Spoon Carving Course

Presented by Robert Howard
The Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking is delighted to offer for the first time a 2 day introductory course in ‘green’ Spoon Carving, taught by Master Craftsman - Robert Howard.
Spoon Carving is an ancient tradition around the world and has recently been enjoying a huge revival. Spoon carving is so appealing because in an age where life is so busy & noisy, and work produces almost nothing tangible to satisfy our creative souls, spoon carving offers an eloquently simple moment in time to quieten the mind and focus meditatively on a single piece of green wood.
The spoon is the very first utensil that most people learn to use. It is one of life’s most essential objects. Spoons are about tradition, design and function. Their form is sculptural, yet the object so innately practical.
Another great appeal of spoon carving is that it requires at the very least, 3 tools – an axe, a knife and a bent knife. It’s very accessible to everyone and can be undertaken just about anywhere.
Please come and join us for this meditative 2 day journey, exploring the use of green timber and traditional tool use. Sharpening and timber finishing will also be covered in this course. All materials and tools will be supplied. Complete beginners are very welcome!


When I heard that Robert Howard Brisbane-based woodworker, sculptor and teacher would be at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking for a two-day spoon carving workshop I jumped at the opportunity to register for the class. I’d heard Robert speak at the MGFW open day, and was captivated by the range of interesting chisels and knives he used to craft beautiful spoons. I wanted to give it a go and am so glad I did. Robert is an inspiring teacher, and over the two days he led a keen group of ten of us through the stages involved in carving a walnut spatula, long-handled round spoons, dessert and serving spoons. The Walnut (beautifully figured and shaded) was dry, but on day two we choose a length of green Sycamore, Apple or Linden wood to create an item from the raw material. Form and function coalesced beautifully as the natural bend in the wood created an elegant spoon shape carved with the help of a small axe, drawing knife and smaller knives. Robert blended practical demonstrations with advice on wood grain, growth patterns, useful books, techniques for safely holding the work and sharpening the knives. It was a rare opportunity to learn from someone as skilled and knowledgeable as Robert. Don’t miss out if MGFW schedules another two-day course with him in 2019.

Lucy Callaghan

Robert Howard

$510 (Inclusive of GST)
All materials included

9:00am to 4:00pm
Sat 14th & Sun 15th December 2019 (2 day course)

9:00am to 4:00pm
Sat 23rd & Sun 24th May 2020 (2 day course)

9:00am to 4:00pm
Sat 12th & Sun 13th December 2020 (2 day course)

Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking.
14 Cottage St, Blackburn VIC

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About the Instructor
Growing up on a farm, I had ample opportunity to learn to use my hands to make things. Becoming an engineer (B Eng (Mech) UNSW 1971) seemed a logical way to extend this into a satisfying career.

However, the reality proved to be quite different, and it wasn’t until I accidentally discovered fine woodworking that found my true path. Here, I was free to dream, to design, and to make, using, as we like to say, my head, my heart and my hands. I must have been blessed, because I found this even though I did not know that it was what I was looking for.

More good fortune followed, when I was given the perfect opportunity to learn to make an extensive range of solid wood furniture, using traditional techniques, while being paid to do so.
Because the furniture I was learning to make reproduced antiques, I also had the opportunity to begin to learn decorative woodcarving.

By 1978 I was ready to strike out on my own. In those pre-internet days, finding customers was very difficult, and the method most craftspeople adopted to advertise their existence was to participate in exhibitions. Having made the decision to exhibit, I then had to decide what I wanted to exhibit, and, for reasons I cannot remember, I decided to carve some bowls.

This led to an invitation from Karen O’Clery, of Narek Galleries in Canberra, to show some bowls at SOFA (Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art Show) in Chicago. My bowls sold very well there, and have ended up in Collections at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Cincinnati Museum of Fine Arts, and the Figge Museum, as well as a number of private collections in the USA.

Most recently, here in Australia, one of my carved works won the $10,000 Wootha First Prize for the best exhibit at the annual Maleny Wood Expo.

I have been a regular contributor to the Australian Wood Review since June, 1996, and have been a Contributing Editor for many years.

The final string to my woodworking bow, and the one that has been my main source of income since about 1990, has been teaching private classes in fine woodworking and carving. This income has allowed me the room to explore my bowl carving, and to work without making compromises that I would not be comfortable with.

The recent popularity of spoon carving around the world is probably due to how well, as a creative activity, it fits the formats of the internet - in particular, You Tube and Instagram. It promises to expose a large number of people to the joys of using their hands creatively, and is an excellent introduction for woodworkers to working with three dimensional curves.

For me, spoon carving completes a circle, because the very first things I ever carved, way back in 1980, were a spoon and a bowl.

As a woodworker who has managed to survive for 30 years, I have watched fine woodworking evolve from the fringe hobby of a dedicated few, into a substantial industry spread around the world. It has been a most enjoyable way to spend my working life.