This is not a box…

stool stick

I think I made about 6 carved boxes in the last month. I love making them, but some variety is nice too. So it was fun to go into the shop today and pick out some squared stock for a joined stool I have coming up next. At the end of the bench you can see 4 of 5 blanks for the stiles. I’m checking the first one against the story stick for the stool I’m making. I’ll pick the best 4 of the batch, and put the 5th one back in the pile.

truing it up

Some of these 2″ squares were planed from green wood in late September and they are just right now for working further. Not bone-dry, not sopping wet. In the photo above, I’m truing up the two outside faces. I called them 2″ squares, but they’re initially planed a bit over that, 2 1/8″ or so. That leaves room for this step, getting them nice & straight, with the outside faces at 90 degrees to each other.

checking w the square

After I like those two faces, I mark the 2″ dimension, and plane down to that.

marking gauge

From there, I go ahead to layout and mortising. I didn’t shoot any photos of that today. I’ve covered that at length here, in the book with Jennie Alexander and in the video series I shot last spring on making a joined stool.

Here’s the real thing I want to talk about – case hardening. I might be the only woodworker you’re going to hear extol the virtues of case-hardened oak. I trimmed about 2″ off the end of this stile – and could clearly see the darker middle of the blank, surrounded by lighter-colored, drier outer edges. A nightmare for some, heaven for me.

optimal condition for me

The next step for me is to chop four mortises in this piece – two of them 5/16″ wide by 3 1/4″ long, the other two only 2″ long. About 1 1/2″ deep. I can chop mortises in dry stock, but it’s easier when that stock has more moisture in it. (Usually a mortise takes me about 4-6 minutes – unless I get distracted by action out at the birdfeeders.) In this stock, I’ll quickly chop past the drier wood into the slightly wetter interior.

So why not just chop those joints back in September when it was sopping wet? I used to do so, but it’s a bit trickier. Really wet wood is a bit fuzzy to cut, the fibers mush around more so than cutting cleanly. And that touches on the really great feature of this in-between material. After mortising, I’m going to turn these stiles on the lathe – and that drier, outer wood cuts more cleanly – allowing more crisp detail (as much as you can get in red oak) than if the wood were just out of the log. (here’s a photo from way back when I was working on the book w JA )

turning a cove

Case-hardened stock in sawn boards might present a problem – here I’m using riven, straight-grained oak. Nearly perfect material. For more about case-hardening, you can read this https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fpltn/fpltn-213-1952.pdf

to make a joined stool – there’s a whole book – https://lostartpress.com/collections/green-woodworking/products/make-a-joint-stool-from-a-tree

and a series of videos – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB2LcmbKpkcZic8bc96QKMno2CdpFsNFX

I’m going to go back and add a couple of videos to that, I never shot the beginning…

4 thoughts on “This is not a box…

  1. Peter, all very interesting as usual.

    I agree about the ‘case-hardening’ of partially dried timber. Initially the thought is of instability, twist and checking when this happens, however, to my thinking another advantage at this stage is that the mortises sunk into this slightly more moist core will, in time tend to shrink onto your captive tenon, thereby adding an element of tightness. It may be a minute amount, I know, but an already tight fit gets tighter.
    Good luck…..

  2. Hello Peter – the spoon has arrived – wonderful. Thank you so much for giving me the chance to make it mine. Very thoughtful. Enjoy your blog and your great photography of flora and fauna. Happy and healthy holiday to you and yours. M in Minnesota

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