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Ask the Staff


I saw a video on the making of "span trees" in Germany and was fascinated with the process. I would love to try this but finding a "how to" is near impossible. I can see the process and that is not hard to figure out but exactly what tool would be best used for the process is my question. I am thinking possible a very sharp chisel but not sure. Also I now know that linden wood is used and that is akin to basswood here.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You,
M.T. James


Dear Mr. James,

Thank you for your inquiry about making span trees. It's easy to understand why you find them fascinating. I imagine the video you saw might have been this one: Span Trees, a German Craft Tradition

The only other good reference on the subject that I found on the web was this one: http://www.volkskunstwelt.de/info/Info-acute-s-zur-Herstellung.html

By CLICKING HERE , you should be able to see that page roughly translated into English.

You are right. Any sharp bevel-edged straight flat chisel should be fine for this process. To achieve perfect symmetry in the tapered stick on which you would begin carving the curls, use of a lathe would be helpful. In the video referenced above, it appears that the same chisel is used for shaping the tapered stick on the lathe as well as for carving the curls.

An example of a particular chisel that would work well for this purpose can be found on this page: http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/narex-chisel.aspx

Width of the chisel chosen is not crucial. Something around 20mm (about 3/4" width) would work fine.

An affordable solution for keeping the chisel sharp enough for success in this might be this item: http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/combinationwaterstonesmall2501000grit.aspx

Holding the workpiece while you are cutting the curls is another important part of the process. The worker in the video seems to have built a simple setup for doing so. One end of the stick is suspended against a fixed block of wood (with perhaps a sharp nail protruding to grab it) with the other end suspended against a similar block of wood (and nail) that is clamped so that the workpiece is held securely. The 6" version of one of these inexpensive clamps would be fine for that: http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/bar-clamp-and-spreader.aspx

Linden and basswood are different common names for the same genus of tree, tilia, which has over 40 different species with similar woodworking characteristics. Basswood that you might find in a hobby shop or woodworking supply store would work fine. Here's more info on the wood: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilia

Best of luck if you decide to pursue making your own span trees.

Best regards,
Chris Bagby, owner
Highland Woodworking


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