Template or Freehand?
For a long time, I only drew out spoons on my blanks freehand- I think the most common advice experts give will recommend that this is the proper practice to train hand & eye coordination. In turn, that will inform the sculptural shaping that takes place later during removal of wood. Being prone to following what seems like sound advice, I took it as dogma.nI also mostly carved one-off designs or at most a pair or set of spoons meant to complement one another, which I thought didn't necessitate templates.
Only recently have I begun experimenting with using templates- and the experience has brought unexpected results. I'll admit that I first gave templates a try in an attempt to speed up my roughing out process- but I can truthfully say that in contrary to popular opinion, I found it to be a useful exercise in creating a more successful shape for the spoons to be born from the drawing. Not only is it easier to refine a shape on paper than on a block of wood, the finished template acts as a mock-up of the tool to come- holding it in your hand gives a better sense of scale and shape than a projection on a chunk of wood. For example, I could use my paper template to ensure that my spoon meant to fit in a jar does indeed do so, or that a handle is long enough to reach deep into a pot on the stove.
The templates can also survive as an archive of sorts of past shapes- long after a spoon has left my hands I could pull out this trace of it to be reminded of the size of the bowl, or the curves of the handle. I find them to be curiously aesthetic objects in their own right.
To make a template I begin by sketching on quality artist's paper with a soft pencil, once I am satisfied with the shape i add suggestions of possible decorations and hints of shading and depth. I've no great skill with a pencil but I think a little bit goes a long way towards giving the template a bit more reality. Next I cut out the outline with the craft knife i use for collaging- then glue it to a thicker paper similar to cardstock and cut it out once more. Obviously you could glue it then cut it a single time, but I'm quick enough with the knife that I prefer to do it twice- tracing the shape with the long cutting motion of the knife refines inconsistencies in the shape. Finally I put a light coat of spray-lacquer on the template to add some longevity.
Ever tried templates for your carving? Get after it, and fill your head with Platonic thoughts of forms and ideals!