Month: July 2010


I’ve been commissioned to make a rocking horse, a lot of the things I am asked to make are not ordinary to the small shop I don’t think, because it could be bought at the big chain stores. Things like bowls and spoons, plates I have never made a plate but would like to, chairs come to mind, these things you can buy readily but maybe don’t carry a prospect of sentimental value so it’s apealing to buy from the artisan. I like to think its sentimental value, these are things we need  but we want one that’s unique and our own. The mass manufacturer  has just demolished the idea of  quality and uniqueness but sentimental value can be a sticky thing and will attach itself to cookie cutter pieces as well and that’s ok with me, if it carries value other than monetary then its special. But I do believe you get more for your money when buying hand-made.

The best way I know to make rockers is to rive them from a green log. Here is a quick breakdown of the process.

This is the butt just above the trunk of a Red Oak. There is a picture of this log in the fore ground on my About page, there is hardly any flare from where the tree turns itself into roots, (really it’s the other way around) its sawn very cleanly just above that point. It’s around 65″ long and I need 61″ for my firewood carriers . As you can see the top downward cut of the wedge when the tree was felled is on the right side, its less than 61″ so I need to save the left side as it’s the last of the long stuff. This is fine, I’ll be able to get my 40″ rockers and some front and back post for ladder backs.

 I have highlighted some areas of concern, a branch or knot and some wavy stuff. The wood between the obscenities and the bark is prized.

Lets take a look at the end. A rule to riving, always rive in the middle, half every time, if you don’t the stresses created from more mass to one side will pull the split off course.I want to quarter this half and there is already an established check that I have highlighted in blue, I’ll be able to quarter this half but the next riving to the 1/8th will need to follow this check, luckily its aligned      accordingly. It’s helpful to take the check already established when possible.

Score a line. I did this with the wedge, a dull axe is good too. This really helps to set up your split on long stuff.

Drive wedges leap frogging them don’t bury any and make some gluts(wood splitting wedges) they’re  fun to use and indispensible and disposable at the same time.

And Bam! didn’t see that coming, there is some metal in hear some where, it reacts with the tannic acid, the result is a blue stain, I’m surprised it didn’t show up on the end grain.

Rive again this time on the established check that was highlighted.


And again this time on the growth ring plane, I need to steam bend a  2 x 2 x 40″  long piece so I’m riving something bigger to alow for tear out or minimal run out.

Cross cut to 40 inches, I really like using this saw it’s almost effortless when you get in the rhythm.

Now here I have already split along the ray plane and riving the growth ring plane with a wedge. The top piece will be my rockers.

Now to square it up, this is not hard the wet wood slices easily along the ray plane.

Use winding sticks  a streight edge and a hand plane to establish a flat surface if there isn’t much run out of grain along the length. If there is an existing bow in the stuff use the draw knife mostly, try to  follow the line of the grain when using a plane and bend in the direction of the natural bow.

Square up two sides that share an aris. Now clean up a third side just enough to see a pencil or scribe line and mark a 2″ line and survey the amount of run out. If too much you should band saw I think I’ll take my chances with this one and run it across the table saw. Notice too the not so streight grain on the left, its one of the areas highlighted early on. That’s getting sawn off, it would probably bend fine but will be trouble to plane down the road, not a huge deal but as in any style of woodworking your always looking for the best sections and working around imperfections trying to wast the least amount of stuff.

Steam for two hours, and hour for each inch of thickness.

                           Bend in shop made press.

And cover loosely with plastic. When I worked at Nags Head Hammocks in the early 90’s we would bend well over a hundred bars in a day of steaming and then cover them with plastic so they would cool down slower, it creates condensation, a wet atmosphere and the chances of checking are greatly minimized. I’ve found it to help. Steaming will dry the wood out faster than air drying. There is more to it and every situation demands a diffrent or tweaked aproach, always a special experiance.