The joiner’s craft was transformed during the seventeenth century, after wood ceased to be thought of purely as a constructional material. Until the middle years of the century, the colour and texture of the wood were disregarded, their decorative possibilities ignored, and their surfaces were made acceptable to the eye by painting, carving or inlaying. Interest in the natural color and marking of the wood was aroused by the rediscovery of veneering….
— Edward Lucie-Smith, “Furniture: A Concise History”
In our joint stool projects, Jennie Alexander and I always struggled with the riven seat board. It takes a VERY large diameter oak to get a quartered board almost 11” wide. When it came to writing “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree,” we were faced with the question: “What to tell the readers?” We settled on a few scenarios: some will have one-board seats from large logs; others will use two-board seats. We’ve done both. Then, I worked out a way to squeak a board out of stock that comes up just a tiny bit narrow.
This requires breaking a cardinal rule of riving — ALWAYS SPLIT IN HALF.
When we got to that part of the book last year, I had no large oaks even close to what I
wanted. The solution was for me to sketch my splitting technique and have Eleanor Underhill make one of her excellent diagrams for the book. But first I had to get it by Alexander, which meant numerous refinements on my explanation of this splitting. We had never done this particular method together.
Now, in making joined chests, you are faced with similar challenges; only it’s the need for wide panel stock, not seat boards. Today I split out some very straight-grained oak that came up to about 9” wide in the radial face. I wanted 10” of course. Having seen how flat these radial planes were, I knew I could break off a panel against the rules and get my wide stuff….
I didn’t have time for detail photos, but I did manage to shoot these two. Above you can see the froe driven into the end grain across the radial plane — it takes a good log to break this way successfully.
Here is a detail of the end grain of an off-cut from this log, showing the same sort of split. So refer to fig. 3-25 on page 43 and its related text. Then think of these photos. Sometimes 1/2” to 3/4” can make a difference.