by Harvey Harman – December, 2018    

Modern woodworking primarily uses dried wood that has been sawed, milled, and shaped into standard dimensions.  Green woodworking in contrast is a form of  woodworking that is much older and involves working with wood in more diversity of shapes and  when it is “green” or recently felled or still has a high moisture content.  The wood is typically split to get it close to the right thickness rather than sawed, and then further worked with sharp tools to shape it into its desired shape.  It uses a much smaller arsenal of tools, and all tools are ones that can be relatively inexpensively obtained compared with the costs of outfitting a well tooled modern wood working shop. 

Green woodworking has been practiced for centuries and the techniques for doing it are well established.   It also uses a pattern of sustainable forest management based on felling a tree and letting the coppice shoots regrow from the stump to a certain size to use for future wood projects.  In this way the forest can be managed  to provide a constant supply of wood over hundreds of years without ever clear cutting or doing major disturbance.

Additionally, as wood joined together when green dries out over time the joints and connections shrink making the connections even stronger.  Green woodworking builds on the particular strengths and properties of each different tree species, and helps the woodworker learn which tree species to employ for different uses.

Some examples of green woodworking are the following:

  • Wooden spoons, utensils, bowls, and dishes
  •  Chairs, stools, tables, and furniture
  •  Timber frame sheds, barns, and houses
  •  Bark and wooden baskets
  •  Handles for axes, scythes, rakes, shovels, and other tools.
  •  Wood shingles
  • Yokes for oxen, and specialty tool items
  •   Decorative and functional household items
  •   Carving of patterns, letters, or pictures

A basic set of tools might consist of the following:

  • froe, for splitting wood
  • wood mallet for hitting the froe
  • side-axe, and a well-sharpened axe or carving axe for rough work and shaping
  • draw-knife, for working wood along the grain
  • set of turning chisels if you set up a foot powered lathe
  • spooning knives for carving, and maybe some gouge chisels for carving
  • shaving horse made of wood for holding the wood while you work it – optional

You can learn more about Green Woodworking or take workshops at the Living Well Folk School in the center of North Carolina just south of Greensboro.  For a full list of classes in 2019 go to www.LivingWellEarthStewards.com