Chris Schwarz's Blog

Yes, Megan and Brendan are Alive

This week, Popular Woodworking Magazine is short two employees as Megan Fitzpatrick and Brendan Gaffney have joined me on a chair class in Maryland. We’re building a version of the Jennie Alexander chair from “Make a Chair From a Tree” with Larry Barrett – one of Jennie’s students and friends.

If you think that taking a class is easy for an experienced woodworking magazine editor, think again. No matter how good you are at woodworking, things go awry in a classroom environment.

When Brendan (and several of us) rived up a back post for his chair this afternoon, they were pockmarked with bug holes. So we had to split out new stock and look for squirm-free stock.

One of Megan’s back posts was an almost impossible piece of black oak. No matter how sharp her drawknife, the tool wanted to skitter over the surface. Larry, the instructor, took a few swipes at it and declared it the the most difficult piece of wood in the batch.

And I’ve had my struggles as well.

When riving my back posts, I couldn’t get my wedge to drive into the oak. I hit it with a froe club. Nothing. A sledge. Nothing. More sledge. All the sledge. So much sledge I don’t have any more sledge.


I don’t remember how we got the wedge started. I think my friend Narayan Nayar (who took some of the photos for this blog entry) held the wedge. I John Henry-ed the thing.

Anyway, tomorrow will bring more challenges. Perhaps disaster. Or some good chair parts.

— Christopher Schwarz

6 thoughts on “Yes, Megan and Brendan are Alive

  1. earthartinc

    Is the wood dry or is it green? Was this splitting traditionally done with a tree felled in the winter and split then? ON a lighter note… a Lickety Log Splitter is the tool to have!

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick

      It was green (mostly). Larry split most of last spring/early summer, I believe, for the parts he prepped ahead of our visit. What we were splitting had been felled 6 months ago, around the same time

  2. saul

    It’s a bit after the fact, but I keep a couple of wide ( 3″ or so) brick cutting chisels on had for that.

  3. mbholden

    Try a small 1/8 to1/4 inch deep saw kerf to set your froe into, something to give it a starting point.
    Work smarter not harder.

Comments are closed.