Riving Brake – Part 1

Ah! Springtime! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the trees are putting on new foliage.  New foliage means that sap is rising, and that means the opening of greenwoodworking season.

I had made my first greenwood stepstool last fall, and had put it aside till I could find a nice young white oak for seat material. With the arrival of spring, the search was on.  However, before I could begin, I had to make sure everything was in readiness. Once the tree was on the ground, I would want to work as quickly as possible to process the wood while it was still wet and easy to split.  I already had the requisite chain saw, wedges, gluts, and matching striking tools, as well as hand axes and my large Gransfors froe.  Additionally, I had placed an order for a 4″ basketmaker’s froe from Roush Forged Iron that should be ready in the next couple of weeks.

One thing I still needed desperately was a proper riving brake.  For those unfamiliar with greenwoodworking, a riving brake is used in conjunction with a froe to rive billets of wood into usable sizes for further shaping.  Traditionally, a riving brake consisted of a forked section of trunk that the billet was wedged between for levering with the froe.  However, this approach has never worked as well for me as I would have liked.  I was considering making one of the stationary fence-like models until I stumbled upon the one made by Peter Galbert.  His design struck a chord with me, and I decided to make my own.

Peter’s design features pieces of pipe set at particular locations in holes drilled in pieces of dimension lumber.  These provide a variety of angles and spaces for holding the wood to be rived, and the entire design is elegant in its simplicity.  After printing off an enlarged copy of the picture from the above post that shows the hole location, I took stock of the necessary materials.  3/4″ plywood pieces and screws were already present in abundance in the shop, so I headed off to the box store for the only missing elements:  an 8′ 2×10 and four 12″ x 3/4″ black pipe nipples.

Next time, we’ll get into the actual construction.


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