Splitting green red oak

I’ve been rumaging around a bunch of off-cuts of oak lately, and have planed a lot of nice quality short stock…it’s great autum work, being outside splitting. Nice to rescue some oak from the firewood pile as well.

But now I have a new red oak log I started splitting the other day. Usually I split the best material first, but right now my time is limited, so I wanted to start at the top of the log, and work through some short sections before I get to splitting the long stock. The log is 16 1/2 feet long, and at the tip it’s 22″ in diameter. There’s a nice clear log near the bottom that’s about 7 feet long at least. Beyond that the butt swell, or flared base of the tree is 30″ in diameter, and from that I hope to get panels and seats for joined stools. The top third is hit-or-miss; whatever I get out of it is a bonus.

red oak log
red oak log


I was surprised (pleasantly) by the quality of the wood even in the worst cut in the log. Below I have a short section cut from the tip of the log, 29″ in length. There’s some big knots in it, but also enought straight grained timber to make it well worth the effort. It split nice & flat, which makes planing quick work.


The techniques I use to split this stuff is to score the log with a wedge right across the midst of it. This scoring really helps the wedges enter the wood, and encourage the split to follow the “fault” you create with the scoring. Then I drive 2 wedges into the end grain, just inside from the sapwood. A large wooden wedge then is inserted once the steel wedges have opened up the log enough. I try to not tear it apart once it’s split, that way it stands up better while I proceed with the successive splits.

scoring with wedge
scoring with wedge
driving two wedges
driving two wedges
splitting into quarters
splitting into quarters

6 thoughts on “Splitting green red oak

  1. Ah, great Autumn/Winter work. Brings me many pleasant memories.

    I’ve got some White Oak sections stashed from a neighbor’s tree that was cut down this summer that I will be using for my first 17th cent. carved box. I need to finish off a few other projects first, but it is this project that I am most looking forward to in a very long time.

    Your work has long been an inspiration to me, Peter. Thanks for posting on a blog. It’s a look behind your finished work that is a big motivation.

    Take care, Mike

  2. Great article — excellent related articles, as well. I have been interested in riving to reduce logs for use in basket making, but now I see that there are so many more things that can be made with the same “simple” tools. Beautiful grain on the finished boards.

    Thanks so much!


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