On Wood Selection

Both fast- and slow-growing wood present good opportunities.

By Peter Follansbee
Pages 26-28

Wood selection is an important part of any woodworking project. I sometimes feel like I take it to an extreme, like I’m some kind of oak snob. Sometimes people see pieces I reject and they can’t understand what’s wrong with me. Too much twist, a bow here or there. Not straight enough grain. I’m spoiled from decades of using the straightest-grained, radially-riven oak boards I can get. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When Im selecting my wood right from the log, many factors help determine which piece of wood goes into which project. Recently I got some nice clear fresh red oak for a weekend workshop I was helping to teach through Plymouth CRAFT, a group Im involved with in Plymouth, Mass.

At first glance, the log looked perfect, even too good maybe. Oak is the principal timber I work with making reproduction furniture, and I had my eye on any leftovers after the class was done. But even after splitting logs for 40 years, I can sometimes pick losers. This log was nearly a total loss. The minute we drove the first wedge into the end grain, I saw that the split was going to twist very badly over the 5′  length of the log.

Purchase the June 2018 issue of Popular Woodworking here.