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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At this point you will generously cover your spoon in your oil of choice. My currently favorite is a food safe tung oil.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out here or on my social media.