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New life for old wooden spoons.

Whether that old wooden spoon you use is a mass market cheapie or a one-of-a-kind hand crafted item, an heirloom from your grandfather or a future antique you carved yourself, it probably could use some attention. How much depends on its original condition and its use, or abuse, since then. You can't change the type of wood but you can change some of its character if need be. And what better time to work on your wooden ware than during the cold days and dark evenings of winter.

You need good sandpaper

The harder the wood, the smoother the possible finish, in general. You can't get the sheen of a maple from a poplar, but you can get them both smooth enough to be pleasant to use. It's not a secret: it's called sandpaper and patience. Its use, or lack of use, on your spoon makes the world of difference on the finished product.

So, step one: Get several grades of good sandpaper. Not flint paper. Obtain garnet or aluminum oxide for the coarser grits. If you can't find it at your local hardware store, check with a woodworker. For the finer grits the black colored wet/dry sandpaper is easy to find, if not at the hardware at an automotive store. You'll probably want a sheet each of approximately 100, 120, 220,320,400. If your wooden ware was well made to begin with and is still pretty smooth, just the finer 320 and 400 grits will do.

If your spoon is quite "fuzzy" it probably was not sanded well to begin with, as is the case with most store spoons. The trick is to sand it, going with the grain when sanding with the coarser grits (100, 220), starting with say 100 if it's very fuzzy. (If you seem to be sanding a lot and not getting very far fast, change to a courser grit.) Then wet your spoon. This will raise the grain. When dry, sand with the next finer grit (say 220). Wet again, and go to the 320.

Then wet sand with the 400 (keep spoon and sandpaper wet). If you have a softer wood spoon this may not do much. On very hard wood you may want to repeat this step again. And if it is a spoon you will be eating with, do it yet again with possibly 600 sandpaper. An even slightly "fuzzy" spoon is no fun against your lips. (But a well-sanded hardwood eating spoon has it all over a cold metal one.)

When the utensil is dry, rub well with an edible oil. Your salad oil will work fine. We used raw linseed oil for years on the hardwood spoons we made and sold, and liked that fine. Now we use a non-toxic resin & oil sold by LIVOS. It's faster drying, non-yellowing (a problem with the raw linseed oil on new, fight colored spoons) and doesn't bleed out in the heat of the sun (not a concern in your kitchen but a problem for us at an outdoor art fair).

How to oil

With any oil, make sure first of all that it is edible. Rub it in and let set for maybe 20 minutes or so. Then wipe it off well. If you let the oil sit on your wooden ware without wiping the excess off they will get sticky, gummy, and it's a hair-tearing time trying to get it off (words from experience). Let set a day or so (depends on the oil, the weather, the temperature).

If the first coat soaked in well, put on another, thin coat. Again, let set a bit, wipe off well, and let cure another day. A third, and possibly fourth, light coat may be needed. The harder the wood, the less oiling required. Previously finished utensils will need few coats. Our well-used kitchen spoons take only one oiling when refinished (and need only a 400 grit sanding). A freshly made cherry spoon maybe takes three, a maple two and an ash or birch four.

When the oil is no longer soaking in, and it seems you're wiping off as much as you put on, that's it. Let it dry well,then enjoy using your "new" spoon. You can reach for it often knowing that when it once again needs a bit of rejuvenation, you can easily do it yourself.

The romance of wood

I admit I'm partial to wooden spoons, plates and bowls to cook and eat with. Stirring your tea or coffee with a metal spoon can be a jarring experience when you're used to the gentle thunk, thunk of a wooden spoon.

If there aren't enough wooden utensils in your kitchen, think about making your own. Most woods will make a serviceable spoon or stirrer. Though most of our work is done in hardwoods, we use spoons we've made out of bass-wood and poplar, and a half dozen other woods. For an eating spoon, however, I would recommend a good hard wood such as apple or maple.

A good source of instruction for making your own spoon is Country Woodcraft by Drew Langsner. It isn't a fast project, but it has its own special satisfaction.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Robishaw, Sue
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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