Kolrosing Equipment, Materials and Applying a Design

Equipment and Materials I Use for Kolrosing:

  • Mechanical pencil: for drawing the design
  • Eraser: to remove pencil marks 
  • Bendable ruler: keep pencil lines straight 
  • Kolrosing knife: cut the designs in  
  • Crushed coffee: kolrosing pigment 
  • Tung oil: helps get pigment into cuts and seals finished spoon 
  • Burnishing stone: polishes spoon and closes pigment within kolrosing cuts 
  • Folded cloth: used to work on, keeps spoon clean and free of scuffs
  • Paper towel: to wipe the oil and pigment from the spoon  

Here are the steps to applying a kolrosing design along with some tips and techniques that I use:

Step 1: Prepare Work Area

Almost a shame to make marks on such a lovely woodgrain. you have to know when to not kolrose as well.
Have a folded cloth to work upon and ensure you are in a well lit area, nothing beats direct sunlight but you can also use a desk lamp.

The cloth keeps your item clean and also provides a nice surface to balance your spoon on while you work. It also allows you to pivot your item easier while you work.

Step 2: Let’s Draw

You can trace your spoon shape onto a piece of paper and play around with different designs before drawing on your spoon, this can help you to visualize before fully committing to a design.

Lately I will just go ahead and make my designs on the spoons without much planning, this leaves a lot of room for random inspiration.

Before I draw anything, I make sure my spoon is completely burnished. It is much easier to erase pencil marks off of a burnished spoon as it will be a more smooth and polished surface.

Burnishing wooden spoons, if you are unfamiliar, is an alternative to sandpaper and it gives the spoon a durable hand made quality. I have a polished stone I have been using for years and I simply rub it all over the spoon.

Begin with a border around the edge of the handle, you can hold the pencil stiff in your fingers and brace it against the edge as you draw, this will keep an equal distance all around the edge of the spoon and keep things nice and symmetrical.

Border drawn.
Once the border is done you can then start on the inside. I will be doing a basket weave kolrosing pattern in the top and bottom boxes, and in the middle I will do some free hand floral patters.

Floral patterns are great for just going with the flow as they do not follow any rules. The leaves, vines and flower pedals can be any shape and size – to quote the great Bob Ross, just get creative and have fun!

As for the basket weave, this is mapped out on a grid first and then the pattern is drawn out. The pattern is 3 by 3 squares and you will fill in the corners with pencil marks. After this you will basically form intersecting T patterns 3 squares by 3 squares.

I have written a more in depth article about kolrosing a classic basket weave which should be published in a few months time from now. In the mean time, check out the drawing to see how I have mapped it.

These lines may fade as you handle the item and kolrose. You can fill them in as needed to keep them visible.
I have also drawn a simple flower in the bowl with a border all around. The border was done the same way as the handle, and the flower pattern if very simple. You will map out where the center of the bowl is and draw a small circle. You will then draw the pedals as you would on a compass rose, put as many or as little as you like. A flower can look however you want it to, realistic or abstract.
Step 3: Slice Some Designs Into the Wood

A good tip to remember when kolrosing is to always try to slice at a 90 degree angle. This will allow you to cut straight down which makes it easier to make turns in the wood as you go.

You should not go too deep as it can be easy to slip outside of your lines. All you really need is a light cut and it will allow your pigment to penetrate the wood.

Start with the borders, I usually go top, bottom and then connect the sides. Always watch the pencil lines ahead as you slice into your design, and go little by little.

Easier for me to do these lines first and then connect on the sides.
You can brace the piece with your non dominate hand and use your index and middle finger to guide while holding your kolrosing knife with your dominant hand. This is very helpful when it comes to slips as your kolrosing knife can sort of brace against your fingers as you go.

Once your border is done, you can begin on the interior. I’ve started with the basket weave patterns, a good tip here is to hold the item up to a light as you go to see how it looks without the pencil. This way you can see where you have missed any spots.

Try to keep things straight and symmetrical. Do all marks in a line at the same time such as for the weave and around the border.
I’ve added some details to the kolrosing weave to make it seem a little more realistic. I have also filled in the floral pattern as well. I did not follow my drawn template exactly on this part, this is very common as sometimes you will slip outside of your template, and sometimes it will rub off as you handle the item and be less visible.
Sunlight makes for the best visibility when carving and kolrosing.
As for the bowl, this can be tricky due to grain direction changes. It’s also easy to slip on a border like this (as I have done, see if you can spot it).

I usually start at the top of the bowl near the neck, and just carefully go little by little until I meet where I began from the other side. Carefully connect the lines as it will look sloppy if there are any overlaps.

Flower power 🌺
At this point, hold it up to the light one last time and see if there are any final little details you can add. I have shaded in the area with the floral pattern by gently scratching lines across everything but being careful not to cross any existing lines or designs.

The last bit of kolrosing is to add your makers mark. Something small and subtle, but unique is a good thing to have. Makers marks usually change over time, which is a natural thing as you progress and develop. This makes it easier to tell at what stage of your carving an item comes from years down the line when you see your work again.

My makers mark is simple and has evolved over time.
Step 4: Oiling, Pigment and Burnishing

At this point you will generously cover your spoon in your oil of choice. My currently favorite is a food safe tung oil.

A thick coating of oil allows it to soak into the wood and especially into those kolrosing cuts.
The oil allows the coffee to get all paste like and really cake deep into those kolrosing cuts. Sprinkle the crushed coffee into the cuts and rub it in for awhile. I like to this a second and even a third time to make sure the design gets really dark.

Depending on the wood, it can a lot of the times get into the wood grain and alter the patina. This is tough to avoid. You can especially see that the wood grain is stained in the bowl of the spoon.

Freshly wiped.
After you finish rubbing the coffee in, it is now time to wipe it down with paper towel. Some of these oils, especially linseed oil (and perhaps tung), can spontaneously combust if discarded rags are left laying about soaked in towels. What I usually do is soak the paper towel with water and squeeze it out before throwing it in the waste bin.

You are now ready to do a final burnishing over the design. This will close the wooden fibers over the pigment and lock the design in permanently. My own daily eating spoon has a kolrosed bowl and even after countless uses for all kinds of food, the design is still as visible as it has always been.

freshly burnished with my trusty decorative stone. it was free, i found it in a building lobby.
Step 5: Check Your Work and Let the Oil Cure

The spoon is now complete. I usually give it at least 2 weeks to give the oil ample time to cure and polymerize. This means I usually won’t have to oil it again for a long while.

Finished and basking in the sunlight.


Kolrosing is a great way to make a sub par spoon look really nice, it also has the potential to make a really great spoon look messy. The key is to know when to hold back.

Some spoons are so naturally beautiful you may want to not cover up the wood grain. Then again some have the desire to always kolrose. Both are stand alone art forms that can be combined to make really beautiful things.

Light cross marks in the floral area give it s shading effect.


The key is to combine a crisp design to a very well made spoon, this is always my goal.

Can you spot the error(s)? For myself, they are what my eye is drawn to.
Thanks for reading! I really enjoy wood carving and decorating spoons and like to share what I know with those who are interested.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out here or on my social media.

My makers mark has a personal meaning and has evolved over time.

Published first  on: 9homeworlds.wordpress.com

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