sifting through two new logs

looking at the end grain of a red oak

Rick McKee & I went to the sawmill not too long ago & got 2 new oak logs. One red, one white. The red one’s for joinery, the white one’s for chairmaking. The past two weeks I’ve started sifting through them making them into parts of things.

starting the split

We split them at the mill, I have no way to get the whole log down to my backyard & shop. The white oak was an 8-footer, and I only bought 6′ of the red oak, leaving the mill 12′. Eighty cents a board foot. Neither of them were the best logs, but they were the best we could find in some small piles of oak logs. And they’re both working out very well, better than expected even.

short term storage

With winter coming on, storing the green wood is easier. No insects to be concerned with. Above are six-foot sections standing against a ivy-covered stone wall/embankment. Their bottom ends are not in the dirt, but standing on some reject oak sections. The greyer ones are pieces from previous collections that for one reason or another never got used. They become firewood. I like this vertical storage because it’s easier to select the next piece to work from. Rather than having to lift them from a pile, I just tilt them out and bring them down one at a time to be split further into parts. (at the top of that view is the road, just below out of sight is the riving brake, then the shop. That’s why you hear so much traffic in some of my videos).

But some green wood is in piles.

more green wood

On the north side of the shop, on timbers to keep it off the ground, is a small pile of odds & ends. One chunk of the white oak, but only four feet long. Some turning stock, maple & cherry and a longer piece (the last one) of this year’s hickory harvest. In my experience, those cheap tarps are awful at keeping things dry but they excel at keeping things wet. Now that I have the white oak for bending chair parts, I’ll soon cut up the remaining hickory and make it into Windsor chair spindles. The turning stock is for the cupboard I’m making.

planing long rails in red oak

I have framed much of that cupboard, but had a few small, but long, rails to prep. Then onto drawer fronts and backs. These parts are around 40″ long. I start by planing a clear radial face, getting it flat & true. Then hewing off the two tangential faces back outside. Then back to planing. Then back to hewing & back to planing. Not the most efficient, but a nice rhythm to it. One I’m quite familiar with.

hewing red oak

The cupboard has so many parts, more than 40 just for the frame, I label them as I make them.

drawer fronts and backs begun

But I don’t spend the whole day processing stock. I do that for the first half, then onto something else after lunch. So I got out the short square blocks that make some of the front stiles to the lower case & cut the mortises in them. These small (1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″ long) mortises are a pain. I have a hard time chopping them like a real mortise, so I bore them with an auger bit then clean them out with a chisel. So it takes twice as long. These blocks are 9 1/8″ long and 3 1/4″ square. There’s 4 of these in the lower case, and two shorter ones in the cornice. These two frame the top drawer to the lower case.

lower case front stiles

The white oak is for chair making. I’m only making one chair right now, the JA ladderback that I’m making as a video. I bent the posts for that a week ago. I don’t often get white oak – I’m a little leery of it for my joinery because I have a harder time drying it than red oak. But for chairmaking I love it. Bends like nobody’s business.

JA ladderback rear posts

Here’s a reject chair post that checked a day or two after I shaved it. It was close to the middle of the tree and pretty wiggly. That’s what I didn’t bother bending it. I just stuck it in the corner and a few days later saw the checking. The ones I used, further out in the tree, are fine.

checking in a reject white oak chair post

One chair I want to try to make this winter is Curtis Buchanan’s comb back – his “new” one which he’s been making for decades now. I needed a large chunk of thick stock to make the bending form & found some fake beams someone was throwing away at the dump. Nearly 3″ thick white pine. Perfect. This comb is 31″ long or so.

new comb back crest bent

That’s much of what I’ve been up to. Soon I’ll have the cupboard framed and begin making the parts for the moldings, etc. If you were here last year you saw that same cupboard in great detail – here’s a link to a whole big pile of blog posts about it

I got that by searching for “Essex County cupboard project” – the search button often can help you find stuff I’ve blathered on about for the past 14 years or so. But the organization of the material is not great. You might get swept down some rabbit holes.

11 thoughts on “sifting through two new logs

  1. Really helpful. Converting a log to workable wood is a lot harder and more complicated that I first thought. Nice to see your results are also not perfect.


  2. Hi Peter – Looking forward to your the video series on the JA chair…I’m preparing for my first attempt at one soon. I bought a 12″dia X 12’L ash log last week from the sawmill…$35 here in Lancaster county PA, hauled it home in 2 pieces, and will start splitting it this week.

  3. Thanks for your 14 years of info even if I do go down a rabbit hole or two I still learn something. That looks like a big mill seeing all the logs way in the background, you get your regular pick of the litter I guess. Thx again much appreciated

  4. You mentioned, “those cheap tarps are awful at keeping things dry but they excel at keeping things wet”. I don’t know if it would be of any use, but I was recently researching covers for pop-up campers, etc. No one liked the “cheap tarps” because they kept the camper wet under the tarp, like your wood. About half the people did like covers using a Tyvek (non-woven polyethylene house wrap) material or Gortex (non-woven Teflon for clothing). They are both designed to keep drops of water from going through the fabric and still allow water vapor to go through. Tyvek is cheaper per square foot, but it is usually sold in 100 ft rolls.

  5. In this post you mentioned “Eighty cents a board foot.” Is there a specific formula you use to calculate the number of board feet in a log?
    Best regards,
    Gardiner, NY

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