Kitchen Utensils – “Stirring it up”

If you fancy a change from making bowls, candle holders and the like, take a look in the kitchen for inspiration. You may even win Brownie points from your other half!

Kitchen Utensils Spurtle and Honey Dipper

Turning for the kitchen

  • Rolling pin
  • Egg timer
  • Spatula
  • Coffee mug tree
  • Kitchen roll holder
  • Pestle and mortar
  • Trivet
  • Bread board
  • Cheese board
  • Herb chopping board and mezzaluna
  • Bread bin
  • Bottle opener
  • Bottle stopper
  • Door and drawer pulls
  • Toast rack
  • Spice rack
  • Egg holder
  • Scoops
  • Salt and pepper pots
  • Salt pig

It’s surprising how many items you can turn for use in the kitchen; the panel on the left lists a small selection. In this article I’m going to show you how to turn a couple of the simplest, aimed at the novice turner. Over the next few issues I’ll tackle some more kitchen items, which will gradually get harder to make, and explain the different turning techniques involved.

Turning a Spurtle

A spurtle is a traditional Scottish stick used to stir porridge. More importantly though for novice turners, it’s a great way to practise with the skew chisel. You’ll need a close-grained timber – beech is ideal, and is the traditional choice for culinary items. Maple and sycamore are also good choices, as are the fruit woods. However, if you’re using trimmings from your own fruit trees, don’t turn anything from the whole branch because you’ll have the pith running through the work. Instead, cut a square blank to the side of the pith, photo 1.

You don’t need to apply a finish to these pieces, but if you do, it needs to be food safe, such as Chestnut’s Food Safe Finish, mineral oil or liquid paraffin.

Kitchen Utensils Turning a Spurtle Photo 1-4

Blankety blank

My spurtle was made from a blank 32mm square and 300mm long. Find the centre of each end and mount it between a four-prong drive in the headstock and a revolving centre in the tailstock. I’m going to turn this at around 2000rpm but, depending on your level of experience, you may wish to turn it more slowly. Using a spindle roughing gouge, convert the square to a cylinder. Start cutting about 50mm from the end of the wood. Keep the handle well down and place the tool on the toolrest before starting the cut. Feed the bevel gently into the wood and slowly raise the handle until the cutting edge engages. The more you raise the handle now, the heavier the cut will be. Once the tool starts cutting, slide it along the toolrest from left to right, going off the wood at the tailstock end, photo 2.

Continue with this cut, working towards the headstock about 25mm at a time until you’re about 50mm from the headstock end of the blank. Now do the same cut but in the opposite direction, photo 3, going off the wood at the headstock end. When you’ve converted the blank to a cylinder, keep the lathe running and draw pencil lines to mark out the extent of the handle. Draw one line about 12mm from the headstock end, a second line 50mm from the first, and a third line 32mm from the second, photo 4.

The first shaping cuts

Use a parting tool to cut grooves to the left of the first two lines, photo 5. Now do a planing cut with the skew chisel to form a taper between these two grooves. A planing cut is performed slightly above the centre of the wood. To achieve this, raise the toolrest slightly. For this cut I use the short point of the skew down. Lay the tool on the toolrest and then allow the bevel to caress the wood very lightly, photo 6. You should not be getting a cut at this stage.

Kitchen Utensils Turning a Spurtle Photo 5-8

Next, rotate the tool clockwise until the cutting edge just starts to cut, photo 7. Rotating more will give you a deeper cut, but if you rotate too far you will come off the bevel and the tool will dig in, creating an ugly spiral along your work, photo 8.

When the tool begins to cut, start to slide it to the right along the toolrest, photo 9. Try to keep the shaving coming off the bottom half of the cutting edge, but not right down at the corner. Repeat this cut until you have a gradual taper between the two grooves.

Cutting a vee

Now make a V-shaped cut on the third pencil line. Hold the tool vertically on the toolrest with the long point of the skew pointing down. Keep the handle low. Gently raise the handle until the long point of the tool enters the wood. It’s important to use only the tip of the tool, so don’t be greedy with this cut; just take a little shaving off at a time. Photo 10 shows me cutting the left-hand side of the V and photo 11 shows the right-hand side. Alternate these cuts, going a little deeper and wider each time.

Kitchen Utensils Spurtle Photo Instruction 9-14

Forming a bead
With the V cut giving a little clearance, start to roll the bead with the skew, photo 12. Start as for the planing cut but then continue to roll the tool clockwise at the same time as moving it along the toolrest. Unlike the planing cut, this cut should be made right at the tip of the tool. You must also start to swing the handle – in this case from left to right again at the same time as moving it along the toolrest and rolling it. If you don’t want to cut a bead with the skew, you can use a spindle gouge, but the action is very similar. Start with the bevel rubbing, raise the handle to find a cut – at the tip of the tool – and then slide the tool along the toolrest at the same time as swinging the handle, photos 13 and 14.

Creating the taper

With the handle complete, the rest of the spurtle can be turned. You could use the spindle roughing gouge, but stick with the skew for the sake of practising your planing cuts. Start near the tailstock end, traversing the toolrest from left to right, and start each successive cut a little further to the left, working towards the handle, photos 15 and 16. Then sand the piece if necessary, finishing with 240-grit abrasive paper.

Kitchen Utensils Turning a Spurtle Photo Instruction 15-18

Finally, reduce the diameter at both ends to just a small stub, either with a parting tool or the skew, photo 17. Stop the lathe and use a saw to cut through the stubs. Clean up the ends with abrasive paper and your spurtle is ready for its first stir, photo 18.

Making a Honey Dipper

Honey Dipper PhotoMany of the techniques used to make the honey dipper are the same as the spurtle, so I won’t go into such detail. My honey dipper is 180mm long and 19mm in diameter. Mount a suitable piece of wood between centres and convert it to a cylinder with a spindle roughing gouge. Mark pencil lines round the circumference about 5mm in from both ends. This waste wood will be damaged by the four-prong drive and the revolving centre, and will be removed when the turning is finished.

Shaping the egg

At the tailstock end, measure and mark a line about 30mm to the left of your waste line. Use a parting tool to remove the waste, turning the right-hand end of the wood down to a stub. Leave enough wood for the revolving centre to do its work. Next, cut another groove with the parting tool just to the left of your 30mm line. Your workpiece should now look like photo 1. Turn an egg shape at the tailstock end, either with a skew or spindle gouge, photo 2, using the same method as for turning the bead on the spurtle. Then cut a series of parallel closely-spaced grooves in the egg shape using a narrow parting tool, photo 3.

Making a Honey Dipper Photo Instruction 1-5

Forming the handle

The dipper’s handle can be any shape you want, but mine is a gradual taper; the thistle shape that I cut on the spurtle is cut in the same way. The only difference is that the honey dipper’s handle is much smaller in diameter. You may experience some vibration as the wood flexes away from the cutting tool. If this happens you can support the wood with your fingers of your other hand, as shown in photo 4. Sand and part off, again as you did with the spurtle, and use abrasive paper by hand to clean up both ends, photo 5.

Now you have your first two kitchen utensils. Next month I’ll tackle another two slightly more difficult projects and extend your turning skills a little more.

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