More Riving, Almost Done

I did a bit more riving last Sunday and almost have the first 5′ log all split up into usable sections. Being a backyard tree, I did get quite a bit of waste splits as well as good splits. No big deal. The waste splits still make good firewood once they season.

Forest trees tend to grow straighter and have fewer lower limbs (a.k.a. knots). So if you are able to get your hands on a good forest tree, you will likely get more straight splitting usable lumber out of it (see most of the trees that Peter Follansbee uses) vs. a backyard tree. Still, some suburban and urban trees will yield to the wedge and froe. You might get lumber with a bit more twist and it may not split perfectly straight, but by riving a bit more oversized than you would with a perfect forest tree, you can still get a an awful lot of usable wood from the right backyard tree. And in many cases, you can get this lumber for free if you look around. Talk to your local tree services and I’ll bet you can find some.

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Start with a fairly straight log. You can often read the bark to judge how straight the tree will split (though this is not always reliable).
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Using a pair of steel wedges and a wooden glut or two, split the log in half. This is typically the hardest split. They get easier as they get smaller.
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Split each log half equally in half again to yield quarters.
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Then split the quarters into eights. You can stop here or split into sixteenths if you have a particularly large log. Usually eighths is enough. Always try to split the piece in half for the best chance of getting a good split.
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Eighths split into project parts. The left pile has enough posts, rungs and slats to make three post & rung chiars. The right pile has parts for bows, arm rails and spindles for two sack back Windsor chairs. I still have two eighths left to split, possibly for rockers for the post and rung chairs, or maybe a carved box or two, depending on how well they split.
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4 thoughts on “More Riving, Almost Done

  1. Will you plane these smooth while green or let them season awhile? Also, are you going to build the project while the wood is still green?

    • I’ll try and do as much as I can while it’s green. But the rungs and spindles will need to be dried thoroughly before assembly, so I’ll leave them slightly oversized and then fine tune the fit once they’re dry. The posts will then shrink around the dry rungs and lock them in place.

  2. Did you say bow as in bow and arrows? If so would you share how to make them. I’ve been wanting one for some time and my son needs a new one. A friend sent your url to me knowing I was a beginning wood crafter. I have ask him zillion questions and he always knows where to find the info. Also, what is the best draw knife…size too for a beginner? We recently bought 46 acres and now that I am in the house I see the potential for all the trees on my little forest (the ones that have fallen in storms and such). I don’t plan to cut them down just use the ones already down.

    • Hi Gwenn,

      While I am in fact in the middle of building a flatbow/longbow for archery, that’s not the bow I was referring to here. What I was referring to was the bent piece of wood that the spindles mount to at the top of the back of a Windsor chair. That part of the chair is referred to as the bow.

      In terms of draw knives, I don’t think there is a best. It comes down to what is comfortable for you and if you will be working at the workbench or the shave horse. I just picked up an old vintage 9″ knife from eBay and it worked out nicely for me. Old knives are everywhere. If I was going to buy a new one I’d be looking really hard at the Ray Iles. I have their inshave/scorp and it’s fantastic.

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