I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. Some time ago, I wrote a post for Lost Art Press about some riving technique that we described in the joint stool book, http://www.lostartpress.com/Make_a_Joint_Stool_from_a_Tree_p/bk-majsfat.htm but we only illustrated it with a diagram from Eleanor Underhill. After the book was out, I had some oak I was splitting for joined chests, and used the technique. Got a photo – so that is now captured in Lost Art Press’ archive…here’s the link:


The kicker is that in working the book, Jennie Alexander & I settled long ago on various snippets of phrasing that we used in workshops & our own communication. One of these is “Always split in half.” It’s almost a maxim for riving. The gist of it is that if you split off-center, then the weaker/thinner section will bend, and the split will do what we call “run out.”

Then Drew sent me a note about that post & that maxim. For those of you who don’t know him, Drew Langsner is, to my mind, the unsung hero of green woodworking. Since 1978 Drew has run Country Workshops, one of the most mis-named woodworking school going. www.countryworkshops.org

There, students have learned ladderback chairmaking, Windsor chairmaking, timber framing, coopering, bowl & spoon carving, Japanese woodworking, basketry, log-house building and other topics I have forgotten. Through it all, Drew has been refining & exploring his ideas and thoughts about how simple tools and wood interact. ( I have no decent photos of Drew – he takes most of them down there, so he isn’t often in them…)

Here’s what he said about my riving post -

“…But I don’t think it’s a rule to always split in half; there’s various of times when other patterns make more sense…grid splitting for turnings, off center splitting for trimming excess, doing what you’re doing in the photo, going slightly off radial to show off the rays. On really nice oak I’m wondering if you can make a riving that’s more like a board that was sawed just away from the pith. I realize it won’t have the perfect growth ring pattern. But if you found it in a pile of lumber I almost bet you would use it. If there’s a rule it should be to use your brain and your experience…I think.”

So there, use your brain & experience. I agree with Drew. I have seen him use some finagling so he could manage to squeeze out “extra” pieces from an oak, not wanting to waste the tree. His experiences with riving are vast. If you don’t already get the Country Workshops e-newsletter, sign up for it. There’s often great stuff there. see them here: http://countryworkshops.org/newsletter/newsletter/newsletter.html

Go take a class there. Louise’s cooking is worth it alone, but the woodworking is great too. http://louiselangsner.wordpress.com/

These days, Drew’s woodenware seems to be reaching back to his art background, sort of functional sculpture. http://www.drewlangsner.com/. If it weren’t for Drew, I’d be somebody else. That’s all there is to it. And I wouldn’t know who Thelonious Monk was…

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