Split oak baskets - Laying Out, Halving, and Splitting the Log

After felling the tree with a cut as close to the ground as possible, and freeing I he desired section from the rest of the trunk, Ykamato studies the wood for halving and splitting.

"I look for knots when I lay it out on the ground," he says. "If there is a knot, I make the first split close to it, since that section will be lost anyway. I split down from the top of the log to the base. That way, if there's a knot in there some¬where, the split has a tendency to cut right through it. But I've found that if you run into a knot when splitting from bottom to top, the split usually runs around the knot and maybe even slabs off."

Using a maul and steel wedge, the basket maker splits the log in half. Then he moves one third of the way down each section, where he drives in the maul to quarter the log. This way, our woodworker knows he's right in the run of the grain, since the true grain can't be seen from the ends of a section.

After the log has been quartered, he crosscuts it into about 3-foot sections, then slabs off the heart- wood, which, if it is relatively knot-free, he uses later for handles, ribs, and accent strips. Then, Yarger splits the quartered sections into eighths, called billets.


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