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Today was my first official day of vacation. I was attacked by voracious mosquitoes, got a fairly nasty sunburn, sweated my tuckus off, and will require analgesics in order to so much as roll out of bed tomorrow. And it was awesome.

I’m in Pittsboro, N.C., with nine other students in Peter Follansbee’s joint stool class at Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s School. Today, Peter showed us how to take  a section of a log down to boards that we then took to the shop and planed flat on one side.

Peter has a story in the October issue, “The Best Oak Money Can’t Buy,” in which he writes about the process – so I’ve read about it several times (first edit, second edit and binder). In theory, it doesn’t sound too hard. In practice, it is serious physical labor of a kind I haven’t done since I was in my early 20s (the heaviest thing I lift on a regular basis these days is my purse).  And because we took turns with the wedges and sledges to split the oak, and with the froes and mallets to rive it, I wasn’t even working that much of the time.

You’ll be able to read more about the process of taking logs to lumber when the October issue comes out, but here’s a short video preview. Peter makes it look easy – for him, and for a couple of the guys here with me, it is. For me, not so much. Regardless, it’s a lot of fun.

– Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 8 comments
  • geppetto425

    I did that my brother a few years ago. He taught me how to make a Windsor writing arm chair. Best time in woodworking I’ve ever had!

  • nateswoodworks

    That looks like a fun, hard working class. Years back I found a piece of spalted maple while camping and I tried for a few minutes with a hatchet (it’s all I had and it was too dull for this) and quickly realized that I would just throw it in my truck and use the bandsaw when I got home!! Hope you have a great vacation.

  • jmoorse

    I saw this done at Heritage School of Woodworking in Texas last year. I’d like to try it some day, time and oak permitting.

    By the way, the dog in the video was a nice touch. Maybe you could show the other end of him next time!


  • jsilverman

    try splitting 5 cords of wood (by hand) to heat your home during the winter… now that is a lot of work…

    the class looked like a lot of fun! great vacation, can someone talk my wife into letting me go?

  • dyslexicdba

    Classic picture. It begs to ask whether it is better to be the mighty oak or ax or perhaps the ax wielding editor on vacation. In words of Douglas Adams “It may disturb you. It scares the willies out of me”.

  • Fred West

    I wish I was there also as it looks like a great class. Peter does make it look far too easy and I just have this funny feeling that by the end I might be missing part of a leg. 😮 Fred

  • AAAndrew

    Peter has inspired me. Last year I was driving down the road and saw a section of log that had fallen off a truck. Someone had taken down a white ash tree and a section had gotten away. I retrieved it and took it home. After riving it turned into small boards about 3″ x 8″ x 3/8″. But I’ll tell ya’, even humble ash looks amazing when riven.

    I wanted so much to be in that class, but it just didn’t work out. I’m just 35 minutes down the road from Pittsboro. Someday. Enjoy your time, and remember to drink lots of water!


  • Jonathan Szczepanski

    That looks like fun Megan. I tried to split some of my own lumber once. I think I almost threw up. Good times. Good times. I am looking forward to his classes at WIA this year.


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