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I was asking a question on the cooking SE site about best utensils for cleaning and scraping pans w/o damaging them (particularly nonmental utensils) and realized that I probably have all the tools I need to make my own wooden utensils, which I've found to be very good.

Only thing I don't know is what kind of woods would be good (and what kind to avoid)? I have access to some free oak (I believe it's Live Oak), so I'm hoping that would be good. But if not, what would be a good wood available to someone in North Texas?

  • This is skirting very close to being a duplicate, except that you've specifically mentioned North Texas which is good because geographic location can play a part in this sort of query. What kind of wood sources do you have nearby? Any sawmills or lumber suppliers? Because two Texas woods that strike me as perfect in individual ways are mesquite and osage orange, what you may know locally bodark (bois d'arc), but you're likely to only be able to get them from a sawmill or proper lumber supplier rather than anything like a big-box store. – Graphus Oct 15 '20 at 4:04
  • OTOH, Texas is in the US (despite their occasional threats otherwise ;) and a decent lumberyard could order in basically any wood available in the US. It may cost a bit more, but it should be available for the asking. – FreeMan Oct 15 '20 at 11:51
  • @Graphus, for what it's worth I did also question specifically whether Live Oak would be suitable. Do provide links to any dupes though, I would certainly like to review any similar questions. – BVernon Oct 15 '20 at 20:49
  • I'm in Sachse, which is close to Dallas. I'm fairly new to woodworking and have not yet familiarized myself with local lumber sources or I'd answer that question. Plan to in the near future though. – BVernon Oct 15 '20 at 20:51
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    It seems like Live Oak would be good to use. It might be a bit harder to carve and so forth, but it should stand up to moisture/cooking quite well. Give it a shot and see how it works out.' – Greg Nickoloff Oct 19 '20 at 18:10
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Only thing I don't know is what kind of woods would be good (and what kind to avoid)?

Some features you want in wood for utensils:

I've seen a lot of utensils made from woods like boxwood, maple, cherry, apple, olive, poplar, and beech. Avoid woods like red oak (very open grain, so hard to wash), teak (oily), cedar (strong flavor), and pine (resinous, flavored, soft). Woods that are suitable for cutting boards are probably also fine for utensils. I don't know what live oak wood looks like... if has large open pores like red oak, skip it; if it's more like white oak, with its fine, closed grain, it'd probably work well.

You don't need a lot of wood to make a cooking spoon, and it doesn't need to be straight or free of defects because you can work around problem areas. Branches that are too small to yield even a small bowl can still be cut into blanks for utensils, and offcuts from other projects that would otherwise go into a burn pile may be large enough to make spreaders and such.

  • The traditional wood to use in France is "limousin" oak, similar to white oak in NA. Used in many aspects of cuisine and wine-making. – jdv Oct 28 '20 at 0:30
  • This is a good stab at an Answer that covers the issues in brief, but I have some notes :-))) You go on to say white oak is OK when it is by no means a close-grained wood! And the unflavoured thing is highly debatable. Here in Europe olive wood is now very commonly used for utensils and cutting boards, and it has a distinct odour (probably unpleasant to some but very nice to others). So I would question the you want before the bullet list. I think a better choice of words would be "generally considered desirable*. I'm still upvoting this as-is, but wanted to give the input. – Graphus Oct 28 '20 at 10:16
  • @Graphus Thanks for your input. The pores in white oak are visibly much more filled than those of red oak. White oak is the wood of choice for wine barrels; a barrel made from red oak would likely have a puddle under it. As for the "unflavored" characteristic: most every wood has a scent when you cut it, but what's more important is whether they're likely to impart a flavor to the food. That doesn't seem to be an issue with olive wood, but it would be with some others like cedar. – Caleb Oct 28 '20 at 15:22
  • Yes I'm aware of the difference in pore structure between American classic examples of white and red oak. And Quercus rubur too (which has been used for a great many more barrels than Quercus alba). My point is that none of the three are close-grained woods as your list specifies, in the current wording, as a wanted characteristic. – Graphus Oct 30 '20 at 7:35
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America White Oak (Quercus alba) should be available most places in North America (though it is not as plentiful as it used to be) and is one of the traditional species used for kitchen utensils in the Americas.

Mostly logged out and turned into railway ties (!) but it can still be found at select lumber yards. Given you only need smaller pieces, you could get friendly with a place that sells off-cuts, and look for "quarter-sawn" or nearly so off-cuts suitable for spoons and the like.

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