In Chris Schwarz Blog, Woodworking Blogs

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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

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Showing 6 comments
  • 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!

  • Matt_Rob

    Baltimore =good times and crab cakes at G&M grill .

  • 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.

  • David Lyell

    Please post an image of Brendan stickering his chair parts in the woods!

  • 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.


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