You'll need a smaller version of the root maul to use with your froe. The L-shaped froe leads two lives as a splitting tool. As you drive it into the wood, left: The beveled striking head keeps the glut from splintering.

right: A hickory root maul drives dogwood wedges to split a red oak log.

As long as both pieces bend equally... ... the plank can split straight.

right: Bend the thicker side against your knee to keep the split straight...

right: Bend the thicker side against your knee to keep the split straight...

left: . . . or use a riving break made from the crotch of a tree.

left: . . . or use a riving break made from the crotch of a tree.

Push down on the thicker side to bring the split back to the center.
Split off the sapwood with the broad hatchet.

it acts as a wedge. Once sunk in the end, when you pull back on the handle, the blade acts as a lever to pry the two pieces apart.

You'll need to set the wood into a notch of sorts before you pull back on the froe, because the splitting action works only if the wood can't twist or skid away. You can also do this with your body, inclining the wood away from you while bending your knee against it. With the bottom of the wood against the earth, and the middle against your knee, the froe can do its work.

Like a canoe down the rapids, the split is going to go with the flow of the grain. But just as you can guide the canoe from side to side, so too can you guide the split. The split will tend to run to the side that bends more. Bent fibers are pulled and weakened; thus, the thinner side, bending more, tends to get thinner and thinner, and the split "runs out." You can direct the split by deliberately bending one side more than the other. With the froe in one hand, your free hand does the steering. Set the thicker side against your knee and pull back on the top. Flip the piece around and bend the other half as necessary, keeping the split running down the middle.

On long splits, you can stand on the piece and pull up on the thicker end. When you need to do a lot of such work, though, make a riving break from a closely forked limb. The gap should be less than a foot or so—and the more parallel the branches of the fork, the better. The fork needs to lie horizontally, somewhat more than knee high. The bottom of the fork can just sit on a stump, but the far end gets two timbers set through it in an X. The X wants to collapse, but the fork constrains it—like this: X

Now you can push down on the froe handle, with the sides of the riving break replacing your knee and the ground. You can more easily steer the split, because you can push down with your weight on the thicker side. Flip the board as needed to keep the thickening side down and the split running true.

Repeating this thousands of times in a day's work, the countryman shingle maker exploits the planes of weakness in the wood, and a tree becomes a roof. The froe is the essential wedge of the shingle maker. Shingles fresh from the froe may need trimming, a job for the hatchet's edge.

left: A straight-bitted broad hatchet does well on narrow pieces . . .

First, though, why do the shingles need trimming? Oak shingles, split radially from the log, carry a band of white sapwood on one edge. Sapwood is the living wood of the tree just under the bark. After a few years, as more fresh wood has grown outward, the aging sapwood builds up natural preservatives and becomes heartwood. In some trees, like hickory and sycamore, the heart-wood has little color change and gains hardly any resistance to decay. In other species like oak, cedar, and walnut, the color and durability change is profound. Sapwood, however, has no resistance to rot. In oak shingles exposed to the weather, it has to come off with the hatchet.

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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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