Take the Pecan Challenge!

pecan tree

I have accidentally become a huge fan of Pecan wood.  The majority of the spoons and kitchen utensils I make are from found Pecan limbs and branches.  Pecan is a hardwood species belonging to the hickory family of trees.  It does not seem to be overly popular for use in woodworking and I can not figure out if this is due to its geographical distribution or if it just has a bad rap in the woodworking community.

Despite its perceived lack of popularity amongst woodworkers, I have really come to rely heavily on the beautiful wood of the Pecan tree in my projects.  It is everywhere here in South Louisiana and finding large fallen limbs and branches takes little more effort than keeping your eyes open when driving down tree-lined highways.  It always amazes me how different Pecan wood can vary in appearance not only from tree to tree, but at times even from different sections of the same tree.  Milling Pecan limbs into lumber is always fun due to the fact the end product can rarely be predicted.

Below are some pictures of spoons and utensils that I have made from Pecan and a few other species of wood.  My challenge to you is to see if you can tell which pieces have been made from Pecan and which pieces are made of a different species.  If you are anything like me you will be surprised to discover how different this wood can appear.  Please let me know if you think you have all of the Pecan pieces identified and I will let you know if you are right.  Good Luck!

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If you are a wood identification master and think you have it all figured out please email me or message me on my Facebook page tool-school.com.  If you would like to learn how to make your own wooden spoons check out my article on how to make wooden spoons with hand tools here.

Below are a few tools that make milling lumber from small logs for a variety of projects a breeze.

Jointer

WEN Bandsaw

Carpenter’s Axe

Draw Knife

Kindling Cracker

Resaw Blade

Thanks for reading!  Please be sure to like, comment, follow, and share tool-school.com posts on social media.

Jake with tool-school.com

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Transform Your Grinder Into An Orbital Contour Sander

Just about any woodworking project will require sanding to some degree and there are so many routes to take in achieving a nice and smooth sanded finish.  Sanding blocks, belt sanders, sheet sanders, orbital sanders, disc sanders,  and just plain old sand paper and elbow grease can all work well to achieve the desired result for a given project.  Unfortunately many projects have curves and contours that render many of our convenient modern sanding tools useless in providing attractive finishes.  In these cases it is often necessary to spend a lot of time performing labor-intensive hand sanding to get the desired finish as with the bowls of the spoons pictured below.

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These very spoon bowls are what lead me to constantly keep an eye and ear out for any sanding tools that can make my spoon carving life easier.  After spending a few years trying just about any and every sanding tool that will fit in the bowls of my spoons, I had come to the conclusion that the only acceptable option was hand sanding.  It was a time-consuming and harsh reality to accept.  Depending on the spoon it can sometimes take several hours to sand the tool marks from the bowls and get a nice, smooth finish.  To get a glimpse at the process of making one of these spoons check out this article how to make a wooden spoon with hand tools.

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Just as I was about out of hope I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the Arbortech Contour Random Sander.

arbortech sander

This tool attaches to just about any 4 1/2 inch angle grinder and transforms it into a random orbital contour sander.  The soft pad on the attachment allows the sanding pad to contour to curved and uneven surfaces without cutting into the wood or burning it.  The Arbortech Contour Sander has greatly reduced the effort required to sand spoon bowls smooth and has probably reduced the time that I spend sanding the bowls by 80 percent or more.  I have already discussed the many uses of angle grinders in this article, but  considering that bowl sanding is where 60 percent or so of my spoon making time is spent, this attachment is making me fall in love with my angle grinder all over again.

As handy as the Arbortech Contour Sander is, it is not perfect.  The only two issues that I have found with it thus far is that it will get hot after a few minutes of moderate use, and the adhesive-backed sanding disk (pictured above) the attachment uses do not adhere to the attachment’s pad very long due to the heat generated from use.  I am not sure if these two issues can be negated, but they can be lessened by sanding slower and applying less pressure to the surface being sanded.

Overall I really like this angle grinder attachment from Arbortech.  Any tool that gives better results with less effort is welcome in my shop.  If you are a wood carver, worker, or serial DIY’er I would definitely recommend giving it a try and saving yourself time and effort on your projects.  Below are a few links to articles containing information on angle grinder use and safety, spoon carving, and Arbortech Contour Random Sander pricing and reviews, as well as an instructional video.

Angle Grinder Uses/Safety

Spoon Carving for Beginners

Arbortech Contour Random Sander

Arbortech Replacement Sanding Discs

Arbortech Replacement Sander Pad

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to like, comment, follow, and share tool-school.com on social media.

Jake with tool-school.com

Just A Spoonful Of Maintenance

I have written several articles such as this one on how and why to make your own wooden spoons and utensils.  It is a great hobby and introduction to woodworking.  Like any woodworking project, a successful spoon creation does not end with the final passes of sandpaper over wood.  To ensure that your hand crafted wooden utensils live the longest life possible, there is some very quick and easy maintenance involved.  Below is a short list of tips that will extend the life of your wooden spoons, spatulas, rolling pins, and cutting boards many years as well as keep them beautiful and more sanitary.

  • NEVER PUT A WOODEN UTENSIL IN THE DISHWASHER!!!!!
  • Wash utensil in warm, soapy water.
  • Never let it sit or soak in water.
  • Pat dry with a towel after washing.
  • Let it air dry completely after toweling.
  • Apply a light coat of cooking oil or food safe mineral oil at least once a month.

The spoons that I sell are sealed with either food safe mineral oil or vegetable oil that can be purchased at any grocery store, but walnut oil is great for sealing wooden kitchenware as well.  I avoid the walnut oil on spoons that I sell due to potential nut allergies of buyers.  If nut allergies are an issue I would recommend using the food safe mineral oil or vegetable oil.

Though most wooden kitchen utensils are undoubtedly store bought and mass produced, these maintenance tips apply just the same.  In fact, every store bought wooden utensil that I have purchased in the past few years has come unsealed from the store, leaving it completely unprotected from water damage and bacteria.  Coating a wooden spoon with oil not only seals it off from water intrusion, it also acts as a barrier to food bacteria penetrating and thriving inside of the wood of the utensil.

Aside from water and bacteria protection, sealing wood with oil often improves the aesthetic appeal of wood.  The video in this article demonstrates how oiling an unsealed spoon can really change the look of the spoon for the better.  In the video a liberal amount of oil is used because it is the first time the wood has been sealed, but for a monthly resealing of utensils generally a tablespoon or so of oil is all that is required.

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No trick photography or sucking in of the gut was used in the before and after pictures above, I promise.

Whether you buy a spoon from me, from your local kitchen shop, or make your own, these tips are certain to add years of useful life to any and all of your wooden kitchen utensils.  It can even extend the life of your wooden tool handles as well.  Below are links to a few products that I recommend to get the job done, the walnut oil is great when allergies are not a factor, and the mineral oil would definitely be my go-to product if they are.  There is also a link to an article that will take you step by step through making your own wooden kitchenware works of art.

Walnut Oil

Food Grade Safe Mineral Oil

How to make a wooden spoon with basic hand tools.

Thanks for reading!  Please be sure to like, comment, follow tool-school.com and share this article on social media.

Jake