I want to say there is nothing
like the sudden opening of wood,
but it is like so many other things —
Billy Collins, Splitting Wood
A few days ago I split a cherry log into rough blanks for future bowls. I snapped some photos of the process.
This black cherry log was about twenty inches in diameter and four feet long. Not wanting to make any four-foot-long bowls, I crosscut the log into two sections, a shorter piece (to the right) for some ale bowls and a longer piece to the left for various others. I also cut a couple inches off the painted ends of the whole log to get to fresh wood and get past any end checks.
The dark spot in the middle of the log is decayed wood, present while the tree was still standing. I have a few ale bowls to make, so I struck some circles with a compass after studying the end grain carefully for both pattern and any checks.
Scoring a line by tapping a wedge down a line into the end grain helps ensure that the split will run where intended.
Then a few wedges driven in along the line start to open things up. Short lengths like this (14″) are usually no problem at all. I really need to grind back the splayed tops of some of those wedges. Those extended bits of metal can fly off when struck with a sledge and go who-knows-where.
The sections for each ale bowl are isolated.
Then I split away excess with a froe.
Some of those split away pieces become spoon blanks.
On this shot of the longer log section, an existing split is visible running left to right, so a decision has been made for me.
Wedges get it going…
…but these fibers crossing the gap are holding the long halves together.
An axe can get in there and sever them, allowing things to open up.
Sections A and B could be used for some small bowls with quarter-split vertical grain. Section C will be a long, wide bowl with a flat rim. Bowls from sections D and E will be carved with the bark side up and crosscut again. That’s the plan anyway.
Here they are all separated.
I removed excess with a froe from D and E. The flat area created by the froe roughly forms the bottom surface of the future bowls.
Here I’ve split away the future bottom side of section C. With much more mass on one side, those splits will run out, but working from both sides helps to even things up a bit, leaving less wood to hew away later.
It will take some time to get to all of those chunks of cherry, so they’re all in plastic bags until then.