This article was originally posted on the Little Good Pieces blog on Oct 3, 2010.
Anybody see anything wrong with this picture? Show of hands…thought so. Nobody in their right mind would try this. Putting a large irregularly shaped object through a tablesaw as-is is a surefire recipe for disaster.
Why do it, then? To make a point. Power tools, by and large, are designed to do their best work with relatively straight wood. Also, with the exception of the lathe, stationary power tools are downright dangerous to use with irregularly shaped wood.
I can hear you now, “Hold on, man. All I have to do is set up a jig or sled, and I can work that log just fine! After all, that’s how the sawmills do it.” Absolutely right, but tell me, what is your jig or sled made with? Relatively straight pieces of wood (or metal in the case of sawmills). Power tools by their very nature place certain starting requirements on materials that cannot be ignored. Even tools for flattening stock, like jointers, require pieces to be within certain limits before they can be used effectively.
This is the area where hand tools come into their own. They excel at, and are indeed designed for, taking irregular pieces straight from the tree, and converting them into usable stock. Using froe, hewing axe, and drawknife, a log section can be converted into usable stock in a surprisingly short period of time.
Boring can be accomplished with a brace and auger bit on surprisingly uneven wood. Another neat point – the wetter the wood, the easier it is to rough it down!
If you’re interested in heading in this direction, check out the blogs by Pete Follansbee, Kari Hultman, and Jennie Alexander. All are excellent resources in their own right, and can in turn provide links to other sources to get you started.
So, there’s nothing wrong with starting with green wood straight from the stump. For the right sort of projects, with the right hand tools, can be the start of a beautiful friendship.
_I hope you enjoyed this article. If you liked what you read, visit my blog: http://littlegoodpieces.wordpress.com/_
-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog: http://littlegoodpieces.wordpress.com