Monday 16 May 2011

Why work wood green?

One of the reasons for using green or un-seasoned wood, is that it is much softer and easier to cut when it is in its fresh, recently felled state. When it is wet and full of water (sap) it is a joy to work with. Sharp tools glide through  fibres of even dense hardwoods like oak and beech, and require less sharpening than when used with seasoned timber. The other reason is down to how the material is converted from its original round log state, into smaller dimensions. In green woodworking,  mechanical or labour intensive sawing along the grain to produce planks, is avoided. Instead the log is split along its length, first in half, then quartered, and so on, until the required dimension is reached, a process known as riving. This is a most efficient way of conversion, but only if the wood is still green, otherwise riving becomes increasingly difficult as the wood dries out.
A happy consequence of riving is that the natural tendency of wood to split and check as it dries in the round or plank state, is reduced and usually eliminated. This means that a piece of green wood, split down and shaped into, for example, a chair leg, can be trusted to dry out without deforming or cracking. Because green woodworkers alway aim to use straight grained knot free material for ease of riving, items like chairs or tool handles are inherently strong and stable, having the grain running through their whole length, and highly unlikely to suffer from splittng or warping.
Another less practical reason for green wood-working is that it is so highly enjoyable. The whole process, from felling the tree, to riving and shaving, from drilling or turning, to sawing or carving, can all be done without the use of power tools. This applies whether you are making a tent peg, a ladder or an oak framed building. Green wood-working is quiet, fun and satisfying, with myriad different crafts from around the world included under the title. The tools required are relatively inexpensive and available, and the materials easy to acquire. It is an ancient way of producing wooden items without reliance on fossil fuels, or machines that need high levels of energy to run them. Learning it is to learn to work wood the natural way, by going with the grain and understanding intimately the properties and characteristics of an amazing material, thereby increasing our intimacy with nature, and providing ourselves with beautiful and useful things.

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