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In hand-tool woodworking, brains almost always trump brawn. For example, when I need to remove a lot of material from a localized area, I need to think like a tree assassin and exploit its weaknesses.

Think about it for a minute: Trees are much stronger in the vertical axis than they are in the horizontal. In the vertical axis, the individual cells are long, skinny and have a tremendous amount of beam strength so that a thin tree trunk can hold up an enormous number of branches.

When we want to kill a tree, the easiest way is to girdle it – that’s where you remove a layer of bark and sapwood from the circumference of the trunk. This cuts off the water supply from the roots to the leaves.

Then we crosscut the tree to take it down. I’ve never seen anyone cleave a standing tree in the vertical axis, though that would be fairly cool to see.



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