I have been meaning to shoot photos in the shop of tool marks; and how they are made. I have not got to the pictures yet, but recently a reader asked about some difficulty he’d been having with tear-out in white oak. Some tear-out is common, especially in white oak that is near the juvenile wood (the section of a board nearest the center of the tree).
What is acceptable, and where it falls in a piece of furniture varies widely. Here’s some examples of just a few tool marks; mostly riving, hewing and some planing. We have seen some of these photos here before, but a review never hurts. First, one of my favorite shots; the bottom boards of a joined chest, Dedham MA c. 1640-1670. Here we have a lot to see. Riven material, never touched by anything other than a wedges and a froe for some of the bottom boards. Others have hatchet work. Iron/tannic acid staining where the nails secure the bottom boards to the rear rail. this staining also needs moisture present to occur. The sawmarks where the joiner trimmed the floor boards at the back of the chest. His saw ran against the outside rear rail, scratched it to a fare-thee-well. So, an extreme case where close-enough is good enough. but none of this shows on the finished piece.
Here is a view of a joined stool showing the contrast between the surface that shows and those that don’t – the molding on the upper rail, and in the background, hatceht work on the inner faces of the adjacent upper rails.
Here’s some plane chatter (or scratch stock tear-out) in the moldings on this English cupboard (Lakes District, 1691) flatsawn wood, another culprit.
Torn-up grain, mostly from riving, inside the till space on a joined chest from Ispwich, MA. (till is missing, of course)
How about tear-out on the front of a piece? See the background (i.e. the panel) on this chest with drawer, Salem MA. 1630s-1690s.
Inside a Plymouth Colony chest with drawers, (from a slide, so not the best shot)
That’s enough to get us started. Soon I’ll do one with photos of really first-rate work. It exists, even in New England.
Most of these surfaces I showed tonight result from the riving process, but some of them are from planing. The causes for these torn-up surfaces from a plane can be many; wood that’s too wet/green; It needs to lose some moisture before you can “finish” plane it. Twisted stuff near the heart of the tree; this juvenile wood is fibrous and tough. It often is wavy also, not as straight at that stuff our neared the bark. Plane irons that need honing will also effect the surface you produce.
Took a few days off at Christmas…hung around the house most of the time. Here on the Jones River, December is a great time for birds. We see more ducks in winter than in summer by far. This week there’s been a flock of about 10 or 12 hooded mergansers, but they are quite skittish. I had to go back to a few years to find a decent photo of one, I had more time then to chase them down for pictures:
We saw lots of hawks and herons too, this cooper’s hawk sat right up for its picture:
But today I got back to the shop today for a bit. I decided to repair the riving brake I have been using for a few years. It was built just a little different from what I wanted; so today I tore off the cross-pieces and re-did them. I like the upper piece to sit behind the leg on my left, and in front of the leg on my right. I think this arrangement provides a greater range of holding possibilities.
Once I got the brake straightened out, I split a section of red oak, just to make sure that it was tight enough. In the photo above you see I have a 45″ bolt of oak standing up with its upper end jutting out between the rails of the brake. I drive the froe into the end grain, then lift the oak up and wedge it between the rails, but lying just about horizontally. This allows great leverage when you are trying to direct the split this way or that…
While I was working out in the woodpile to fix this brake, a red-tailed hawk showed up & stayed for about half an hour. Dove at a squirrel, but missed. He stayed quite low in the trees, and was not at all bothered by me with a camera. So, I tried to get some woodworking in this post, but it’s mostly birds. Maybe next time.
The stock for most of my work is riven, or split, from a freshly-cut, or “green” log, usually oak. To get wide panels used in joinery, a large diameter log is best – I like them at least 2 feet in diameter. Here, the split is begun by driving two steel wedges into the end of the log.
Once the split is open enough, a large wooden wedge is driven into the split – this really does much of the work of opening up the log.