Keel

I finally had a chance to sit down an punch out some thoughts.  This is the first of the ramblings I have swirling around.  I hope to get more out soon. Enjoy.

When carving traditional Swedish eating spoons there is lots of talk about each of the parts of the spoon.  One of these is the keel.  The keel is the part between the bowl of the spoon and the handle that adds thickness to the neck.  The function is to provide strength and support to the bowl of the spoon.  This is especially important for cooking and some serving spoons, although they can be found on eating spoons.  There are two types of keel. (See this blog post about spoon parts)  The first is bottom keel as seen in the picture (carved by Jane Mickelborough).

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The second type of keel is being seen more and more often.  I call it top keel.  It is an upward swelling at the neck, as in the spoon below (carved by Oliver Pratt). Most often it is seen in spoons that are modern takes on the Welsh dolphin spoons.

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One of the nice things about bottom keel is that it is fairly easy to carve.  It also may add support to the bottom of the bowl, where top keel does not.  On the other hand, when carving a spoon with bottom keel, the back of the bowl may be thicker than a spoon with top keel, because some wood is often left to make a smooth transition from the bowl to the keel.  A deep bottom keel may also dig into the fingers uncomfortably as it rests in the hand, too.

Top keel can provide extra attachment support at the back edge of the spoon and give it a bit more rigidity than a spoon without keel.  It is also often more comfortable to hold a spoon with top keel than with bottom keel. In addition, because you don’t have extra wood on the bottom of the bowl you can keep the thickness of the bowl very thin toward the back.

Lastly, there are spoons with minimal to no keel.  These are the most comfortable to hold, in my opinion.  With eating spoons lots of keel is not really necessary anyway.  How often do you pry your food with an eating spoon?  Most often when I have seen an eating spoon break it has been at the front of the bowl anyway.  The grain is short there and prying efforts (like ice cream from a container) are more likely to break the bowl than the keel.  The only time I have felt a spoon in danger of snapping at the neck more than the bowl is when I have tried to cut something with the side of the bowl.  That puts sheer pressure on the neck that a thick keel does little to help. (This is also part of the reason I like slightly thicker necks on my eating spoons.)

It also happens to be very traditional to have little keel on Swedish eating spoons.  Pictured below are the profiles of 3 antique eating spoons. Two are surely Swedish, and I assume the third is because of the style.  All three of these are very comfortable to hold.

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This last is a spoon that I carved nearly a year ago and has seen regular use.  Although it is thin and has minimal keel, it holds up very well to regular eating.  You won’t catch me prying ice cream out of a container with it or tossing it in my back pocket though.

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More important than the actual shape of the keel is the way the grain direction runs through the spoon.  Those top 2 antique spoons have the long grain running all the way through the bowl and some short grain in the keel and handle.  The bottom one was a spoon that clearly saw daily use and has strong straight grain throughout because of the minimal crank (more on that another time).

I guess the point of this is don’t let yourself get too caught up with how much keel you have.  Just try to carve a comfortable eating spoon, use spoons from other makers and think about why you have included the features you have on a spoon.

Cheers, Ty

 

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