Repair and Maintenance

Care and Feeding of Your Wood Spoon


Sometimes bad things happen to nice spoons. Sometimes lots of good use makes a spoon begin to show some wear and tear. It doesn't matter what makes a wood utensil look a little haggard, a few minutes of TLC will have it and you smiling and looking like new. At least the spoon will look like new, and you will be smiling. These suggestions will work for any wood utensil, not just the ones that I have made. Of course mine will look and feel better, but even cheap grocery store spoons will feel better in your hands with a few minutes of care and feeding.

Please read through all the directions before launching into the project.

Note that the work on the spoon in the photo took some time. A little over 2 hours for the 220 grit, alone. The other grits combined were about an additional hour and a half. I suggest doing the work in a place where a small mess won't be a problem. Choosing to work in the middle of the living room will likely yield a nice spoon and a bruise on the side of the head in addition to being yelled at. Working outside or in the garage will still get a nice spoon without the bruise. This work can be done at different times and picked up and continued as time permits. Wear old clothes that won't mind having some sanding dust on them. This dust is a badge of honor to be proudly displayed. It is a sign of a contribution to the quality of the kitchen utensils. Enjoy the process.

Back side of Sand Paper, 220 grit.

Step 1 Supplies

Start with a trip to your local hardware store. One of my favorite places to visit. Often in or near the paint department will be a series of shelves that offer various grits of sand paper. Find the section of "wet or dry" paper. This is the black grit, usually on a dark green paper backing. Select two sheets of 220 grit, one sheet of 320 grit, and one sheet of 400 grit. Optional is one more sheet of 600 grit.

Before going to the hardware store check your pantry shelves for a bottle of Sesame Oil. If you have a little, no need to buy a new bottle. If you don't, pick one up at the grocery store.

Scrape off the heavy stuff.

Step 2 Cleaning and Prep

If your spoon is white from the dishwasher, no further preparatory cleaning is necessary. If your spoon is loaded up with accumulated residue start by scraping off the thick stuff as best you can with a kitchen knife. Hold the knife vertical to the spoon so as not to gouge the wood and start whittling it away. When you have it down to the wood you are ready to start sanding.

Tearing sand paper over a sharp corner.

Step 3 Sanding and More Sanding

If your spoon is only white from the dishwasher, read on, you can jump into action in a minute. Select the sheet of 220 grit paper and fold it in half. I fold it length wise, but that is just my old habit from previous training and for you it doesn't matter which way you fold it. It is easier if you fold the back together so that the grit is out. Using a ruler or other thin object tear the sheet in half. Or you can tear it along a sharp corner. CAUTION: using your kitchen knife will quickly dull the knife. Use something else, or be ready to sharpen the knife when the project is done. Repeat the process on one half of the sheet of paper until you have little squares about 2" each way or even as small as 1"x2". Tear at least 3/4 of the sheet of 220 while you are there tearing. Some people will just fold the paper into thirds after tearing a full sheet into 1/4 sheets or 1/8 sheets, any size will work fine, I just tear it so that it is a single thickness of the small size, no big deal, personal preference.

Sand, sand, and more sanding.

Whew, now we have our little pieces of sandpaper and are ready to begin the age old craft of sanding wood. Hold the paper between your thumb and first finger, applying pressure with the next fingers, move the paper up and down the spoon (see note on bottom). Begin on the bowl section of the spoon where it is gummy or dry and white. Sand the front side and back side, working your way around and around. If your spoon is only dry and white from the dishwasher, skip the 220 paper and start with the 320 grit. Move up and down the spoon, with the length of the grain. As the paper loads up, this is a term of the trade that means gets full of wood between the grit, move the paper around between your fingers, keeping fresh paper on the wood. This will expedite the sanding process. Loaded paper just polishes the wood and doesn't remove oily wood. When your little piece is all full of oily wood, throw it away and get a new piece. When starting the process the paper will load rapidly. This is good as it removes the thick oily residue and wood fiber from the spoon. Repeat the sanding until all the oily wood is sanded down to fresh wood. Tear more paper as you use it up. Sometimes it might take a little more than one sheet of the 220 to get the wood cleaned. Cleaning the bowl first, then move up the handle and around the edges. The handle goes more quickly as you move up to fresh wood. You will notice as you sand more, the grain will become more easily seen and the nature of the residue will be more like sanding dust. When you blow off the spoon and it actually flies off, you know you are near completion of this grit. After you sand the whole spoon down to clean wood, move to the 320 grit paper and repeat the process.

This spoon's used sandpaper, in 320, 400, and 600 grit pieces.

This time it will go much more quickly. Remember move with the grain, up and down the bowl and handle. Now you are hardly loading the paper and are removing the sanding marks from the 220 grit paper. Notice that there is some sanding dust showing around the edges. This is a good sign of progress. The spoon should begin to look and feel smoother now as this grit is finer. When you have it all nice with the 320, repeat the process with the 400 grit, moving up and down the spoon, working your way around the front, back, sides, all around. Watch the grain become more visible as you work. Now it should be feeling pretty smooth and looking nice again. If you decided to go the extra step and bought the 600 grit feel free to move right into that super fine grit when you are done with the 400. The smoother grits load more easily than the courser grits.

Don't be afraid to use this much sandpaper. 220 grit.

Keep changing the paper to keep the work progressing. It is ok to drop back a grit if an area needs a little more removal, then pick up the finer paper and keep going. Each step removes any sanding marks from the paper before it. By the time you get to the 400 no sanding marks should be visible. The 600 grit will make the wood feel like silk. Up and down the handle, sides, edges, bowl inside, outside all around, up and down.

Dishwasher - spoon section - Dishwashers higher temperatures and more caustic soap dry out the surface wood fibers and bleach them white. This is not a fatal condition. Because the spoon is likely very dry, you can start by sanding with the 320 grit. If you get excessive loading on the paper, drop back to the 220 grit and begin with it. You should be able to progress rapidly through to the 400 and 600 grits. Follow the other instructions as listed. A second coat of oil may be necessary, but will still yield a new looking and feeling spoon. If at all possible avoid running your wood spoons through the dishwasher. They'll thank you for the care and attention you give them with hand washing.

Ready for Oil.

Step 4 Optional Wetting

Now, sanding complete you have a choice, to wet the wood and possibly raise the grain or not to wet the spoon. When they are new I always run water on them let them dry then re-sand them with the finest grit used, before applying the oil. After a spoon has been in service for a while, re-wetting usually doesn't raise much grain, but if you have the time and inclination, run some warm water all over your spoon, set it aside to dry. When it is dry and ready to sand, rub it all over with the last grit you used, 400 or 600 moving up and down the handle and bowl.

Spoon with fresh application of oil.

Step 5 Finishing = Feeding

Now the fun stuff, the reward for tired fingers. Pour a few drops, of the sesame oil in the bowl it won't take much. I rub it around with my fingers. A small rag also works. Apply more as needed, make sure you get a good heavy coat all over, everywhere. It is good for your fingers after the sandpaper and dust have dried your hands out. The oil makes your fingers and cuticles feel good. Let the spoon sit a few minutes, wipe off any excess, re-oil any dry looking and feeling places. Set it aside to dry.

Refinished spoon, ready for action! Notice the beautiful color highlights of the grain that show again.

Step 6 Admiration and Use

Rub the spoon all over with your now smooth hands, and buff with a soft dry cloth, enjoy the like new feel. Open an adult beverage of choice and hoist a toast to your new skills, abilities and hard work. Congratulate yourself on a job well done. Pick your favorite recipe and put that puppy to use, make that recipe taste better than it has ever tasted!!

Note - If your spoon has a deeper bowl you may need to turn the sandpaper around so you sand in the bowl with the side of your thumb, holding the paper with your first finger. Try out all different method till you find one that suits your conditions. I use just about every way possible to hold sand paper to get the right pressure on the wood.