Curly Questions with Pete Von Trott

Pete Von Trott

Pete Trott is known for his beautiful Von Trott hook and sloyd knives. He is also an awesome spoon carving teacher and carver himself. When we first met Pete at a Lost Trades Fair in Sydney a couple of years ago I was instantly in love with his tools but also drawn to Pete who is such a friendly character with a great sense of humour. We love working with Pete and thought it would be nice to share a bit about him with the rest of the world.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO GREEN WOODWORKING AND SPOON CARVING?

I had made spoons and kitchen utensils from an early age on and off, It wasn’t until I was shown some Mora knives that I turned my hand to Green Wood and started researching the processes involved.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT GREEN WOODWORKING? AS WELL AS CARVING SPOONS WHAT OTHER FORMS OF WOOD WORKING ARE YOU INVOLVED IN?

When I was kid I used to find bits of Oregon in the shed and sit there with a knife whittling it away into a pile of shavings. I still love the sensation of a sharp knife slicing through wood. Green Woodworking gives you that opportunity to use hand tools in their most efficient way and the final product is an added bonus at the end for me, the real joy has been in the making.

Green Woodworking gives you that opportunity to use hand tools in their most efficient way and the final product is an added bonus at the end for me, the real joy has been in the making.


The other form of woodworking I have been lucky enough to learn in more recent years is American Windsor Chairs under Glen Rundell. Meeting Glen and learning the business of chair making was a pivotal moment of my career. This taught me about timber both green and dry and all of its nuances, over time building familiarity and understanding of trees that we used. This education in timber and tools has set me on the course I’m on today and I would highly recommend searching out a mentorship with an experience craftsperson who really knows their stuff. Hopefully you can offer something to the relationship and soak up a lifetimes worth of knowledge as you go.

Pete Von Trott Knives

DO YOU STILL FIND TIME TO CARVE OR IS IT ALL ABOUT THE KNIFE MAKING?

As I’ve gone full time making knives my carving has dropped away, In a strange way I don’t miss it though. I spend 5 sometimes 6 days a week thinking about carving as I make the tools. So in someway I feel like that part of me is still satisfied. Over the Christmas Holidays I will be sure to pack some tools when we are away….

WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU HAVE A CERTAIN STYLE? WHAT IS IT?

In terms of Spoons, I take inspiration from the stylings of old silverware. I like the classic details they include and the overall balance in the design.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO KNIFE MAKING? WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS GOING FORWARD?

I hadn’t realised that tool making was something that was within reach until very recently, originally I had wanted other Smiths to make them for me. Unsatisfied with the Mora Knives I was teaching classes with, I knew that there had to be a better option out there. My decision to get into knife making was a leap of faith, armed with the opinion of “How hard could that be?” I jumped in and bought the basics of what I thought I needed. Turns out that most of those items weren't fit for purpose so I tinkered around for a few years before I got things on track. I have since realised there is 10 lifetimes worth of knowledge out there regarding knife making, I made a big decision a year or so in that I was going to focus exclusively on the tools I knew best. I think this has proven to be a great basis for my business. As I build in experience and skill I will be expanding the tools I make, looking to do small releases of Drawknives and Gouges this coming year.

Von Trott Sloyd Knife

WHOSE WORK DO YOU ADMIRE AND WHY?

A Tool Maker that inspires me is Josh Burrell ( @J.l.burrell_toolmaker ). A British second generation metal worker who has an incredible eye for form and detail. Having the skill to produce such stunning tools where the focus is still functionality is where I like to aim for within my own business.

The other Tool Maker you have to check out is Seth Gould (@Sethgould). I can’t even explain all the things I love about his work, huge inspiration on where I would like to go in the future.

A Carver that has been inspiring me over the last few years is @Kramex_carving, His understanding of design combined with finish puts his spoons in a totally different league. There is a true understanding of the form that should be inspiring to carvers of any level. Take a look...

HAVE YOU MADE THE PERFECT SPOON/PIECE YET? HOW MANY FAILURES HAVE YOU HAD AND WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THEM?

A lot of my spoons while I was learning were lacking in one way or another, the good ones go in the kitchen drawer and the really gnarly ones in the woodpile. I believe that I was getting closer to finding my own style when the shift towards knives happened but I’m still striving to perfect the humble spoon.

Von Trott Spoons

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WANTING TO GET INTO GREEN WOODWORKING AND SPOON CARVING?

There is whole world of Green Woodworking Craft out there you can sink yourself into, and also a loving and supportive community out there you can get to know. It doesn’t matter your age, place in life, you will be happily accepted if you are eager to learn. On that note, finding an established carver and asking if you can hang out for a day while they carve will advance your skills no end. Most people will be more than happy to share the knowledge they have.

LASTLY, I HEARD A RUMOUR THAT YOU ONLY CARVE SYCAMORE. IS THIS TRUE OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO SQUASH THIS NASTY LIE? WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR WOOD FROM AND DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR OTHERS ON WHERE TO FIND IT?

Haha you got me…. I love the stuff, crisp, clean, white and dries up nice and hard. As I was saying earlier on, I'm in it for the experience of Carving, I don’t want to be battling some gnarly piece of timber. We are a bit spoilt for timber here in Kyneton, European trees everywhere and beautiful natives as well. If your after Sycamore specifically you will find it in high rainfall areas and commonly growing in wet gullies or roadsides. It's classified as a “Woody Weed” here in Victoria as it will self seed and take over. Look for a broad green Maple leaf as big as your hand, growing in thick groups generally surrounding a more established tree. These trees will coppice after you cut them down so there will be plenty more carving timber in years to come.


2 comments


  • Chris Pothof

    “Great interview As you stated there is a whole new world of Green Carving I really am enjoying the sounds the damp chips and the outcome No two carvings are a like and all have their own character. Let me ask this Would advise to carve Cherry word? How bout White Birch? It would be exciting to obtains a few billets of Sycamore.. Happy New Year and thanks for all you do for us carvers..” – Cherry Wood is my absolute favourite wood to carve. If anyone ever has excess and wants me to help you with your glut I am your man :) Birch is a favourite of US and Europe it is easy to carve and because of its high sugar content you will often see it with beautiful spalting. Happy New Year David


  • David Holte

    Great interview As you stated there is a whole new world of Green Carving I really am enjoying the sounds the damp chips and the outcome No two carvings are a like and all have their own character. Let me ask this Would advise to carve Cherry word? How bout White Birch? It would be exciting to obtains a few billets of Sycamore.. Happy New Year and thanks for all you do for us carvers..


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published