book collections email follower instructable user
Picture of Kuksa carving (for lazy carvers)
Wazza kuksa?!

A kuksa is the traditional wooden cup made & used by the Sami people in Lappland - northern Scandinavia. Traditionally they are made of birch burls - kind of halfround three growths you'll find on a number of species but particularly on birch.
Those burls ('broussin' in French) grow as a reaction on a stress - can be an injury, a virus or a fungus - compare it to a tumor as you want. The wood in those burls has no traditional growth rings and is very dense.
Kuksa's are beautiful pieces of art. Not one kuksa is the same bacause the shape of a kuksa depends on the shape of the burl.

For years I planned making one my own, but until a few weeks ago I didn't got the chance to find the right burl.
Until a few weeks ago, so.
I found a lovely burl on a dead olive three, making me the luckiest person on earth - at that moment.

So I started carving.

Kuksa carving is basic craftwork. All you need is a saw to cut the burl, a hatchet to rawshape, a knife (traditionally a 'puukko' or a special 'crooked knife') to dig it out and some sandpaper to fineshape. Basic craftwork, everyone can do it.
But, I forgot one other thing you need: PATIENCE.

I've got a wife to love, a crazy dog, some even more crazier cats, unconventional parents, some great friends, a good health, a mind filled with crazy plans and two hands to realize them. I've got it all.
But I've got no patience.

So instead of making a kuksa with a knife I made some shortcuts - as always.

Sorry to all those who claim that a kuksa shouldn't be made with power tools. This I'ble is no propaganda for the use of electric power, it's just the way bricobart did it. Free to decide.

Step 1: Harvesting the burl

The hardest thing in kuksa carving is finding the burl. Or better: finding the RIGHT burl.
In northern countries this might be quite an easy job. Burls are very common on birch, for example.
If you're spending a lot of time in southern spots the task becomes a bit more complicated, and almost impossible if you're looking for THAT species in particular like me.

I wanted to make my first kuksa in olive. Hundreds of trees I inspected before - after three years (!) - finding my luck on a dead olive tree in the outback of south France.

The first pictures are from the dead tree and so the one who served to make this kuksa, the second series are from a truly alive 'n very kicking tree where I could harvest two beautiful burls. In full city center, no kidding!!!

When you're cutting off a burl from a tree that's still alive, make sure to harvest it properly. Use a handsaw, make a proper cut and put a lot of woundcare (pine tar is perfect) on the wound. The wound will heal, and the tree will live as before.

  • DON'T FORGET TO CUT THE BASE OF THE BURL, this part will serve as handle!!!
  • TRY TO HARVEST IN SUMMER OR AUTUMN! During wintertime the sapstream slows down and the wound will heal a lot slower - opening the door to infections. In summer & autumn the tree is at full power and with the help of the pine tar the wound will heal quickly.
Fresh wood is softer and thus easier to carve than dried wood. If you don't have the time to carve the burl immediatly, cover it with bees wax or polyurethane glue to slow the drying process. Fast drying will surely split the wood, and destroy the burl. Let it dry in a well ventilated place for a few months up to a year - until the day you'll decide that it's ready to go.

NOTE: If you're working with a 'fresh' burl, don't forget to store it in a plastic bag every time you take a break, just to avoid splitting, again.
PeterP3092 months ago
Kann man aus Kirschholz auch eine Kuska machen?

bartworker (author)  PeterP3092 months ago
You can make kuksas from any type of wood. I made them from olive, cherry & birch. Here's my latest from willow. All from burls, respectful harvest.
alai52 years ago

Is it ok to use sunflower oil?

nancyjohns6 years ago
AWESOME!!! Where do you go to legally do that?
bartworker (author)  nancyjohns6 years ago
I try to stay away from private territory - I said I tried - and I just keep my eyes open all the time...

*Dialing 911* Ummmm........ Okay...........

Corinbw4 years ago

Wow that turned out amazing. I made one a while ago and it does not look as great as that. i am inspired. :)

bartworker (author)  Corinbw4 years ago

Not so great? Are you kidding? Yours is just awesome mate, you did have the eye to see a cup in that chunk of wood!

michaelgc5 years ago

Wow that kukusa looks amazing, Now will you use this or just have it as decoration? Maybe I should keep my eye out for dead trees, but I don't many here is the suburbs of Los Angeles.

bartworker (author)  michaelgc4 years ago

A kuksa gets character by using it again and again, so we're using it! Thanx for the comment and I hope you found something!

Ray from RI5 years ago

So what is your lazy carver tool...????

Mattrox5 years ago

So beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

nancyjohns5 years ago

That kukusa looks GREAT. I'm really into woodworking and my dad dose tree work and he just cut one down with a burl. He cut the burl off so I'll try to talk him into me keeping it........

jesse40156 years ago
how salty of water? I'm trying to find the perfect burl here in northwest PA and northeast OH and i'm taking notes!
bartworker (author)  jesse40156 years ago
The salty as possible, this ain't no rocket science you know...
Victor8056 years ago
I'm lucky I live in Spain, here there is plenty of olive trees fields, some day I'll grab my bike and my pruning saw and I'll go to find a nice burl, this instructable has inspired my a lot.
bartworker (author)  Victor8056 years ago
Thanx mate, and good luck!!!
AMDHamm6 years ago
Nice job indeed. Kuksa are great utilitarian items and very enjoyable to make and use. I love carrying mine while camping, hiking or even using at home in the winter.

Get permission to cut the burls if it is not on your property. It is illegal otherwise to remove them. Be certain to seal an above ground wounds with end grain sealer or, if below ground, cover the wound with dirt. Since burls are the result of a wound to a tree, most likely another burl will grow where one has been removed. Keep the tree alive and it may continue to reward us for generations.
Tazmjm696 years ago
All I can say is wow! It's beautiful
Jobar0076 years ago
It looks great. Thanks for the ideas that this 'ible has generated. I would suggest to use a drying oil though instead of olive oil. Olive oil doesn't dry (read it will be sticky until enough grime has built up to no longer be slick. Also, it can go rancid. If it did, you would get sick whenever you used this. I learned this one the hard way....
bartworker (author)  Jobar0076 years ago
Good to learn new stuff, thanx! Wich oil do you propose? Lineseed, for example?
Linseed is a good oil and is common but tends to have heavy metal chemical dryers which I don't care for. Raw linseed oil that doesn't have them takes forever to cure. One that I personally prefer is walnut (can be found in grocery stores) but it carries a potential food allergy. Pure Tung Oil is another good alternative but sourcing pure Tung Oil without dryers is problematic or cost prohibitive.
bartworker (author) 6 years ago
Thanx to everyone who voted for me in the craft contest, so glad I made it to the first rows! Your support was heartwarming, before all...
BrittLiv6 years ago
Wow, this is beyond beautiful! Very good job on the write-up, too.
bartworker (author)  BrittLiv6 years ago
Thanx Brittliv, it's the tree who did the job - all I did was cutting away everything that didn't look like a kuksa (like one member said) ;)
I carve walking sticks and spoons on occasion, this is vera vera pretty. I think I would hold off on linseed oil if I am going to drink from it. Better to melt a bit of bees wax into mineral oil and rub that in, or buy a wax made for that purpose. It is truly special anyone can see.

I would like to see the lazy carver as well!

you could burn out some of the wood, but that is arduous and smelly, not wholey unpleasant though.

thanks for this instructable it was very nice.
bartworker (author)  spark master6 years ago
Thanx spark master, many people mentioned that mineral oil. I'm really gonna use this!
bartworker (author)  spark master6 years ago
Thanx for the positive feedback, what do you mean with mineral oil? Car oil? Really?! ;)
While mineral oil is a petroleum product it isn't motor oil, and long been used to protect wood surfaces that come into contact food, because it doesn't become rancid. The body doesn't absorb mineral oil, and it passes out the digestive tract. sometimes used as a constipation remedy
bartworker (author)  static6 years ago
Thanx static, I'll look out for this product this weekend. Really curious!
And when I mentioned 'car oil' I was kidding, believe me ;)
He's actually talking about boiled linseed oil, since it can contain metallic drying agents (linseed can take weeks to harden). In a specialty grocery store you can find raw linseed oil as flaxseed oil. Mineral oil is baby oil without fragrance, often used for cutting boards and the like. Flax (linseed) and walnut oil are the only two naturally drying oils that I'm aware of, but they do dry eventually and don't leave a sticky residue that olive, vegetable or mineral oil can. That said, I've often used whatever is on the counter to finish my spoons and they turn out fine :) Fine luck you had finding that burl!

spark master says: Jul 15, 2013. 8:58 AMReply

If the masters of sculpture could have used hammer drills , they would have. I can't see Michelangelo turning down air driven hammers/chisels grinders etc. Maybe hand tools while gingerly carving the "delicate parts" of "David" or the "Pieta".

And thanks grand panda for explaining the mineral oil thing. I have a friend who always used olive oil and since my wooden spoons go onto boiling tomato sauce infused with olive oil and animal fats, and no one has died of botch yet, but if the inlaws cheese me off just once more......sweetie break out the mason jars I'm looking to fix a problem....
bartworker (author)  spark master6 years ago
I agree spark master. Our ancestors invented and finetuned those tools, it's up to us to continue the same way while keeping the craftwork alive. I looove hammer drills ;)
bartworker (author)  greatpanda6 years ago
ALL-RIGHT!!! Thanx great panda, always nice to learn new stuff. I'll have to find that oil!
aebe bartworker6 years ago
Hello . Mineral oil , not motor oil , can be had from your pharmacy . It does not dry , and is mostly tasteless .
oh I fergit, olive wood makes very very nice pot stirrers, Forget the el cheapo spoons from China, nice ones made from olive wood are the best. they are not cheap, they last for years.

again very pretty piece.
bdempsey16 years ago
Dude thats not lazy..You put a heck of a lotta hard work into that piece.
bartworker (author)  bdempsey16 years ago
In fact, yes! Let's say that the job can be done in one day - nothing compared to the several days (or weeks) it takes with simple hand tools...
artworker6 years ago
It is famous in India (rock and wood carving artisans) that nature creates the artifact and is hidden there somewhere in the wood or the rock! It is the task of the artist to recognize it and bring it out, removing the exact parts that are not required! You did a great job in doing that.
I wish I could click a "like" button on this comment. :D
1-40 of 106Next »