One of the things that I like about woodworking is that there are so many different ways to work wood. So if you’re adventurous, you can use hand tools to do almost all the work. Or even take it a step further and go back to the way they worked wood in the 19th century, and use old hand tools!
I spent most of the day in woods outside Middle Amana, Iowa today splitting a six-foot section of veneer-grade white Oak. Man, was that a lot of work. You may remember that last spring, I took a ladderback chair building class at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. During the class, we started out with a small quarter section of a red Oak tree and rived it into chair parts. All of the work of felling the tree and splitting it into quarter sections was done by the instructor for the class, Lyle Wheeler. Lyle is a big, burly guy and now I know how he got that way!
Anyway, I contacted Larry Gnewikow, forester for Amana Society Forestry. Larry manages the largest privately-owned hardwood forest in the state of Iowa and one of the largest in the midwest and he agreed to sell me a 5-6 foot section of white Oak. Larry and forester Tim Krauss were waiting for me at a clearing where they had been logging white Oak for a veneer factory in northeast Iowa. Normally, the factory takes 8-12 foot long logs, but Larry explained that occasionally they’ll find trees with only 5 or 6 feet of veneer-grade trunk that the factory won’t accept. Since that’s all I needed, I took the good stuff and the rest will most likely be sold for pallets. Note the knot about 6 feet up in the photo at left. That’s all it takes to get rejected.
Tim started by surveying the best location to fell the tree. Then he cut a notch on that side of the tree. Next, he removed the taper at the bottom of the trunk so that it wouldn’t roll around when I got ready to split it. Tim knows his work and it took less than 10 minutes (with chips flying everywhere!) for him to drop the tree and have it ready for the skid to pull it out to the clearing.
I’ll tell you how I split it tomorrow. -Joel