GREENWOOD AND STEEL: Make the tools, Carve the Wood


Cottage Grove, OR


Kiko Denzer

Start Date: 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

End Date: 

Sunday, April 8, 2018




To be determined



Starts April 4 @ 9:30 am - ends April 8 @ 5:00 pm




Forge your own blade(s), then learn to carve spoons and bowls; includes basic blacksmithing, hardening/tempering, sharpening, knife use/grips/techniques, use of a shave-horse and draw knife, basic principles of carving, sculpture, and design, as well as discussion of traditional and appropriate technologies and their histories. Traditional foot- and/or bow-powered lathes may be available for practice/demonstration.

We’ll start by spending a couple of days making a simple crooked knife to use and to take home. (There may be options to work on an adze blade as well.) Then we’ll sharpen, hone, and shave. When you have gotten the hang of sharpening (and have no arm hair left), we’ll find a suitable tree and/or branches to cut and make into bowls and spoons. Time to make mistakes, to do things over, to work on basic hatchet and knife work — to understand better how and why the tools work (or not). Then, practice — to develop confidence, accuracy, speed, efficiency.

Simple as spoons and bowls are, they embody some very basic design principles, so we’ll make the most of the opportunity to explore the basic relationships and proportions commonly found in nature and in good design — plus, there’s no better sculptural marriage of shapes than a spoon. Plus, if you can carve a spoon, you can build a house.

Then, there’s ornament: to ornament a warrior, you equip them with a sword or a bow. You ornament a woodworker with a knife and a hatchet. Both might ornament their tools by inscribing their names thereon. Perhaps Rose marks the handle of her blade with a floral motif. Such ornament is neither warrior, woodworker, nor tool, but in each case, the ornament enables — and perhaps helps to insure — the right kind of work. This is an old understanding that leads us back to another kind of work — the passing on of the stories of the world — as told in words, symbols, signs, and patterns.

Participants should arrive properly ornamented with a good straight blade, preferably of carbon steel (Mora, Opinel, or equivalent), sharpening kit, a small hatchet or hand axe (don’t spend a lot — get the wood handled, 1.5 lb camp hatchet at your local hardware or thrift store, and we’ll modify as needed). Feel free to bring other appropriate hand tools (no need to bring the whole shop!). Additional metal files and small vices/clamps would be useful. We will use a propane fueled micro-forge to shape and hardening our blades, which will be made from re-purposed and new steel.

LOCATION: Aprovecho Meeting Hall

TUITION:  Early Bird (Registered/Paid by January 31st) $525; After February 1 $625; Last Minute (after March 20th): $655


61uhn4KWD6L._UX250_ABOUT KIKO: I grew up with an artist mom who got me started making things pretty early. At 17, I went to Italy to carve marble; in college, I studied history and politics, and after graduation, I worked as a city bureaucrat in Boston, did carpentry on a remodeling crew, community outreach for food co-ops, managed a community newsletter, taught college students, and worked with various non-profit community developers. I quit my last day job more than 20 years ago to begin an advanced course in the arts of growing food, building with earth, raising a family, and most recently, carving green wood into spoons, bowls, and other useful objects. I also write and publish books, teach workshops, and do contract work. My motto for teaching came from my mom, who got it from Aristotle: “what we learn to do, we learn by doing.” In an age so dominated by social MEEEEEdia, TV, movies, the written word, and addictive consumerism, it can be very hard to live up to such a motto, but I sincerely think that it’s the best and most joyful option available. I wrote a book entitled, Build Your Own Earth Oven: A Low-Cost Wood-Fired Mud Oven, Simple Sourdough Bread, Perfect Loaves, published by Hand Print Press in 2007.

Find out more about our workshops here!