Make Your Own Wooden Cup or Bowl

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Have you ever heard the word “Kuksa” before? It is a wooden drinking cup with a handle, traditionally used by the Sami people in Finland. In some parts of Scandinavia they are also known as guxi, and cursing in Sweden.

These gorgeous cups are carved from birch burls and can last for decades if properly cared for. If you have a fallen birch tree and are itching to get creative, let’s go carving!

What do you need to make couscous?

essential items:

  • A Well Seasoned Birch Birch: Try to get yourself a piece of wood that has been seasoning (drying) for at least a year. Preferably more than two, if possible. Alternatively, if you can’t find a burl you like, you can also carve it out of a regular piece of wood. Just aim for birch, oak, maple, or other non-toxic hardwoods.
  • sharp ax and/or ax
  • splitting nail
  • mini saw
  • chisel
  • hammer
  • Crooked knife (aka “hook” knife): This is a wood carving knife with a curved blade instead of a straight one. In fact, both sides of that crooked blade are sharp, so you can carve concave, rounded objects in multiple directions.
  • straight carving knife
  • Pencil
  • Compass (the kind you use for a writing implement, not to determine direction)
  • drill (optional)
  • Sandpaper: Rough and Fin Grade
  • mineral or nut oil
  • wax
  • scrap piece of cotton or linen

How to make your own couscous in 5 steps

These cups are made of birch burls, as they are particularly strong and sturdy. It also means they’re challenging to carve, so be prepared for some serious hand cramps. Don’t worry: This will build character, and you’ll have stories to tell later to grandchildren.

Step 1: Cut the Burl to Size

Burles are extremely difficult to work with because the grain seeps through completely. This means you will probably have to use a combination of a saw and hatchet to cut it to your correct size.

You’ll be removing excess wood, so you can be generous about the initial cut. In general, if you want to make a kuksa that is about 7″ from end to end, feel free to work with a piece 10″ to 12 long.

Step 2: Flatten It

Once the length is decided, you need to make a flat plane. You can use either an ax or chisel to do this, and splitters with a hammer or mallet. It all depends on how crazy the grain of the wood is. I like to power through and use a really good sharp ax to do this, but super complicated burls can require gradual chisel splitting.

In the end, you want to end up with a piece that is nice and flat on one side.

Step 3. Create the Shape Map

Now it’s time to draw the shape.

Take a pencil and fit it to your compass. Where you guess the sharp end will jam in the middle of the cup. Then expand it to the range you are aiming for. Let’s say you’re going for 3″. Make the radius 1.5″ and move that pencil to the right a few times. Then extend it to about 1/2″ and draw another circle around it. That big circle will be the outer edge, while the inner circle will be your cup.

At this point, you’ll have to decide whether to make a handle that’s thick or thin, and either vertical or horizontal with finger holes. A thin, horizontal handle may look nice, but it will be more likely to break. In contrast, a vertical handle with two finger holes is sturdier but not “pretty”. Of course, it’s perfectly fine to have a solid handle as well.

These decisions may also be influenced by the size of your burl. For example, if a natural piece is turning out horizontally, it might be asking for a handle like that. Alternatively, if you’re starting to carve one like this and it falls off in your hands, you may have to make one vertical by default.

I’ve learned that it’s better to err on the side of thickness. After all, you can always cut off a little more later if you want, but you can’t add back. The same goes for carving the inner bowl.

Step 4. Get the Carving!

Now that’s when you get out your knives and start cutting off the extra wood little by little. Imagine that you are a sculptor like Michelangelo or Rodin, and you are freeing the kuxa shape from the wood that is holding it.

There are different techniques you can use here, depending on the grain of the wood. Begin by carving out as much excess as possible from the outside of the bowl shape. Use a pointed hatchet in long, smooth strokes and then switch to a sharper carving knife for shorter cuts.

Once that shape has been roughly sealed, switch to working the inside of the cup. Some people prefer to use a crooked knife right away, so try that first if you want. Personally, I like to chisel some pieces off to give my crooked knife something to “cut” through. It also speeds up the process.

Similarly, you can clamp the kuksa between large pieces of wood and use a round chisel and hammer to cut through as much of the inside as possible.

Once the inside is hollowed out to about 90%, start working on the outside. Use a carving knife to carefully shave off the excess wood. As you are doing this, start shaping the handle as well.

Of course, the method described above is for carving kuksa the traditional way. This means putting time, effort, and a lot of elbow grease into the piece. However, you can make it faster by using power tools like a band saw, drill and Dremel tool.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

At this point, you’re really just refining your cuts. This is the most laborious part of the process, but it can also be the most enjoyable. Play some great music or head to your favorite spot by the river, and take your time. Use your various knives to shape everything to your heart’s content. This is also the point where you will make finger holes (or a hole for hanging a rope), if you prefer.

Once it looks great to you, break out the sandpaper. Use a coarse grade to get rid of coarse crumbs. Then switch to finer and finer grades until it is buttery soft to the touch. If you want, feel free to use a wood burning device now to write your name or initials on the bottom of the cup. Or if you want, do some decorative burning on the outside. your phone.

When you’ve got it to the point that you think it’s done, it’s time to polish it. Melt some of that wax in a clean bowl or another container. Then dip the cloth scraps into it, and rub the melted wax into the wood little by little. Polish it slowly all around until it burns beautifully – almost shining.

After that, your cup is ready to use! Now you just need to decide what to choose as your first drink in it.

how to care for your kuksa

The care of kuksa is basically the same as other wooden utensils. Since wood is porous, you don’t want to leave liquids in it for long periods of time. Nor do you want to leave it in sync! After drinking soup, coffee or tea from your cup, rinse it with warm water and dry it thoroughly with a clean towel.

Using any soap or detergent in your kuksa is considered bad omen! If you find that it feels a little filmy or thin on the inside, use a handful of wet sand (or really fine-grade sandpaper) to give it a good wipe down. Then oil it well with mineral or walnut oil.

If you’re using it regularly, try applying the oil to your kuksa once a week, or try using it less frequently, twice a month. You want this beautiful piece to last for years, which means keeping it clean. The oil will help keep it from absorbing too much liquid and give it a great shine. Occasionally, feel free to polish it inside and out with some wax, just for some extra love.

Most importantly, take the time to really enjoy your time with this piece. Be present and aware when you drink drinks out of it, whether it’s ice-cold water on a cold day, or steaming bone broth in the dead of winter. Eat and drink from the ground up whenever possible, and savor the memories you created of making this beautiful cup!

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