Jefferson Swivel and Secretary

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Splitting (riving) Hard Maple for Chair Parts

    As I began a new and rather large chair order this week, 10 to be exact. I went through the maple logs I had gotten 3 or 4 months ago and they just weren't up to par. So I had to search out another nice maple, (hard to find in Missouri by the way) that could get enough parts for all 10 chairs and extra if needed. I found this beauty at my local log guy. It was about 20" in diameter one way and 17" the other and 9 foot long or so. It was really nice and straight and just had one little blemish on the bark. So I bought it got it home and began cutting it to rough length. This is how I laid out my blanks.
    Instead of the "normal" way of splitting it into 1/8ths I tried basically making it a large checker board. I drew lines first across the center as normal and then again across the other way making 1/4's, then instead of drawing lines into 1/8th's I decided to lay it out every 2-1/2" from those first two lines, it gave me what you see in this picture.

 After all the lines were drawn on the end of the log, I used my normal way of scribing in with a hatchet to establish the split I want, ( I go a few times across each scribe line to deepen the line making the wedges easier to set and it also gives the split a direction that you want it to go). First I split the log in half, then into quarter's, then I work each quarter till it's all split up,  move on to the next quarter and so on keeping a few fibers in tact so the log doesn't fall over.
 Looks like a cheese slicer went over on this log, wish it was that simple! This method provided me with the best quality billets I've ever gotten. Usually I have a bunch of triangular splits that aren't always easy to get just what I need. By doing it this way I was able to get more uniform 2 1/2" square blocks that while not all perfect, were much easier to work and mount in the lathe. Plus every billet so far has the growth rings running at a 45 degree angle making it "rift" rived. I haven't looked at every billet yet, but of the over 60 that I split out of 2 sections, they have all been "rift" rived.
I did have a few that were unusable, mostly the 4 that were dead center and a couple around the outside, but this photo shows, out of just one of the sections I cut to 24" long, it got me about 30 billets and just had 4 or 5 that are going to be firewood this winter. I'll have to make sure all goes well with this method, and if so, I believe I'll be using it permanently. Now to rough turn them all round and begin making chair parts.


  1. Thanks for sharing your method. I'd like to try it myself, but for spoon making blanks rather than chair parts.

    I have that same hatchet, by the way. I find the handle a little uncomfortable for long-term use, but it's great for starting splits.

  2. matt, yea, I do my logs basically the same way--I use a strip of plywood 2 1/2 wide, mark a cross hair center and go fr. there, and there is plenty of maple up this way!