American Woodworker

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Friday at Brad's Bench


The farm where I grew up is thick with old white oak trees. A few years ago, we took down one of them that had been threatening to fall on the machine shed. It had been standing dead for a number of years, so we thought it would be excellent firewood, but that's about it.  Once it was on the ground, however, it was clear that this wasn't just firewood, but beautiful, tight-grained lumber for projects.

I started picking out the nicest sections of trunk I could find. I split them with wedges, gluts and a sledge hammer. After the first splitting, I moved to the froe and club, riving them into roughly 1" thick boards. Then, I stacked the boards, stickered, in the machine shed.


I've been starting to make projects for my family out of this lovely wood, one of the first being this cane I made for my mom. It's a simple affair, hand-carved and shaped, with a wedged through-tenon connecting the handle to the stem. All the shaping work was done with a drawknife and spokeshave. I left it unfinished, just using a handful of the shavings to polish the surface.

She really didn't want to ever use a cane, but this one she is happy to use all the time. It's a fine feeling to make special projects like this using a tree you've known your whole life. In this case, this tree had been on our farm for five generations.