I’ve had my first experiences making and driving square wooden pegs or Trenails as they have been called. Previous to this, I’ve gone with round pegs and in part utilized a dowel plate. This time I split some red oak into 1/2″ square pieces with a froe and maul. It gave me an excuse to use some hand split material that I’ve kept for chair parts. Then I worked the blanks down to a smaller size with a framing chisel. I used a bench hook to protect my bench top from the repeated chisel cuts. Final pairing on the pegs was accomplished with one of my Sloyd knives.
I was amazed at how quickly you can process a bunch of pegs that way. Since my carved oak desk box involves 5/8″ thick stock for the carcass, I opted to drill 3/16″ holes for the pegs. Careful sizing of the pegs helped me to avoid splitting even with some wandering of the bit. Just like in furniture from that time period, I didn’t use glue on the pegs or in the peg holes. To drill the holes I used a shell bit in a John Fray Spofford brace. I made sure to hone the outside of the bit like a gouge and the holes came out pretty clean even in end grain.
Now I split pegs with a peg cleaver that was made by blacksmith Tom Latane, of Pepin, Wisconsin, which gives me improved control. It was somewhat awkward to use a large froe to split pegs as I recently did. Tom does beautiful work and the details on the handle are cool. If you haven’t looked at one, they a fairly hefty tool, and weight is a key aspect since they aren’t a cutting tool as Tom mentioned to me. I’ve watched Peter Follansbee use one on a DVD, and like a froe you can drive the cleaver with a club or mallet. You can also split stock by using the weight of the tool itself. I am clearly making the commitment to take on 17th Century furniture projects, probably because the carving really speaks to me.