Meet the maker: Benoit Schoeni

Benoit Schoeni is a Swiss carver with a deep love for nature, forests and trees.

How long have you been into spoon carving and when and how did you get hooked?
It’s been about 7-8 years since I started carving, I do not really remember. I have always loved tools such as knives and axes, and I think it is to use them that I started carving.

Please share a spoon carving tip and tell us about the how and the why.
Use sharp tools! Well-sharpened tools often make the work easier and more enjoyable. Especially in the more difficult areas such as the neck of the spoon.

How do you like to finish your spoons? Do you decorate your spoons? Can you elaborate on your different techniques?
It depends a lot on the wood I use. If the wood is beautiful and has nice contrasts, I like to not add any extra decoration and concentrate on the shape of the spoon. And when the wood is paler and simpler, I sometimes paint the handle of the spoon with often a little chip carving. for the finishing I usually use drying oils like linseed oil or walnut oil.

What the three most important tools in your carving tool kit and why?
An axe, a straight knife and a hook knife! Because these are the 3 essentials tools I need to make a spoon.

What is your favourite part when carving a spoon and why?
I think that now that I’m a bit more experienced, my favourite part is going to harvest wood in the forest. It’s very satisfying to find the best possible wood to make the best spoons.

How do you approach sharpening and what are the benefits of keeping your tools sharp?
It’s not my favorite part but it’s essential to have efficient tools. Often when a knife doesn’t cut enough, instead of sharpening it I use another one. And this, until none of them cut anymore, and then I have to sharpen them all at once, which can be annoying!

Where do you find green wood for carving? Any tips you’d like to share on how to source green wood?
I take wood from the forest near my home. As I often go for a walk, I always look for trees that have been cut down recently or that have fallen. I usually take the leftovers, which the woodcutters don’t want.

Do you carve at home? Where do you carve most often, where do you like to carve and why is that?
I have a workshop in my basement. I also like to carve in the forest when the weather is not too bad. Because it’s quiet and I feel more connected with what I’m doing.

Lessons learned from cutting yourself while carving? How you minimise the risk of an accident while carving a spoon?
I rarely cut myself while carving. My most serious injuries happened when I was not concentrating hard enough while putting away, sharpening or cleaning my tools.
When you have an inner voice or instinct that tells you that you are not using a tool in the right way or that you are too tired you should listen to it.
Learning to use safe technique is also a good idea.

Do you have a particular philosophy about the craft of spoon carving and the hand carved wooden spoon?
I really like the fact that you can start with a raw material and end up with a very beautiful and refined object. All this without using any other energy than the human body.
Wooden spoons are so pleasant to use and especially when they have been carved by talented craftspeople.

What are your thoughts on collaborative work among makers in general?
I think it’s very good. The only collaborative work I’ve done is to put handles on some of the tools I’ve bought. And not surprisingly they’re often the tools I like best and use the most!

Why is the crank an important spoon design feature? What’s your process for creating the crank on your spoons? How much is enough crank?
The crank really helps to scoop the things you want into the bowl of your spoon.
If I have a saw, I usually make a stop cut and then I axe down to it. Otherwise, I do everything with the axe. The amount of crank depend a lot of the design of the spoon, some spoons don’t really need crank.

How can we make spoon carving and green working more accessible do you think?
By carving spoons! And releasing them into the world.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Happy carving!

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