the only act of shaving I know

I’ve said it before, ‘ll say it again. I have great friends. Rick gave me an ash log last week – 8’ long. Straight & clear. One of my favorite woods, especially for chairmaking. I’ve spent parts of the last few days beginning to work up the sections into chair parts. Splitting and shaving, then more splitting and shaving. Here’s some sections waiting their turn. They don’t look it here, but the ash bolts are more than 5 feet long. (on the left side of this photo)

ash on the left, some red oak behind

I split and shaved and then bent three sets of rear posts for ladderback chairs (two in this photo). There’s more of that to come.

JA chairs-to-be

I also roughed out a set of turnings for a Windsor chair – 4 legs, 3 stretchers and 2 arm posts. Those I rived, shaved, then turned just in a general way to get them drying a bit. Then I picked through the remnants from those two jobs – to shave what’s left into ladderback rungs and Windsor spindles.

roughed out chair parts

These were all essentially leftovers – after I split out the other chair parts – so today I shaved them into 3/4″ square-sections. Random lengths. The longer stuff will be Windsor spindles. Any that already taper along their length – ditto. The stuff between 14 1/2″- 18″ will mostly be ladderback rungs. Some will be spindles. The shortest stuff there is 11″ – each Windsor arm chair has 4 short spindles. There’s more than a year’s worth for me! And the top of that heap are roughed-out stretchers for one of Curtis Buchanan’s democratic side chairs. I have the seat & legs made – but needed the stretchers. Now – big problem is where to put all this (& more right behind it). Today I committed a hideous sin – stuck them in a temporary place. On the lathe bed.

chairs & chairs

There was very little waste – a few handfuls of firewood so far. These two pieces (below) I rejected because they grew so slowly – there must be more like them, but I haven’t run into it yet. The green arrows show how the most recent growth was slower still. Weak as a kitten – if that’s really an expression.

slow growth & slower still

At the end of the afternoon, I went outside and found one more off-cut. Stupidly, I cut whatever I needed & left this piece at 14″ – 14 1/4″. If it was even 1/2″ longer it would have been perfect for ladderback rungs. As it is, some will make it, but half will be too short. But it split like a dream. I got 14 blanks from it – didn’t lose one. One piece of firewood.

perfect, but short by 1/4″

The picture below shows me splitting off the pointed inner bit. But I got one blank from that pointed side – the wood was so straight it split perfectly. (that’s how I ended up with 14, even though only 13 were marked out.)

2nd split

I’ll shave those next time. Some will make it for ladderbacks – others will be good for something.

next time

My next ladderback is going to have ash posts & hickory rungs. These posts were made long ago – the rungs are in the kiln. But I have to sort out the shop & clean it up before I can make this chair…

next ladderback

Ash – what a wonderful wood, but using it always makes me sad – millions of the trees have been killed off by the invasive Emerald ash borer – (this tree I’m working was dying from other causes if I remember correctly what Rick told me) – I don’t keep on top of that situation – but just now I found some encouraging efforts about identifying resistant ash trees – let’s hope they make it –

white ash heartwood & sapwood

10 thoughts on “Ash

  1. I’m not a woodworker, but I enjoy your notes, particularly the historical ones. I live on a north facing slope, and when I had a forester here about twenty years ago, he said trees growing in lower light, like I have, grow more slowly, and produce more valuable timber, but you recent post says slow growing ash is weaker wood. Can you explain?

  2. Yes, I can Gina. I’m glad you like the historical stuff – I’m working on one lately, but they take time. Now to your question … woods like ash, oak, hickory and others are called ring-porous hardwoods. Their annular ring has 2 distinct sections to it, spring wood & summer wood. the spring wood, especially in ash and red oak – is very porous. Slower growing ring-porous hardwoods then have more spring wood – and thus not as strong as faster growing trees of the same species. It’s different for woods like maple – and especially different for softwoods like pine. Softwoods might be what your forester was talking about. If you can stand to read more – here it is, incl a video–

        • Thank you. It makes sense. Interesting sense. I’m now wondering how that slow/fast growth effects the BUTs per cord for firewood. When I had selective cutting done way back then, most was for what is called around here “saw logs” but a bit went for firewood. Luckily I don’t have too much ash in my woods, which is mostly all being cut for stove wood because of the borers.

          • As for BTUs – I imagine being less dense, slower grown oak/ash/hickory would have fewer BTUs – but probably marginally different. Just to keep things confusing I want slow-grown oak for my carved oak furniture. But those pieces are overbuilt, so the decrease in strength is not significant. But the ease of working and the look of the slow-grown stuff is what I’m after there. Just not in these sorts of chairs…

  3. They just pre-emptively cut down a bunch of ash trees at Winterthur. Wonder why American Windsor guys didn’t make elm seats? They must have made elm wheel hubs.

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