PETE Trott got the wooden spoon. Yet he couldn’t be happier. For the past seven years, Pete — who lives on a 4ha bush block at Lauriston in central Victoria — has worked in the TV and film industry as a set dresser.
On the Australian film, The Dressmaker, starring Kate Winslet, his job required him to source set items as diverse as 1950s chemist drug bottles to old coffins.
Pete has also worked on the Nicole Kidman flick Lion, and the Channel 10 drama series Offspring.
But, at the end of last year, the 36-year-old turned his back on film and TV and became a wooden spoon maker.
He says his decision to move away from the high life of big budget productions, to the more humble and earthy woodwork, was an easy one.
“It’s always been an outlet for me — I made my first spoon at the age of 9,” says Pete, who will be demonstrating his skill at the Lost Trades Fair at Kyneton Racecourse on March 12 and 13.
“I’m drawn to making stuff out of timber. When I worked in film and TV it was almost a bit of a break away to go into the shed and make something. It’s always been a relaxing thing for me.”
Pete’s work on set often entailed long days, when he would sometimes leave home at 6am and return at 8.30pm. With two young children, he now enjoys being ensconced in woodwork in his back shed.
While he also makes cabinets, lamps and “pretty much anything” anyone requests in timber, spoons are his key focus.
From coffee scoops, to teaspoons and large cooking implements, he makes spoons out of local timbers, usually blackwood and sycamore, using green new wood as it is easier to work with.
When Pete started making spoons, he relied on machines, angle grinders and saws. Now, he uses three simple implements: an axe, a straight-blade sloyd knife and a hooked knife. Not a single piece of sandpaper is used in the process.
“It’s an age-old way, the original way, of making spoons and it turns out it’s the simplest and quickest way too. For me, it’s also the most enjoyable way, using hand tools to make a beautiful item.
“Using machines takes about two hours to make a spoon but with an axe and knives it’s about an hour.
“By using a knife to scoop out the wood, it makes a clean cut so it’s not fluffy or furry with splinters.”
Pete says the skill is so simple he teaches spoon making at day-classes at the Rundell and Rundell workshop off Piper St in Kyneton, teaching people how to read the timber and use the implements.
“It’s amazing how excited people are after the class when they realise they’ve created something.”
It is this feeling, he says, that gets to the crux of the Lost Trades Fair and the new-found joy in making old crafts by hand.
“Sure you can go to the supermarket to buy a wooden spoon for $2 but it has got absolutely no character and it’s normally in terrible timber that doesn’t last long,” Pete says. “And, because it’s made by machine, it will break at some point.
“If you put one of my spoons against a supermarket spoon, I know which one you’d choose.
“For the people I teach, and for me as well, there’s a real connection with these skills.
“My great grandfather was a woodcarver and I still use his chisels.
“Many skills haven’t been passed down from parents or grandparents and people really want to connect to that again, to do something practical with their hands.”
Read More: Wood Spoon Making Machine