May 15, 2023

Why I . . . carve spoons

Consultant surgeon Matt Gardiner talks to Kathy Oxtoby about the ancient art of spoon carving, and why it's a "win-win" hobby

Sitting at his kitchen table, Matt Gardiner enjoys creating what may become cherished pieces of history. Gardiner, a consultant hand and plastic surgeon at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, enjoys the ancient art of wooden spoon carving. Over time, the beautiful and functional utensils he creates and then gifts to family and friends will continue to evolve as they age, "taking on a patina of new colours reflecting their use," he says.

Since discovering the craft, Gardiner has become a passionate spoon carver. "Like a lot of surgeons, I enjoy being creative. And spoon carving is a great hobby and very meditative," he says. "I enjoy looking at a piece of wood and thinking, ‘Where is the spoon in this?’ and ‘Can I use the elements of the wood to create a nice, functional spoon that's going to look good?’"

He finds spoon carving benefits his role as a clinician by helping his observation skills and hand-eye coordination, as well helping him to relax and unwind from work. He also brings his skills as a reconstructive plastic surgeon to his carving. "As a surgeon you’re used to working with tools and with your hands, closely observing, and looking at how your hands’ actions affect outcomes," he says.

Gardiner loved woodwork as a child, but it wasn't until 2021 that he developed an interest in spoon carving after coming across a book about the hobby. "The book was called Spon—Learn to Carve with Barn the Spoon—‘spon’ being the old Norse word for a chip of wood," he says. "It gave details of the steps involved, from taking a piece of wood to creating a spoon. I thought, ‘This looks eminently achievable.’"

Gardiner began with a spoon carving starter kit: a small hand axe, a short straight Morakniv 106 knife, and a Morakniv 162 compound curved knife known as a "hook knife" to scoop out the spoon bowl.

And he happens to live next door to a tree surgeon, who has become his wood supplier. "I always work with deciduous greenwood; that is freshly cut hardwood. My favourites are apple or plum because they have a beautiful colour and grain but are tough to carve," he says.

At first it took a couple of evenings to carve a spoon. Now it may only take a couple of hours. "One of the attractions of this hobby is that it's a quick fix—you can go from ‘zero to spoon’ in a short space of time. And it's a hobby you can pick up and put down whenever you want. It doesn't require a huge time commitment," he says.

On Gardiner's to-do list for this year is to visit Spoon Fest, the world's largest spoon carving festival in Derbyshire. He will continue to enjoy the simplicity of spoon carving, and he encourages other clinicians to do the same. "It's a win-win hobby," he says. "You can enjoy creating something that's both beautiful and useful. And then you can share your creations with friends and family, as sustainable gifts that will last a lifetime."

Buy a spoon carving starter kit: a small hand axe, a short straight knife, and a compound curved knife known as a "hook knife"

You don't need to go on a course to learn spoon carving—just watch some YouTube videos such as or

Follow spoon carving at

Link up with your local spoon carving club where people gather to carve spoons together. Visit for details of local clubs

Read Spon—Learn to Carve with Barn the Spoon, a practical guide to spoon carving which has lots of tips and advice

Kathy Oxtoby