Friday, December 12, 2014

Riving pegs

After a detour on other projects, I am putting finish on my son's desk and getting ready to take it to him at Christmas time.  I had forgotten to peg the drawer fronts and I needed to rive some more stock for the pegs, which reminded me of something.

I have the Veritas dowel former, which is easy enough to use but the instructions blithely describe how to prepare the stock, which isn't so easy for quarter inch pegs.  Especially in such thin pegs, it is extremely important to rive the stock so that the fibers are continuous through the length of the peg.  As I learned by experiment, the strength difference between a commercial dowel and a riven peg is enormous.  If the grain in your scrap is very straight and parallel to an edge, I suppose you could saw them out but I didn't have any like that.  So, I would hold a piece of scrap about two inches long on the bench with one hand, set a chisel on top of it with the other hand, move my first hand away and split it.  Kind of like splitting kindling.  Obviously, things can get rickety and here was the result on the very last one:

I wasn't applying any force and just the weight of the sharp chisel did this when the little piece tipped over.  Fortunately, nothing that CA glue couldn't fix.  There are forty-eight pegs in this desk so riving the stock got boring and that probably contributed to the accident happening.  Long story short, I was an idiot.

Having learned this completely unnecessary lesson, I was a little bit smarter this time.  I just put a wooden handscrew on the bench and used it to hold the stock as I split out the pegs.  Duh.  Maybe there is a better way, but this prevented any further injuries.

Here is an excerpt from the Veritas instructions:
Take the time to hand plane the blank down to just slightly over the final diameter and then knock off the corners to form an octagon. To facilitate starting the blank in the plate, taper one end of the blank...
 OK, but this is a quarter of an inch.  This time, after I split out the pieces, I just roughly whittled them to size and tapered an end.  It worked fairly well, but I'd be really interested to know if any of you have a better approach.  Too late, I recalled that Paul Sellers made an easy little jig to plane pieces of thin stock to a uniform thickness (basically runners on the sides for the plane with an indent in the middle the correct depth in which you place the stock) and, if I was going to make this many riven pegs again, I think that is what I would try.


  1. I ran into this same problem but without the blood offering to the gods. I chiseled a small vee notch in a piece of scrap and planed my pegs octagonal. I did the taper on one end with a chisel.
    I hope you didn't need stiches - when was the last time you got a tetanus shot ?

  2. After doing the EXACT same thing with a chisel, I got this guy:

    Works like a two handed froe; defnitely much easier and safer than a chisel.