Stock Purchase

For me, the scariest part of building a chair, or stool in this case, was choosing the leg stock. Watching you tube, TV, or the internet told me that I was going to have to rive some wood to make sure that I didn’t have weak legs. That’s a challenging prospect for an urban woodworker.  Logs are hard to come by and sourcing appropriate wood to rive is difficult, to say the least.  Where I live there are a couple of hardwood stores in town, but they tend not to stock a lot of material, preferring to order as the customer needs it. Which leaves me combing the small lumber racks at woodcraft most of the time.  Kinda sad.  Even though, I’ve had pretty good success with this approach and was able to score enough stock for a couple of 3-legged stools.

I thought I’d just show a few pictures of what I looked for in the leg stock.   I was following some suggestions made by Brendan Gaffney of burnHeart Made about how he approached choosing stock for his tools.  After I started this post, he posted a fantastic informational video on what he looks for.

I pretty much followed his advice, looking for nearly perfectly flatsawn growth rings on the end as shown below.

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As flatsawn as I could find.  Yes, tassel loafers are admissible shop wear.

Then I went to the side of the board and tried to make sure that the grain didn’t run out. This is about as good as I could get in the 8/4 stock that was available. There is a little run out at the end, but if you put that toward the floor then you should be safe (I know that might seem counter intuitive, but the highest stresses are at the top of the leg).

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So while I couldn’t get riven stock for this build, I was able to get some leg stock that I feel comfortable sitting on. The hardest part was getting a good look at how the grain ran along the length of the board. The rough-sawn texture makes the grain hard to see and so you have to spend a bit of time angling it around in the light before it reveals itself.  The other option I had thought of involved finding 12/4 stock and just trying to rive the oak dry.  I am pretty certain that would be at least moderately successful.

Stock Photos

If you asked someone what was is most fun part of woodworking, prepping stock is generally not everyone’s first choice.  While I wouldn’t sign up for a full week of prepping stick with handtools, I’ve found that I actually enjoy establishing a true edge and face.  I don’t have a jointer, so I have to do all the flattening by hand.  There is something satisfying about being able to run your square down an edge and have it all line up.  Makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something significant.

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I still use my dewalt surface planer to do a lot of thicknessing, but you have to establish a flat face for the planer to work properly.  Like all things in handwork, the stock prepping process is so much easier if your tools are sharp.  Especially in hardwoods.  You can usually muscle through pine.

If prepping your stock by hand seems scary, check out this video that popular woodworking recently posted.  It’s a great step by step for getting it done. Not a huge fan of the intro soundtrack on this video….