Using the sloyd involves a handful of grips that are somewhat modified depending on the circumstances. As each comes up in the process, I will break it down, but from that point on I will simply refer to it. The first and probably most important of these is the hand squeeze. Some people refer to this as the thumb push, but I’ve moved away from that name because it’s actually misleading. It’s not pushing with the thumb that makes this cut powerful and controlled, but rather closing the hand holding the spoon itself that pulls the spoon back against the knife edge. If you push with your thumb, you’ll have a fraction of the power and will eventually damage your thumb.
Here’s how to do the hand squeeze cut. Bear in mind that I’m left-handed. With this cut, the key is to really choke up on the bit of the spoon you want to carve. It should be right up in the space between your thumb and forefinger. Even a half inch can make a tremendous difference in reducing the power and length of the cut you can make. Both thumbs should be on the spine of the knife. Depending on the cut, they might be side by side down by the handle, or they might be far apart, with the thumb of the spoon hand closer to the tip of the knife.
Now here’s the crucial bit: the hand holding the knife provides NO power. You read that right. None. You might do some pivoting to extend a cut, and you certainly steer the edge of the blade with this hand, but do not push the blade at all. All the power comes from the fingers of the hand holding the spoon opening and closing. When they close, they pull the wood back against the edge of the blade, a connection that is controlled by the thumbs on the back of the blade. But the thumb does not push, it simply transfers this force to the blade by holding it steady.
– Emmet Van Driesche, Greenwood Spoon Carving (Pre-order your copy before July 3rd for free domestic shipping!)