turned cherry wood bowl

Large Wooden Spatulas

The design of this spatula is very near to my heart. My oldest daughter, Sarah, when she was about seven, went to the public library and found this design in a book. I have been faithfully reproducing it ever since.

These larger spatulas are just the thing to lift freshly baked cookies off the baking tray or to flip a pancake. The uses are only limited by your imagination.

Since the long flat design shows off the wood grain so nicely, these spatulas provide a record of my wood collecting from around the United States. Each piece tells a story of where I have been and what I collected there.

For instance, the first and third spatulas from the left are olive wood from Phoenix, Arizona. I had a good friend there who gave me the wood when he learned of my interest in woodworking. I had gone down there to visit him the year before to pick olives.

My father-in-law taught me how to cure my own ripe olives. He grew them on his property in Stockton, California and ever since I tasted them I have had a strong desire for them. They are so much better than what comes out of cans.

My friend scouted out some ripe olives on the tree and I came down one September and picked about three five gallon buckets of olives.

It was beastly hot to me, who had just come down from the cool mountain air of Albuquerque, but they were enjoying their "Fall" in Phoenix.

I cured the olives and they were delicious. They were gone in just a little over a year. My mother-in-law still remarks about how I can eat more olives in one sitting than anyone she ever knew.

People can get caught up in such narrow boundaries. While picking olives in Phoenix I learned that the city had passed an ordinance prohibiting planting more olive trees. The reasoning was that olive trees produce pollen and every one knew that pollen causes allergies. This begs the fact that most people who live where pollen is (and where is there not pollen?) do not have allergies. So how can it be that pollen causes allergies? I think that wrong dietary behaviors cause allergies but modern medicine has decreed that pollen causes allergies, and so be it.

So, even though these olives have been growing in the southwest since the Spaniard missionaries brought them in the fifteen hundreds, if you live in Phoenix there is an ordinance against planting them. What’s more those terrible trees drop those black messy things in the fall and are just a nuisance. People in Phoenix even spray their olives in the spring so that they will not bear fruit.

On the other hand, when I gave some olive implements to a woman from Lebanon she exclaimed: “Oh, Dr. Smith, it is olive wood. It is sacred!” I rather agree with her assessment rather than the collective wisdom of Phoenix.

What is more, the wood is absolutely beautiful. So when my friend gave me some olive trees that had to be removed I felt like he had given me a priceless treasure. Every time I work a piece of it I am reminded of his friendship and the delicious olives that the tree bore for the betterment of mankind. Oil from the olive is very healthy and just the ticket for those who live in hot climates.

The fourth spatula from the left is spalted apple wood. It was from a batch of apple wood that was the prettiest I have ever seen.

I was on a long training course to become a teacher of Transcendental Meditation in Huntsville, Ontario in the fall of 1989. On walks I was always whittling on a wooden spoon. One of my friends asked if he could buy one for his wife as a Christmas gift.

Our course regulations forbad selling things to other course participants. So, I gave him the spoon for his wife. When I returned to Fairfield, Iowa where I served on the faculty, I got a call from this friend. He asked if I could use any apple wood. He owned a rental property and this old tree had some diseased limbs that had to be pruned.

The limbs had been injured and this let water into the wood and caused the spalting. Spalting is a fungal process and changes the color of the wood in areas where the fungus grew. The effect in this wood was spectacular. I got a thrill every time I worked a piece of it.

It is long gone now except for one or two implements I saved for my personal use. But they serve as a reminder that I got much better than I gave on that exchange and reminds me of the friendly walks we shared on teacher training.