Making The Spindles

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Windsor chair making starts with a freshly cut log. Because green wood is swollen and lubricated with moisture, it is easy to cleave and bend. It is also less work to shape. Splitting wood from a log offers other advantages. First, it is stronger, because the break follows the wood fibers rather than shearing them, as a sawmill does. And second, wood seasons better if it is shaped while still green. A chair spindle, for example, will season more quickly and be less prone to cracking than a board, which may cup or check.

If you have access to a woodlot, you can fell your own trees using a chain saw. Otherwise, you may be able to obtain green logs from a sawmill, a local firewood supplier, or your local roads department. You can make an entire chair from hardwoods like hickory, white ash, or oak; but many woodworkers also use softwoods such as poplar and pine for the seat, which are easier to shape with hand tools.

The process described on the following pages for riving, or splitting, a log into spindle blanks can also be used to produce arm, leg, and stretcher blanks.

Once a log has been cut into manageable lengths, it is time to split it. Driving an iron wedge into the end of the log with a sledgehammer, as shown at left, will separate the wood fibers along the grain. Wear eye protection when you strike metal against metal.

Once a log has been cut into manageable lengths, it is time to split it. Driving an iron wedge into the end of the log with a sledgehammer, as shown at left, will separate the wood fibers along the grain. Wear eye protection when you strike metal against metal.

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