you can never have too many pins

Whenever I have an offcut of straight-grained clear oak that’s at least 5 inches long, I save it. That’s pin stock and you can never have too much of it around. I like to split it out ahead of time, and lay them around the shop in various corners to let them dry out.

the pins are the most demanding stock in joined furniture, when it comes to moisture content. They should be the driest stuff around. Dry dry dry.



Here, the kids are splitting out some green oak for pin blanks. A cleaver and a rawhide mallet are excellent for this task. Any wiggle in the grain, chuck it. ANY. It has to be straight-grained.

I aim for spliting them them down to about squares about 3/8” to 1/2” thick. Then toss them aside in the shop & forget about them. I probably have 200 of these around most of the time…I tend to keep the oldest, i.e. the driest, in one spot under the window near the bench. when that stash gets low, I scrounge around the shop, looking for pin stock that’s covered in dust and clacks loudly when I knock them together. That should mean they’re dry enough to move into the favored spot in the rotation.

Successive splits get easier, or, They didn't need me anymore

11 thoughts on “you can never have too many pins

  1. Is that a 17th-century milk crate? It’s great to see the kids learning. And please tell your daughter I have those same exact shoes.

  2. So once they get below free water stage, why not cook them on the window sill? End checking? Once they’re at equilibrium with ambient temperature and humidity, do you never cook them like Alexander? When you assemble joints, one assumes the tenons are drier than the posts, but what prevents the post from compressing and mooshing under the strain of an offset bone-dry pin, other than sheer mass, or perhaps the outsides are case-hardened? Obviously there is a non-theoretical basis for the fact that that assembly system works, but the relative moisture content of post, rail, and pin has always bugged me. And the conservators at an unmentionable museum always used to mutter about this, never having done it themselves.

    • Trent

      I don’t bother cooking them; but do wait for ages for each batch to dry. But it’s easy enough to get so far ahead that there’s always dry ones around…

      I stopped thinking about moisture content; once I got the feel for a tenon that’s ready – it has to be dry enough to withstand the pin being driven through it. If the tenon has too much moisture in it, then it will become reamed by the pin, rather than resist the pulling of the pin. so it might be (semi) dry, drier, driest (mortise, tenon & pin).

      says me.

  3. I used to cook mine buried in sand in a 250 degree oven.
    The pins, not the children.
    If their hands are sure enough to wield a cleaver I’ve got some day work for ’em.
    And some hugs.

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