Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 155, July 2018
Slojd in Wood
by Jogge Sundqvist

Book Review by J. Norman Reid

In this brilliant little book, Slojd in Wood, Jögge Sundqvist provides a complete course in crafting utensils and other useful items from wood. Though the Swedish term slöjd may at first be off-putting to English-speaking readers, it needn't be. Slöjd refers to crafty and traditional ways of working with hand tools to make functional and decorative items for around the house and homestead. The term itself derives from the word slög, meaning artful or clever. Slöjd is a practice that has evolved from centuries-old traditional practices of self-sufficiency that can be applied to many types of raw materials. Here, Sundqvist shows how to craft items from his chosen medium, wood.

Slöjd practices employ simple tools, described in detail with instructions on their use, as well as a good knowledge of the materials—wood—and the ability to solve problems in execution. It uses hand tools exclusively. The traditions of self-sufficiency that sustained slöjd for numberless generations are, sadly, becoming lost, though the handicraft movement and some foundations are helping to sustain and preserve them.

The book begins with a series of projects, with simpler ones presented first: a butter knife and cake spatula are first, with instructions provided on carving techniques. The handles on these utensils, as on most slöjd projects, are decorated, often highly so, with chip carving and colors.

Following this Sundqvist describes the construction of a knife with a birchbark sheath. This tool, meant to be used in slöjd carving, is the most important tool in the carver's kit. Make it to fit your own hand. The handle is a birch blank with a hole drilled for the blade's tang. The sheath is a folded piece of birchbark bound with twine from birch root. The handle is decorated to suit the user with chip carving, lettering and linseed oil paint.

Spoons and ladles come next. These are made in varying sizes and shapes to fit different uses in the kitchen. They are roughed out with an axe and drawknife, then carved with a knife. The bowls must be clean-carved so food doesn't stick to them, a skill Sundqvist says takes a long time to develop.

Hangers for coats and hats are made from branches with projecting stems that provide places to hang things. Birch and fruitwood are the densest and best for this purpose.

Trees at the edge of roads or fields are the best source of suitable stock because the branches reach out for the sun and are likely to be densest.

Knobs and door latches are another category of product. Sundqvist illustrates various knife grips for carving these and other small objects.

A major section follows describing tools and materials for slöjd in wood. Tables show species of Swedish and North American wood suitable for slöjd. A diagram clarifies the parts of a tree most suitable for various types of products. Issues of drying wood and dealing with shrinkage are discussed. The full range of tools used in slöjd are discussed in some detail, as is the procedure for making a shaving horse.

Sundqvist shows how to split logs and choose blanks for projects and he discusses the ergonomics of carving. Sharpening and honing methods and painting and finishing techniques conclude this section.

More advanced slöjd projects follow: a snob stick that can serve as a curtain rod or walking stick comes first, followed by a bowl and trough. A shrink box that uses a grooved lower edge that shrinks around an inserted bottom can be used as a canister, pen holder or even as a cell phone holder. A cutting board made from a single plank is used to cut on the heart side, with decorative features on the bark side. Stools with three or four staked legs finish the projects.

Because chip carving features so frequently in slöjd projects, a color photograph exemplifying a series of designs is shown.

The book concludes with an extensive and important description of knife grips, both push grips and pull grips of numerous types.

This hardbound book features a full color cover and beautifully-photographed color illustrations throughout. These are accompanied by illustrations that clarify key practices.

The practice of slöjd in wood is an important branch of self-sufficiency using hand tools. A chief difference from other hand tool books is the emphasis in slöjd on the decorative aspects of the products of the craft. The book's many photographs offer a wealth of ideas to inspire carvers to find styles they find pleasing.

For woodworkers interested in hand carving or in the self-sufficiency movement, this book is an essential acquisition. Power tool users won't find anything helpful here, other than a good read of a fine book.

Find out more and purchase Slojd in Wood

J. Norman Reid is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of Choosing and Using Handplanes. He can be reached by email at nreid@fcc.net .

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