It’s pretty easy to think that modern tools and techniques are the only way to reduce a piece of stock to size. In fact, methods handed down since edged tools existed are still extremely effective. One perfect example is riving — taking a chunk of log and reducing it to the rough size and shape for your project by using a stick and froe.
The most interesting part is how quick and straight the work turns out to be. If split from the end on with a straight blade (and I’m guessing a little practice), wood is very predictable in the way it separates. A recent program on frontier cabin building featured a pair of guys using the same method to build siding for a log cabin-style house. The resulting planking was remarkably even and straight for jumped-up timber. Though they needed some heavy wedges and a jig framework to hold the board, the process was exactly the same as the one in this video.
It’s a shade on the brutal side, and the result is far from a finished material — but you can indeed rough-cut lumber in the middle of nowhere with surprising accuracy.
Riving Boards [YouTube]