It’s interesting to consider what would happen if you showed up on earth long ago. Would you be able to show people how to go from an ox cart to a steam engine and beyond, or would you simply tell them about how cool iPhones are, explain “apps,” perhaps getting yourself thrown in the stocks in the process? “Inventing” a spatula from firewood might not revolutionize lives, but it would still be convenient, could be a good skill if you’re, say, stranded on a desert island (provided you have a knife).
If you plan on being in this time travel or Lost scenario, check out this image set from Maine resident Zach Beane. He shows how he made a spatula, using old, but rugged tools. According to Beane, he began woodworking after finding an old draw knife in his dad’s barn. He started off making tool handles, which seems like an appropriate use for a draw knife. Since then, he’s done quite a few projects, and from his build images, he has apparently leaned quite a bit.
One thing he mentions learning is that:
For making kitchen tools, I didn’t realize how much easier things were if you selected a good piece of wood. I would start with knotty or twisted stock and really had to fight every inch and still wound up with less-than-satisfactory results. Time spent looking for clear, straight wood has paid off. It’s faster to work and the results are much better.
This build starts out with Beane selecting the appropriate piece of wood (maple) to use in his project, then cutting it with a hatchet. From this rough shape, he then chipped the bark off the new plank of wood, and continued the process with a draw knife then a wood plane. On this now-squarish blank he then drew a template for his spatula, then continued work with a draw knife, now shaping the “square” into a blocky version of a spatula.
After more work to make it into the correct shape, he then thinned the piece down with, you guessed it, his trusty draw knife. After finishing the handle, he then made one corner of the spatula itself rounded, as he likes to use this to scrape the inside of frying pans. This is one obvious advantage to making your own cooking utensils; if you have the right skills and tools, you can shape them however you want. In fact, though what he is holding in the second to last image isn’t quite done, he apparently doesn’t like to sand it much, instead opting for a rough look. You can see more of his implements in the last picture, including more spatulas and a spoon.
“Rough look” or not, he does plan to dry and sand the implement, as well as apply oil. He likes to use grapeseed oil, and references this video on spatulas by Ben Orford if you’d like more information. He says, regarding grapeseed oil, that:
A little bit goes a long way. You only need maybe half a teaspoon to thoroughly coat a tool the size of a spatula. I rub it on, wait a few minutes, then wipe off the excess. I reapply the oil whenever the tool starts to feel a little dry.
Beane noted that since he’s still quite new at woodworking, it’s hard to tell what is simply a difficult process, and what is hard because his technique or the materials used could be improved. He mentions that he finds Paul Sellers’ blog and YouTube channel quite useful for information on woodworking, so either of those are likely worth checking out!
On another note, if you’re wondering why Beane didn’t use a bandsaw for this project, here’s his answer:
Some people asked me why I didn’t use a bandsaw. I don’t hate bandsaws. I don’t have a bandsaw! I wish I did. But I also really enjoy the hand tool process. I like finding old tools. I like cleaning them up. I like tuning and sharpening them. And I like using them to do useful things and make useful stuff. The product is important, but the process is a lot of fun to me, too.
So, the next time you realize that you never had a certain useful utensil, or perhaps that your dog, or perhaps Maine Coon cat, ate it, you can skip the trip to the store and just make your own! It may turn out great, or perhaps just mediocre, but hopefully you’ll have a lot of fun either way.