Making bowls and spoons

//Making bowls and spoons
Making bowls and spoons 2017-03-16T14:10:04+00:00

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    MikeLyons
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    Post count: 3

    I’m interested in making bowls and spoons from downed trees. I’m acquiring a few hand gouges here and there. I’m having a hard time identifying the species of wood. I really would like to only work with food safe wood. Is there a test kit I can get where it will tell me if it’s ok or not?

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  • Mike in TN
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    Post count: 261

    Hi Mike,

    There are woods (primarily non-US “exotics”) that can cause issues due to allergies and sensitivities developed over time, but nearly all US domestic woods are considered food safe after made. There is much more concern with inhaling sawdust in general and developed sensitivity due to long term physical  exposure to raw, green wood. I don’t believe that the issue is widespread enough to justify any sort of a test kit. One of the issues with a test would be that it is primarily a sensitivity issue with the individual as opposed to the toxicity of the material. The links below were some I found for wood toxicity and sensitivity information.

    Toxic Woods

    http://www.tedswoodworking.com/toxic-wood.htm

    Wood Allergies and Toxicity

    Have fun

    • MikeLyons
      Participant
      Post count: 3

      Thanks Mike, I always thought using cedar to make bowls was a bad idea as it is highly irritant but yet I often hear people cooking on the grill with it(planks or chips). Besides noticing cedar by it beautiful color(which would make a beautiful bowl) and by smell, I wouldn’t know oak from polar or ash to pine.

  • Mike in TN
    Participant
    Post count: 261

    Hi Again,

    I think the main issue with cedar, especially eastern red cedar, is the fact that it can impart  flavors and smells to foods due to the oil present in the wood. That is the same oil that makes it desirable for use in deterring moths and other insects. If the wood is sealed and not used for liquids then it should be ok. Having said that, it was often used for making churns. Perhaps frequent exposure to liquids eventually removes the oils so that the wood then won’t flavor the food. The main issue with oaks (and walnut, butternut) is the open grain nature that makes it harder to clean when used with wet food/liquids. Red oak will also leak which is why they don’t use it for barrels or other liquid containing items. One way to tell red oak from white oak is to put one end of a short piece into water and blow hard on the end grain of the other end. Red oak will give you bubbles. Any other fine grain wood should work well for wet foods. There are many books and sites that should help you figure out which woods you have. Just as important is to learn to read individual trees for twists and grain patterns. I am still very much learning to read the trees and tree identification.

    The “old timers” learned to recognize the different trees and the various qualities of each, which spit easier, which were tough and springy, which one were heavier or lighter. They utilized many of those qualities to make the finished product the best it could be for the task, and/or to make the product easier and or less expensive. Hickory was used for handles, elm for wagon wheel hubs, poplar and pine for secondary woods in furniture, ash for chair parts, dogwood for clubs, gluts, loom shuttles, and wooden gears, beech and fruit woods for planes and flooring, resinous pine for window frames. The list is long and the uses were many.

    The woods will provide you with many materials not normally available to the average woodworker unless they have access to an exotic lumber dealer and are willing to pay the price. Lucky is the person who can gather their materials from nature, especially if it can be done in a sustainable way. While most dealers carry wonderful goods, there is great pleasure to be found in selecting and utilizing limbs, crotches, odd growths, spalted woods, and pieces that otherwise would end up in a firewood pile.

    Have fun

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