The check is in the wood

I have just recently had the opportunity an impetus to dig into ‘Chairmaker’s Notebook’ by Peter Galbert (Lost Art Press) and all I can say is that, for many reasons I wish I had read this book years ago. One reason is that it’s really freeing. Galbert weaves knowledge and narrative into an engaging tapestry that makes you feel like he’s sitting on the Windsor rocker just down the porch from you telling you all of this first-hand. He’s so humble and genuine, it is impossible not to get on board with him.

Secondly, this book is so chock full of good advice that it’s probably way under-priced (don’t tell Chris or Peter). The hard-earned lessons of Galbert’s own journey down the winding Windsor pathway are so generously shared that you just feel grateful after reading every page.

The one lesson I learned for myself this week (the hard way) is that if you want to work green wood, you have to work it green. A few months ago a neighbor cut down a cherry tree. I hauled off every sizable log that I could and have been storing them in the corner of the garage since then. Over time, the logs began to split themselves and I rejoiced that most of the hard work was done for me. But, as I began to process those split logs for turning on the lathe, I began to see my folly: not sealing the ends left the logs ready to split, but also riddled with checks.

I was able to get almost no usable billets out of the shorter logs and only when I started cutting down a longer section was I able to find wood that was green enough to work. Besides the shakes, it also meant much more laborious processing with saw, drawknife and plane (I’m between band saws at the moment). When I finally got into some “green” wood it was much more manageable.

Had I read the book a year ago I would have known that. All of that self-realization came in just the first twenty pages or so.

It’s amazing what wood can teach you, even long after it’s been made into a book.



5 Comments Add yours

  1. Darren Watson says:

    I am a timber framer, so I am familiar with working with and the aging of green wood. From the picture you show, and your description, the drying symptom that you are referring to is known as a “check” not a “shake.” The technical definition of checks defines them as a result of wood shrinking faster along the growth rings than across them. Tangential shrinkage vs. radial shrinkage. Shakes are a separation of the growth rings between the layers of late and early wood and are not necessarily a symptom of drying. If you are interested in finding out more about the specific of this differential wood movement Understanding Wood by R. Bruce Hoadley is a great resource.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Darren, thank you! That’s the reason I love the conversations on this blog.


      1. Darren Watson says:

        I’m glad that it was helpful. I was a bit worried that I might be overstepping a bit. Thanks!


  2. Fixed! Thanks again Darren.


  3. rene. says:

    Something for the wall, the diary, the darker times of the day…
    Thank you for that words in that order:
    “It’s amazing what wood can teach you, even long after it’s been made into a book.”

    Liked by 2 people

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