further riving details

I got another note from Drew Langsner this morning; here it is.
riving shingles in Japan
Hi Peter,
Here’s more on riving. This photo is of a gentleman who demonstrates riving shingles at Hida Folk Museum, near Takayama City in the Japan Alps. You can easily see that he’s been doing this for hundreds of years. He is riving chestnut.
  It’s not shown in this photo but he will often rive a billet into thirds. Here’s the technique. He starts a split 1/3 of the way across the width. Shortly after the froe enters the billet he removes the froe. He then drives it half way in the remaining two-thirds of the billet. Immediately the froe is removed, replaced into the first opening, and driven down some. Then removed and replaced back into the second split. This continues until one of the side boards pops off. Then he finishes riving the other piece into halves. Very neat trick. I think the chestnut makes this somewhat easier than other woods because it is more bendy and therefore doesn’t pop apart as fast as a wood like red oak.
  Also note his riving brake. I’ve been riving wood for shingles, chairs, fencing for 40 years now but had never seen anything like this. The brake not only holds the wood in place. It also puts pressure (tension) on the outer side of the curve and this causes the fibers along the curve to come apart as the split opens up. 
One other trick. The master warms the wood over a small fire before riving. In winter this defrosts it. But I think that all year around it makes the wood a bit more bendy.
The froe is almost identical to the ones we use. 
(Photo by Drew Langsner from the 2010 Country Workshops Japan Craft Tour)
Thanks, Drew. We’ll see more about the CW froe soon.

6 thoughts on “further riving details

  1. “You can easily see that he’s been doing this for hundreds of years.” – well, he does look old but not that old!
    Interesting techniques. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Chestnut shingles were at one time probably the most common roofing material in England wherever there were woodlands. But they are rare now due to lack of the wood to make them with and also for being banned centuries ago for use in towns due to the fire hazards.

  3. Just to add to the debate Chesnut shingles were probably never the shingle of choice in England that was reserved for Oak with Chesnut often being described as “poor mans oak ” . However along the south coast of England which has large areas of chesnut growing it was very common. The most prestigous building even in the Chesnut growing areas churches etc were usually roofed in oak.
    There is no lack of wood to make either Chesnut or Oak shingles in England .The reason they dropped out of fashion in the areas that were popular was firstly they are costly to make . secondly the skilled men who make them were descimated in the two world wars and thirdly the growth of slate both from within the UK and imported from France which offered a longer lasting and therefore more cost effective covering.
    They were never banned out right in English towns it was very much a local issue like thatch.
    We are still making them I have been part of a team making 100m2 of Oak shingles for a project in England. Strangley our shingle cleving brake looks alot like the one in the picture.

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