more carving & riving cedar

carved flatsawn oak panel

a follow-up from yesterday. Here is the flatsawn red oak panel, now carved with one of the Devon patterns c. 1660s or so. I adapted a couple of different patterns to make this one up. Carving it was an exercise to show folks that if they don’t have the first-quality riven oak they can still do this type of carving. It worked differently of course; was somewhat brittle. There were times when I hit it with the same oomph that I use for good riven green wood, and busted out chips here & there. So I learned that in some parts I needed to strike the gouge a few lighter taps where one strong smack would do in better quality wood. Otherwise, not much to report. I don’t like the looks of it, but some paint & a few hundred years & it would look just fine.

Also today I was riving more of the cedar log to work it into molding stock. I use the same methods as with oak; wedges & a maul to break it down, then a froe & club to rive it into the finer pieces. It was a nice morning to be out in the woodpile.

cedar quarters

Nice straight-grained quarters of cedar, about five feet long.

cedar in riving brake

Striking the froe to remove the pith wood. I stand the stuff up in the brake for this move; then slide it into a horizontal position to twist the froe & help direct the split.  In the photo below I have shoved the froe club’s handle into the split to keep it open as I slide the froe further into the stock.

twisting the froe


another view


This sort of cedar was much used in seventeenth-century coastal New England. It appears in many pieces of joined furniture from Plymouth Colony, as applied moldings, drawer bottoms & chest bottoms. William Savell, Sr., of Braintree, Massachusetts Bay, had “joyners stuffe & cedar boults” in his 1669 probate inventory. Shares in cedar swamps appear with regularity as well, in deeds & inventories. One assumption is that the cedar is used for fencing; but it clearly shows up in furniture too. The one I am splitting is too narrow to make chest or drawer bottoms, so it’s destined to become a very-long-term supply of stock for applied moldings. No sense letting it go to waste.

5 thoughts on “more carving & riving cedar

  1. Nothing to do with riving – sorry – but a question about style I guess. Assuming that most of the early wood workers came to America from Europe, approximately when did an American style of carving begin to emerge in your opinion Peter? Do you think that it’s emergence was affected by the availability of ‘new’ materials?

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