The other day I decided to take my small tool bag, including some straight from the thrift store, down to the beach for some woodworking practice. Using only a rusted old chisel that I sharpened on a beach rock (I forgot my sharpening files and "official" sharpening stones in my other tool bag) and a few pieces of driftwood, I chiseled out my first non-predrilled Mortise! 1.25"W by 2.5"L by about 1.5"D. I was under clothed and a storm blew in so I called it at that. It is a bit rough and tapers inwards near the bottom, but otherwise quite impressive for a first try with poor-condition tools.
I took some proper files and a bit of oil-stone to the chisel and tested it out on a piece of scrap lumber. The 2x4 had already been compromized less than a foot away from my work area so it ended up splitting further as I worked. Considering, I'd say the Mortise (this one 1.25" by 1.25" square) turned out better than the first but it's hard to tell since I'm obviously using sub-par woods. Would I have better luck working on green wood, vs seasoned, vs weathered/kiln-dried?
Green wood is not dimensionally stable. As the humidity changes it can shrink and swell to a greater extent than seasoned wood. Wood that has been kiln dried will have been taken down to a moisture content of 5-7%. Wood that has dried out in the open or under a roof will reach around 12%. The lower the moisture content, the better-the wood will not soak up the humidity and swell as much. There will always be some amount of swelling and shrinking if the wood, and products made from wood, are exposed to changes in humidity that come with the weather and seasons.
A 2x4 is a good practice piece, but studs are usually produced from pine and spruce. These are softwoods (conifers). Hardwoods (deciduous trees) such as oak, maple, and pecan offer much greater strength but you will find they take a bit more effort to work by hand. You'll appreciate that stone when you work with hardwoods! Pallets are often made with hardwoods. I see oak and maple all the time. It's a source of material to practice with for little or no cost.
I know of a guy who makes benches from driftwood. He does not put in the effort of chiseling mortises and tenons. The sticks are cut and screwed together. Interesting to look at, but they look a little rickety. He gets a couple hundred bucks each as I recall. If one were to take the time to build it with superior workmanship, I suspect a premium price could be commanded.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
Brian Ham wrote:Would I have better luck working on green wood, vs seasoned, vs weathered/kiln-dried?
Yes...almost always. This is why we work in green (wet wood) almost exclusively in timber framing. We even will soak a dryer piece of wood that we are starting to work with oil (sometimes water) and dip our chisels in chameli, or olive oil (non drying oils) to facilitate cutting.
Woodworking in general has many...let us say...strong cultures with opinions...about it. This seems to be especially true in the last 40 years, where very distinct camps have formed on everything from "how to sharpen" to "kiln dried vs air dried vs green woodworking."
I love what you are trying to do but just going out and doing it! Perhaps look into some of the green woodworking books and traditional methods of woodworking. This may be something that is of interest. Keep us all posted here of your progress, thoughts, and questions.
Location: Chimacum, WA Sunset Zone 5, USDA Zone 8B
I fired up my Forge today and Smithed myself a new 3/4" wood-carving chisel out of some leaf-spring steel. Pre-filing, the tip was 0.783" wide and slightly off-set. First filing attempt brought it to exactly 0.750". I'm good...
A Mortise I cut in an old White Oak pallet board with my new chisel, pre-filing. Hole is 0.80" square, by 1.158" deep. I could have gone deeper with it except I was getting hungry and it was latish.
I'm quite happy with the results. This chisel cut better in kiln-dried Oak than the thrift-store one did on driftwood WRCedar (beach rock sharpened) or on 2x4 (filed and 5-minute oil-stone sharpened).
Solar Station Construction Plans by Ben Peterson -- ebook