Scoring is the removal of significant amounts of wood from one side of a log, as the first step in squaring the log into a flat-sided timber. I finally began scoring my maple workbench slab-top a few days ago. But alas, other demands on my time are destined to keep this a background project. However, I am long overdue for a blog update, and thought a short article describing the scoring process might be welcomed by those who are interested.
The scoring process essentially consists of cutting a sequence of notches along each side of the log that you intend to square. If you can imagine these first three notches continuing all the way down the length of the log, you get the basic idea:
The intent is to cut the notches to the depth of the layout lines running along the sides of the log. In other words, each notch just about touches the lines on either side of the log, while the bottom of each notch is just deep enough to meet the plane intersecting the two lines.
Of course, in practice, you can never cut them that precisely -- they either go a little too deep, resulting in axe marks in the timber face that you might need to smooth later on (e.g. using an adze), or they don't go quite deeply enough, so you have that much more wood to remove when you subsequently hew (square) the timber face with your broad axe. When I took the photos above, I had not yet finished cutting these notches all the way down to the lines.
Once the notches are cut, the next step is to remove the wood between them. Usually, this is accomplished by taking relatively horizontal strikes at the wood chunks between the notches, using the felling axe. However, because this is such a large log, I'll first split the chunks with a maul, and then clear the broken-up material with my felling axe.
Traditionally, scoring is done while standing atop the log, with the side being scored positioned vertically, as the gentleman in this photograph is doing:
Standing on the log actually makes quite a bit of sense. If you were out in the forest doing this, you could avoid standing on wet, muddy, or uneven ground. Furthermore, you could allow the weight of the axe to do most of the work, while you simply guide it to the target. However, in my case, the maple trunk is too large and too irregularly shaped to make this a comfortable position. Furthermore, the breadth of the trunk also makes it that much more difficult to gauge where the axe is striking, relative to the layout lines.
So, I have chosen instead to keep the face of the log horizontal while I score it. And with my ultra-simple and highly flexible hewing/bucking cradle, there is an advantage to doing it this way, since I can readily rotate the log to any angular position, and then securely lock it in place.
This means that I can begin cutting a notch on the horizontal face, rotate the log slightly toward me, and then continue cutting the notch toward the far side, while generally being able to see how close I am to the line. I can then rotate the log the other way to cut to the line on the near side of the log. All this can be accomplished while standing in the same position, and consistently moving the axe with the same basic motion, striking at about a 45 degree angle, toward the butt-end of the log:
For example, in the photograph below, I had already started the first notch, and then wanted to cut down to the line on the far side. So I tilted the log to the left and secured it...
...and then continued my cut toward the far line:
And, yes, I admit it -- I cut just a little too far on this one, striking just below the line at one point. But this is precisely why I allowed myself a 2" margin between the lines and the final slab surface.
In the photo below-left, I've released the movable supports and used a peavey to rotate the log in the other direction (away from me), so I can continue cutting the notch toward the near line. The below-right photo shows the log locked in place:
You can see that I got a cleaner cut this time -- just about as close to the line as I wanted it:
I'll post more photos as soon I finish cutting the remaining notches on this face of the log. In the mean time, I'll keep swinging and striking, while those crows keep a-cawing and a-mocking... :-)
[ The weight of an ax-head poised aloft, The grip of earth on outspread feet - Robert Frost ]