Wooden Spoon Makers in Turkey
During leisure time in the winter, after work is finished in the village, the parts of cut logs which are knot-free are cut into sections with a saw (similar to a saddler's knife) which spans from 15-20 cm length. These are then vertically cut with an adz either in half or in several places depending on the thickness of the wood and made into thinner pieces. If, for one reason or another, the blocks are not to be carved immediately, they are placed in a "spoon well" to preserve their moisture. The "well" is dug is a small pit some 50 to 60 centimeters deep and two meters in length. It has a wooden cover. If the blocks have dried when they are removed from the pit, they are moistened again before being carved. This process is repeated frequently and if necessary throughout the spoon-making procedure. One, or-depending on the thickness, two (in head-to-tail fashion)-spoon matrices are fashioned from these blocks. First, the center of the matrix is slightly carved and then the upper part and the back of the handle is made thinner. Then a shape is given to the bowl, the back of which is given a bow, and the neck portion is carved out. With strokes of an adz from two directions, the bowl is thinned, and is shaped by means of fine carving starting from the neck towards the handle. Next, the fine work is carried out on the surface of the bowl, the neck, and the handle by means of a rasp. The bowl of the spoon is hollowed out with a curved carving knife. The rough spots of this carving on the inner bowl, the neck, and the handle are smoothed with a straight knife and then a fine shape is given to the bowl, neck, and handle. In the case of decorative spoons, holes or apertures are made as desired with a gouge or chisel or a carving saw. After all these steps, any minor rough spots remaining from the scraping process are sanded, and the spoon is smooth. Following the adzing process, women and children also participate in the carving, scraping, and sanding of the object.
Tools Used in Spoon-Making
The carving board is a sort of wooden bench, one meter in length and from 25 to 30 cm. high. Depending on where it is used, it may be secured in place with stones or part of it may be burled in the ground. Two or three separate boards may be used by one person or by several masters working together. Sometimes they work side by side or face each other on longer boards. In order to reduce at least some of the noise that occurs when the work is going on and in order to facilitate cutting with the adz on a firm foundation, spoon-making workshops generally should be in the cellar of a house, where the earth is hard. There are two hollowed-out places on the carving board which are used in the fashioning of spoons. One of these is a sort of vise where the spoon is secured by the neck when the bowl is carved out. The other is an impression against which the bowl of the spoon is supported, and hollowed out in reverse and the neck and handle are shaped.
The Rasping Board: This is a board 35 cm. long and 15 cm. wide containing notches to support the spoon on either side and keep it from slipping on which the handle is rasped.
The Tool Box: This is a wooden or metal box made in the desired dimensions to keep tools which are used in spoon-making.
The Spoon Chest: This a chest in which finished spoons are placed in bundles for safekeeping. Spoons are generally 20 cm. in length, of which 1/4 is the bowl and 3/4 is the handle. Three parts of a wooden spoon is generally examined: bowl, neck, and handle, and it gets its name according to the differences in these sections. Bowls may be pointed, round, cornered, crescent-shaped, claw-shaped, "bear claw-shaped" or double-ended. Necks may be plain, have "ears", or "elbows" Handles may be serpentine, button-ended, ball-ended, claw-ended, notched, carved, jacknife-shaped, or tong-shaped. In the case of wooden spoons used for eating, the bowls are generally pointed, the necks are either pointed or "elbowed", while their handles are also pointed. In the case of those made for decoration, the bowls, necks, and handles are different. During the winter, a spoon carver creates only four or five new forms, and he will not repeat them the following year. Depending upon the degree of workmanship, one person may make five to twenty spoons a day.
Painting the Spoons: A wooden spoon which has even the slightest irregularities and rough spots removed by sanding is now ready to have the desired design stamped on it and is then painted and varnished. The processes involved in producing spoons used for eating and for decorative purposes are the same up to this point. The decoration of spoons for eating generally begins with stamping the design on it in black with a rubber stamp. Next, the blank spaces are painted in various colors with a fine brush and the design is filled in. The decoration is made on the bowl and it may also be made on the handle as well. When desired, the name and address of the maker may be stamped on the underside of the handle. Although this rubber-stamp printing is carried out on (ordinary) decorative spoons with great care, designs are drawn with a pen or an awl and then colored with a brush.
Preparation, Use of Ink, Paints, and Varnish Ink: In three glasses of water, 50 grams of dry powdered printer's ink or rubber stamp ink, a drop of tree sap of the bark of almond or plum trees and a half of a lump of sugar are boiled together for half an hour and then left to cool. The ink which is thus prepared is thoroughly drenched in a sponge placed inside the ink-pad holder. When desired, a rubber stamp onto which a design was previously carved is first pressed into the ink-pad and then onto the spoon, transferring the design. The ink dries in fifteen to twenty minutes. Paints: High-quality oil paints in the colors desired, particularly green, red, and yellow are thinned with turpentine and the blank areas of the stamped-on design are filled in with a brush. The spoon is then left to dry for an hour. Varnish: Five kilograms of pine resin are added to ten kilograms of boiled English-type linseed oil which is preferred but raw linseed oil may also be used. This mixture is placed in a cheesecloth and boiled until it reaches a consistency that when a drop of it is placed onto a glass surface it can be lifted and stretched two centimeters without snapping. During the boiling care is taken to prevent it from burning. The flame is turned off and the viscous liquid is passed through a cheesecloth to remove any dust. If the varnish is too thick, it may be thinned with the addition of kerosene. Some of this varnish is poured on the spoon onto which a design has been placed and the spoon is rubbed with the thumb as if being washed with an outward motion towards the handle. The spoons are then placed on a previously prepared wire rack side by side with the inner surface of the bowls facing downward. A day later they are turned over so that the bowls face upward. This process of turning the spoon is repeated for five or six days. Then the spoon is varnished again and drying takes place over another five or six days, alternating with the bowl facing up and then down. During the third and fourth varnishing, the spoon is left to dry five or six days. After the fifth varnishing, the reserve process goes on for fifteen days.
This is how the wooden spoons used for eating are varnished. In the case of decorative spoons, the varnishing is done differently. A single coat of varnish is applied and if good-quality paint is used they may not even be varnished at all. The work of stamping and painting may take place at any time of the year. Varnishing on the other hand must begin in May and is done until the end of August-especially on hot days. Rack: This consists of small-mesh chicken-wire stretched in the desired width and length over wooden supports at least one meter high off the ground. This is particularly set up in a place where there is no dust or soil and which receives continuous sunshine.
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):