Jennie Alexander’s Riving Stump

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m in greater Baltimore for a chairmaking class with Larry Barrett, a student of Jennie Alexander’s (author of the seminal greenwood book “Make a Chair From a Tree”).

Yesterday, we took a field trip to downtown Baltimore to visit with Alexander, who gave us a whirlwind tour of how to make one of her chairs. Above, I’m testing out the comfort of one of her later chairs – the steam-bent posts, slight backward seat angle and wider slats do make it more sittable than her earliest efforts (which are still good). Variations are shown side by side below.

She introduced us to the various tools and jigs she uses, including a horizontal drilling setup and the bending form shown below.

One of the most curious features of her shop, which I suppose counts as a jig of sorts, is a stump that is seated on a concrete footer on the ground underneath her shop, and comes up through a hole to be flush with the shop floor. It’s the riving station.

Atop this, when she needs to split small pieces, she places another bit of the stump to form a table at the proper height. This transfers the force to the ground, rather than to the floorboards and joists, and is far more solid. When she’s done, she rolls the top bit out of the way. Very clever.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

3 thoughts on “Jennie Alexander’s Riving Stump

  1. Just_Iain

    Those with big power tools do the same to reduce vibration. And wooden floor joists are comfortable to work on because they natural flex so a solid concrete base makes perfect sense even for hand tool woodworkers.

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