Zach Beauvais

wooden spoons and carving tools

A spoon carver’s progress

Written by Zach Beauvais

Mar 5, 2017

There it is on my Facebook wall.

3 years ago today:

Old spoon that's lumpen and ugly

I’m squirming at a photo of this spoon I carved from a bit of ash. Nothing about this piece is any good at all. If I were gracious, I’d call it asymmetrical. But, really, it’s lopsided. The walls are thick, clunky. Neither the shape nor lines of the handle inspire grace.

Share this now?

I think not.

I’d rather no one ever sees this. Unfortunately, I believe that particular spoon ended up in someone’s kitchen. Three years ago, I’d been carving for a while, and I was excited by this monstrosity. I saw the smooth finish, the places where I’d managed to carve away dodgy grain without too much tear out. I wanted to share it then – foisting my barely-shaped bits of wood onto patient, kind friends.

I couldn’t see all the flaws. Hell, I didn’t even know what I’d need to make a spoon like this work. To be fair to my past self, a year or two before this so-called spoon, I had only just picked up a carver’s knife. I didn’t know how to keep a blade sharp. The bits of wood I scratched about with weren’t even recognisable as spoons. Before then, I didn’t know how to carve anything.

Today, I fed two spoons I wasn’t happy with into my fire. They’re actually quite symmetrical, and the handle sweeps fairly elegantly from grip to tip of bowl. They wear a proper finial, and they’re fairly comfortable in the hand. But, I can see where I’ve gone wrong, and they’re not good enough to keep. I wouldn’t give them to anyone, and I certainly wouldn’t sell them. The bowl’s bevels don’t line up, and I can’t tweak them further without removing enough wood to ruin the shape. So, into the fire they go.

It’s fine, though. There are sixteen eating spoons I’m happy enough with to keep. I can see several I could improve, and I’m pretty sure what I’ll do next to change some of the minor faults. I’m better at this now.

two newer spoons that are pretty

They live in a bowl I recently turned on a pole lathe in my front porch. This bowl is my fifth or maybe sixth. It’s the first that’s even and turned out more or less the shape I wanted. The others went into the fire. I’m excited by this bowl, and I want to share it.

Bowl of decent spoons

In 2020, Facebook will pop up with a photo of this lovely bowl: “Share this now?”

I hope I’ll squirm, saying: “I think not.” I’ll wish that bloody bowl had ended up on the fire, and that Facebook’s memory algorithm could go hang.

I hope this, because I’ll know how to hold the tricky hook tools so they don’t gouge into the surface too badly. My new bowls will look elegant, and I’ll see minor flaws to sort in the next one. I’ll know how to fix my mistakes, and the next steps will be clearer.

I’ll be better at this then.

My craft somehow informs my politics.

“Hey, remember this idea you championed 20 years ago? It sucked.”

You’re right, it did. But, we’re better at this now. We squirm at old systems – outmoded models and beliefs. But, to be fair to ourselves – at least a little – that was the first time we’d tried that. Before then, we didn’t know how such a plan would work.

We can see our mistakes, but we can also see how we’ve adapted. We’re better at seeing what’s wrong now, and we can see some next steps. We can do better, and we want to make those changes.

In 20 years, we’ll read our old material from way back in 2017. We’ll squirm. We’ll see our flaws, and wish we’d done things differently. We’ll laugh at what we called progress back then.

We’ll be better at this then.

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