I’ve just started working with a white ash log I got some time ago, I have been splitting it open and starting some turned chairs. Ash often grows very straight, and splits & turns beautifully. Strong, but not too heavy, it is an excellent choice for chairs. I have worked with it for as long as I have counted myself as a woodworker. One very disturbing thing about ash is the effect the emerald ash borer is having on this tree. see http://www.emeraldashborer.info/ I hate to think that we might see this tree wiped out, much like the chestnut and elm…
One thing I use to make a lot of from ash is woven baskets. I learned basketmaking in white oak to begin with, at Country Workshops back in the mid-1980s. But here in southeastern Massachusetts, ash outnumbered white oak by far. So I ended up learning how to produce splints from ash (as opposed to “splits” from oak.) The way ash splints are made is to pound apart the growth rings in the wood. Using a heavy hammer (I use a 3lb hand sledge hammer) you pound upon the growth-ring plane of the log. The early spring wood crushes, and the growth rings come apart. These become the splints. They can then be split apart, or scraped to produce smooth material foe weaving baskets.
One method I learned about making ash splints was to pound billets of wood, instead of pounding the whole log. First the log is riven just as you would for chair parts; halves, quarters, eighths, so on. Then small sections are shaved at a shaving horse into pieces about 1 ½” wide by maybe 1” thick. I hold this billet of wood on the stump, and pound upon the growth ring layer with the sledgehammer. Each blow overlaps the previous. I pound all down the length, then flip the piece over and pound the same way on the opposite face. At this stage you can see the early wood crushing and the growth rings separating.
Once I have hammered the whole thing, I stick one end out past the edge of the stump, and hammer on this overhanging end. This makes the whole thing flap apart. Presto, you get many, many layers of splints in a hurry.
I am just using the off-splits from busting this log apart for chairs. There are some nice, slow-growing sections that will give me a bunch of splints without too much effort. The stock is pretty short, so that means small baskets; but I’ll make some for the kids to hold their junk in. Maybe I can get rid of some more plastic stuff. Before I became a joiner, I made lots of baskets; and I still have some of my favorites around the house.
One keeps my spoon carving gear. As some of you have heard me go on about, there is a great class this summer at Country Workshops in carving Swedish-style spoons and bowls. I keep my spoons-in-progress in this white oak basket; along with the knives I use for that work. I have been reviewing some of the articles, etc about spoon-carving. Among that stuff is this roughed-out spoon Jogge Sundqvist made during the shooting of his video in 1988. It was split out from a rhododendron branch, then part of the shape was sawn with a small frame saw. A little knife work and the spoon was well-defined. I don’t remember why he didn’t finish it, but I have kept it as an example of the first stages of forming the spoon.
Here’s another of his, I have used this one for 20 years now.
Here’s some pertinent links:
the class at Country Workshops, and the video available from them as well:
Kari Hultman is gearing up for the class as well. See her posts here:
Del Stubbs’ site. This one takes time, there’s tons of stuff to see there