet, that will not feel nice to the touch and unlike the tool cut finish it does not age nicely either.
Treen, literally “of a tree” is a generic name for small handmade functional household objects made of wood. Before the late 17th-century, when silver, pewter, and ceramics were introduced for tableware, most small household items were carved from wood. Today, treen is highly collectable for its beautiful patina and tactile appeal.
Anything from wooden plates and bowls, boxes, spoons and chopping boards can be classed as treen. Before the advent of cheap metal wares, and later plastic, wood played a much greater part as the raw material for common objects. Turning and carving were the key manufacturing techniques. The selection of wood species was important, and close-grained native hardwoods such as box, beech and sycamore were particularly favoured.
I love having a pocket spoon with me. Everyone should carry a spoon with them. Have you ever had to buy some food while out and been given a nasty plastic fork to eat with? It’s a horrible experience. And an easily avoidable one – carry a nice wooden spoon with you!
Plastic spoons – made from oil, a non-renewable resource, created over millennia. Pollution generating process to form polystyrene, then further processing and transport to form it into spoons and get it to the food outlet. Then used and thrown away.
Wooden spoons – made by hand from local storm damaged or pruned trees. Carry one with you in your pocket, and watch it develop a beautiful patina over time.
We all have experience of using a wooden spoon to cook with – they don’t scratch or conduct heat, and you can use plenty of force to scrape the bottom of the pan. But for some reason, very few of us eat with a wooden spoon – and I think that should change.
Eating using a wooden spoon is a gentle, tactile, and quiet experience. The spoon is light in the hand, and with no hard metal edges, it’s soft in the mouth too. A warm, soft patina builds on the wood, and the facets from the knife provide interest. The biggest benefit is the absence of the harsh sound of metal against crockery. Eating breakfast with a wooden spoon allows a peaceful start to the day. And there’s no reason that this shouldn’t continue into other meals too.