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How to Pound A Black Ash Log Into Woodsplints
By Susi Nuss

Black ash (Fraxinus nigra) is a ring porous wood that can be pounded apart into woodsplints each as thick as an annual growth ring of the tree. These splints are used as basketry materials.

Difficulty Level: Hard    Time Required: Several days


Here's How:

  1. Dress appropriately including waterproof boots because black ash is a high altitude swamp resident.
  2. Enlist the aid of one or more friends. Never go out to the woods to cut a tree alone.
  3. Trek out into the woods. Identify a stand of black ash trees. When selecting a tree use an increment borer to check the quality of the growth rings. Do not cut an inferior tree. Allow it to stand so that it can create the next generation of trees.
  4. Select a healthy tree that has straight grain and no prominent knots or branching for as long a piece of the trunk as possible.
  5. Cut the tree above the root swelling. Cut the trunk again just before the first major side branches.
  6. If a second straight section of trunk exists above the first side branches, that can be cut as well.
  7. Cut the remaining top growth up well enough so that the wood returns to the soil as quickly as possible.
  8. Bring home your new prize.
  9. Set up an area where you will pound your log. Devise a way to stabilize the log and lift it off the ground.
  10. Remove the bark with a bark spud or drawknife.
  11. Use a wooden mallet or the back of an axe that has had the sharp edges ground off. Beat the length of the log in overlapping impacts of the mallet.
  12. Allow your hand to relax its grip on the handle just before impact to reduce the shock to your hand and arm.
  13. Use a knife to score the splint along the grain line the full length of the log.
  14. The pounding crushes the porous growth between each growth ring of the tree and allows the dense summer wood portion of the growth ring to separate from the log.
  15. Coil each strip of woodsplint as you remove it from the log. Allow to dry before storing.

Tips:

  1. The log must be kept moist until processing is complete. Soak it in a pond, stream or bury in damp sawdust. The quicker you process the log, the better.
  2. Each growth ring of the tree has a porous open area between it and the next year's growth ring. This porous area is the Spring growth of the tree and the dense Summer growth is what is usable as splint.
  3. Soak the splint you have coiled, dried and stored thoroughly before further processing.

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