What is Green Woodworking?

Green woodworking is not just a clever name for “environmentally friendly woodwork”. Instead, it refers to an ancient practice of woodworking which just so happens to be more eco-friendly than many modern practices. Listen up! This is what you need to know.

What Is Green Woodworking?

green woodworking

Green woodworking is the art of working with “green” wood. By green we mean, freshly cut and undried wood. 

The wood is only worked on with hand tools to turn it into the finished product. That means it is more eco-friendly than the industrial production of “regular” wood which is dried, treated, and then worked with power tools. 

Why Work With Green Wood?

Green woodworking isn’t done solely for the sake of the environment. Unseasoned wood is much easier to work with than seasoned wood. It also offers advantages in the strength and flexibility of the finished product. 

So, there are solid practical reasons for green woodworking beyond the environmental benefits. 

Techniques Of Green Woodworking

Green woodworking is an ancient tradition with some modern twists and it’s still completely viable and the process isn’t complicated. 

There are four main parts to green woodworking, as follows:

Splitting Wood

splitting wood

The act of splitting wood has many different names including riving and cleaving. 

For green woodworking the wood must be split (using an axe or by hammering a wedge into the wood to forcibly split it) along the flow of the grain. 

This ensures that the wood fibers are intact and not severed and thus, they retain their strength and flexibility. 

Hewing The Timber Face

hewing wood

The next job is to “hew” (flatten) the face of the timber. 

This was done, traditionally, by using the blade of an axe but today, it can be milled flat more easily. 

But if you find an old piece of woodwork, you may still be able to spot the markings from the axe. 

Hand Shaving

hand shaving

Many green woodworkers in the modern era will use a workbench and an electric saw to speed up this process but you can use a traditional shaving horse to shave the wood down.

Then you can grab a draw knife and tidy it up for use.

Lathe Turning

lathe turning

An antique lathe was a fully manual process which required the use of a reciprocal pole to get it turning. 

You can use an electric lathe if you want to get a fast output but antique lathes produce much higher-quality turned wood. 

What Tools Do You Need?

If you want to give green woodworking a go yourself, you don’t need to spend a fortune (in fact, we think you could keep it at under $100, possibly less if you buy second-hand tools).

You need:

  • Axes – buy a good quality axe, it’s the premium tool of the bunch and you don’t want it to break when you split the wood
  • Drawknives – find a drawknife (or two) that’s comfortable in your hand and robust enough to last
  • Froes – froes are used for riveting timber and they’re super simple and very good at their job
  • Woodworking knives – to get finer details finished properly, you need a more intricate knife (they’re also great for carving spoons)
  • Hand saws – get one made of top quality steel, hacksaws give you the most flexibility

If you want a lathe, it’s going to add a bit more cost on top but we’d recommend you get started on something simpler than a turned wood project and these tools are all you need for that!

Anyone can get into green woodworking too, so, if you have some spare time and a creative bent, you should give it a try yourself!