Spoon Carving With The MoraKniv Woodcarving Set

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When MoraKniv tossed us one of their new woodcarving sets (handles first, of course), I realized I’d better acquire a new skill. And quickly! The set – which contains Mora’s #120 carving knife w/sheath and the #164 hook knife – happens to be perfect for whittling things like spoons, bowls and cups: all things I’d never done before. Sure, I’ve been carving wood since 1991, but I’ve never tried spoon carving. Nor had I ever used a hook knife. Well, it’s always nice to pick up new skills, and my journey from clueless to competent was rather enlightening and surprisingly fun. So come along and I’ll show you what I learned!

Mora Than One Way To Spoon A Cat

MoraKniv carving set
MoraKniv’s Woodcarving Set saves you some moolah over purchasing the two knives separately.

Over the years, I’ve carved a couple hundred pieces – typically with straight-bladed knives; it’s my comfort zone. On occasion, however, I do bust out the curved chisels and gouges. But that usually only at Halloween (and only to carve the pumpkin).

Mora carving knives
Here’s what comes in the MoraKniv Woodcarving Set.

I could use the more traditional “mallet and palm” carving tools to scoop out a bowl or spoon, but deep down I’m a knife carver. And most carving knives are physically incapable of hollowing a concave surface.

But now I have this Mora hook knife. It’s the perfect tool for the job, but I had no clue how to use it. So I watched a bunch of videos and read up a bit. There were lots of questions I desperately needed answers to!

By Hook Or By Crook

Mora 120 & Mora 164 carving knives
Don’t be intimidated by the hook knife (like I used to be). It’s not as scary as it seems.

Early in my quest, I found that “MoraKniv” knives are more often referred to by carvers simply as a “Mora knife” or a “Mora 120 (or other model number)”. Mora seems to be the most common brand name thrown around in the world of hook knives, so that was encouraging.

I also learned that a hook knife is sometimes called a “crook knife”. But if it loops all the way back to the handle, it’s called a “scorp”. And while we’re on the topic of names, the straight-bladed knife in the set (the Mora 120) is a style that’s often referred to as a “Sloyd” knife (derived from a Swedish word for “handicraft”).

Birchwood handles
I like the oil treated birch handles. The size and shape are pretty much perfect.

Hack A Bowl – Let’s Carve A Spoon With MoraKniv!

Spoon bowl layout
To launch my spoon carving career, I grabbed a piece of Chinaberry from my stash and sketched an outline for the concave part. I don’t know how well this wood would hold up to cooking, but it sure does carve nicely.

Believe it or not, spoon carving is a pretty substantial niche in the world of woodcarving. I knew that a lot of carvers specialize in spoons; I’ve personally known a handful of spoon carvers. But I didn’t realize just how large the spoon carving community was. Hell, there are huge spoon carving gatherings, where people from around the world come together to fellowship, teach, sell, trade and carve spoons. Spoons. For many, it’s more than carving; it’s a love and a passion.

Full length tangs
Mora knife blades stay sharp as well as any other quality carving knife I’ve used. And the full length tang means they’re in their handles for good, even under the stresses of hard wood.

Serving spoons, ladles, eating spoons, “love spoons”… the variety is staggering. Some are intended for use, but many are purely decorative.

Get A Grip – Using The Mora 164 Hook Knife

Spoon bowls
A hook knife is perfect for scooping out spoon bowls.

Before setting out on this journey, I really had no clue how to even hold a hook knife. I don’t know that I’d ever seen one used. The one that comes in the kit, the Mora 164, is set up for pull cuts with the right hand and push cuts with the left.

Starting on the spoon bowl
Start with shallow cross-grain cuts near the center. Pull the knife with a small arced wrist motion. This grip felt awkward (and dangerous) at first. I soon warmed up to it, but still used it only when I had to.

I’m left handed and normally hold my carving knives in my left hand. So manipulating a knife – and a curvy one at that – with my right hand felt strange (and unsafe) at first. But it’s all about technique. And if this grip doesn’t work for you, try a different grip. There’s more than one way to get the job done safely.

Hollowing the spoon
You can often avoid tear-out by starting your cuts in the cross-grain areas and following through to the long grain.

This Popular Spoon Carving Grip Felt Really Strange At First

First, I learned to use this completely foreign stabbing-like grip that seems to be quite popular among many spoon carvers. Later on I realized that most of the cuts could be done with the “normal” grip I’m used to. So that was nice.

Getting there
Making progress. I’ll continue until I’ve dished out slightly past my line.

Don’t pull with your cutting arm. Instead, use small wrist motions, drawing the blade in an arcing motion. That way, you have control and the Chinaberry doesn’t become bloodwood.

For the record, MoraKniv also makes hook knives with edges on both sides. With those, you’d have to choke up more and push right near or at the handle (rather than the “back” of the blade) when doing push cuts. Another thing worth noting is that this knife is technically set up for a right handed carvers. But my left handedness wasn’t at all the problem I was worried it would be.

A Whittle At A Time – Continue Dishing The Bowl

Push cutting
Now that I’ve created a hollow, I switched to a more familiar grip and worked with push cuts.

Once the bowl began to take shape, I was able to use the hook knife in a way that felt more comfortable. I’m using my right thumb as a fulcrum while levering the handle back, creating a scooping motion with the blade. At the same time, gently pushing the back of the blade with my right thumb.

Getting the inside scoop with MoraKniv
The push cut can be used to shape both sides of the bowl. The same can be said of pull cuts, so use the technique that best works for you in a given situation.

Maintain control of the blade by applying force with wrist and thumb motions only. That way, even if the blade breaks free of the wood, it can’t travel far enough to cause personal harm. Nibble away in small shavings. The process is a lot faster than you might expect. So don’t try to rush it.

Spoon Carving? You Can Handle This!

Rough sawn spoon blank
The spoon handle was roughed out with a band saw. A little wiggle jiggle was added for character.

The bowl is mostly hollowed now. So I went ahead and laid out the overall shape and rough cut it with a band saw. Some people choose to carve away all the waste by hand, but you can save yourself a lot of time and effort removing the bulk with a saw.

Compound cutting
Then I stood the blank on edge and cut away more waste material.

From here, it’s just a matter of rounding everything off with the straight knife and touching up the inside of the bowl.

Final shaping
Using the Mora 120 carving knife to round off the back of the spoon and handle.
Finishing up the inside
Refining the interior of the spoon bowl.
Just this end left to do
When I got done rounding this end of the handle, I gave the entire spoon a hand sanding.

Loving Spoonful – So Much Fun I Had To Make Another!

Spoon #2
My second spoon is also made of Chinaberry.

I have to admit, carving that spoon was a lot more fun that I thought it would be. It also took less time than I expected. Before applying a finish, I was ready to dive right in and make another. I thought it would be cool to put a wrench on the end of this one.

Starting on my second spoon
This time, I was able to avoid that stabbing grip altogether.
Carving with the Mora 164
Here, I’m merely twisting my knife-hand wrist away from me, using my right thumb as a pivot point.
Nicely shaped spoon
The spoon bowl is shaped.

Debulking The Blank – Spoon Carving With MoraKniv

Defining the overall shape
Defining the overall shape.
Compound cut the side profile
Stood on edge to cut the side profile.
Next, shape the spoon end.
Finally, I laid it down again to cut the outside of the spoon end.
The blank so far
My blank so far. I ended up removing a lot more of the wrench thickness later on with the knife.

Final Shaping With The Mora Sloyd

The Mora 120 carving knife
I’m really liking this Mora 120. It’s going to become one of my go-to carving knives.
Excellent cross grain cuts
The blade is giving me nice smooth, glossy cross grain cuts.

See You Ladle Alligadle – Finishing Up The Spoons

Butcher Block Conditioner
Butcher Block Conditioner (compliments of Howard Products).

Before we get out of here, let’s throw some finish on these spoons. There are tons of options; I went with one of the easiest and quickest finishes to apply. Butcher block conditioner is perfect for food contact wooden items, such as cutting boards and wooden spoons. Plus it brings out the color and grain of the wood and is easy to reapply as needed.

A finished spoon
While I doubt I’ll ever actually use either of these spoons, a food safe oil and wax finish like this is a great choice, just in case.
Bottom view
Chinaberry spoon carved with a MoraKniv Woodcarving Set.
5/8" spoon wrench
I love how this spoon wrench turned out. The only problem is that it’s 5/8″, so it won’t work on metric vittles.
Grainy underbelly
The grainy underbelly of a 5/8″ spoon wrench.

The Inside Scoop – Final Thoughts On The MoraKniv Woodcarving Set

MoraKniv 120 carving knife
MoraKniv 120 carving knife.

I’ve had a little chip time with these Swedish-made gems and have found no faults whatsoever. The 120 carving knife has a laminated steel blade that’s approx. 2.4” long. The 164 hook knife has a stainless steel blade curved to a 1/2” internal radius. Both are easy to sharpen, hold an edge well and feel great in the hand.

Super-sized sheath
The sheath holds the Sloyd style knife just fine, but it’s about 2-1/2” too long for the blade.

The only thing I was underwhelmed with is the sheath. It’s the same plastic one they use for several of their other knives, and it’s too long for the 120. Unfortunately, only the one knife has a sheath at all. There’s nothing for the hook knife. And really, that’s the one I’d most want a sheath for.

Try It For Yourself!

Spoon carving with MoraKniv
Spoon carving with MoraKniv.

Obviously, these knives can be used to carve other things too. But if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at spoon carving, I highly recommend the MoraKniv Woodcarving set. It’s a great way to get two excellent woodcarving knives at a great price. Just be careful with them; woodcarving can be dangerous and the methods I use might not be what’s best for you. If something feels off, step back and rethink your approach. Be safe, even if it takes a little longer.

Jack-o-lantern 2018
In case you’re wondering: here is this year’s pumpkin. I used the Mora 120 and a couple gouges from a surgical osteotome/knee-hip replacement tool kit (really).

I’ve used a lot of carving knives over the years and these perform up there with the best of them. If you don’t need the set, you can buy either knife – or any of MoraKniv’s other bladed offerings – individually. MoraKniv has distributors in over 65 countries, so they’ve got you covered.

I hope my adventure has inspired you to give spoon carving a try. Or maybe all we did was learn a thing or two together. Either way, it was a fun and rewarding experience. And it was easier than I expected.

The MoraKniv woodcarving set is available for just under $50:

Buy Now - via Rockler

Photo of author

About Steve

Steve made his first woodworking project at age 9 (in 1982) and whittled his first wooden chain at 18. He was also a consumer electronics repair tech and shop owner for a little over 20 years, until his impending obsolescence became impossible to ignore. Since then, Steve has focused passionately on manipulating his wood... in his workshop. Don't judge him.

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4 thoughts on “Spoon Carving With The MoraKniv Woodcarving Set”

  1. Happened upon your article. Welcome to the dark side, we have spoons! I am a big fan of Morakniv for my carving needs. I use both sizes of the slots knives and a different style Mora hook on most of my carving projects. I am sure you know that green wood is easier for carving and I mainly use oil wax finishes. I have found the longer blade to be much more versatile. As for a hook knife sheaf, I used a utility knife, Harbor Freight leather rivet and punch set to cut up an old leather purse I found discarded and make a folded leather blade cover that cinches with a leather thong. I believe it was inspired by a Peter Follansbee birch or ash bark blade cover, as I recall. Good job and get into bowl carving next.


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