Saturday, 23 February 2013

Riving green oak.....

I'm hoping - time and materials permitting - that this will be the first of a number of posts that follow my progress in making a simple oak stool. I've never made a stool before and have wanted to for a little while so when I saw Sharif Adam's recent post, I felt inspired to finally try it.

One small snag, however....I don't have any wood at present. Or should I say didn't. Once again, my friend Dave from work has come through trumps and very generously given me a small, straight section of oak log - more than enough for a set of legs (thanks Dave).

So, to begin with, I must split the log. There are a couple of ways of achieving this - generally I would use wedges and hammer, but as this is a nice straight section, and I want equal uniform pieces, I get the rare opportunity to use my froe (I really should use it more often). A froe is a simple, ancient tool for just this purpose - somethimes called a splitting knife.

I'm not sure if what I have been doing is technically riving - I know that traditionally splitting wood for shingles (or roof tiles) using a froe was called riving, but I suspect you can actually apply the term to any log splitting using this method.

My short froe, with turned birch handle, and my favourite mallet or beadle.

Place the froe blade, handle up, across the diameter of the log and give it a sharp 'whack'
with the beadle and pull on the handle to lever into halves....

....and then into quarters....

...and eigths. This shot is such a photographic cliche, but it's so satisfying I couldn't resist.

Whilst for this job a single tap with the beadle was enough to drive the froe right through, for longer pieces of wood you can trap the timber into a simple arrangement of three lengths of fence spar that will hold your work piece while you lever the handle of the froe with increased leverage.

 It never ceases to surprise me, in a very primal sense, how easily the wood 'gives in' to the froe blade, the fibres separating with very little persuasion or effort. So much cleaner and more effective than a conventional axe.

As an aside, what a terrific aroma you get from green, freshly split oak - I guess it's the tannin, really lovely.

Next, to find a slab of green oak for the seat - anyone in the midlands got a bit I could scrounge?

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