Ever Use a Froe

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Forum topic by bvak123 posted 02-05-2014 10:34 AM 3179 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 1601 days

02-05-2014 10:34 AM

I have had several opportunities to get some quality lumber from downed trees and have a few now that I hate to pass up. I have looked into the chainsaw mill and although cheap, relatively speaking, it is still over my head. Has anyone made their own lumber using a froe? I know it would be labor intensive but would it be possible to split, say, red oak? If anyone has any experience with this please let me know.

24 replies so far

View hairy's profile


2721 posts in 3561 days

#1 posted 02-05-2014 11:29 AM

I do it, but for short pieces.

-- My reality check bounced...

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127 posts in 3056 days

#2 posted 02-05-2014 02:39 PM

I use a froe for riving out chair parts after splitting with a wedge. Riving is controlled splitting. You want to get a froe with a rounded profile not a straight wedge. This gives a fulcrum point with tremendous power. I made an oak club that I rap on the froe to get it started. Always try to start in the middle of the piece and pull the froe to the fatter side. “froe to the fat” The split will want to go to the weaker side so as soon as you see that happening, turn the froe over and again pull towards the fat side. It really helps to have some kind of brake to hold the material off the ground. It can be a fence or a crotch in a tree or something else you come up with. If the piece is thick, you can also put in on the ground put your foot on the corner and pull. This gives tremendous leverage. Dave Sawyer is a famous chairmaker who has rived backs for settees sometimes 12 feet long. He also tries to rive within 1//8 of an inch of final size. I find that tough to do, but Dave just says take it slow and watch the split change.

Curtis Buchanan has a series of windsor chairmaking videos on youtube. One is on using the froe. Good luck. I hope this helps.

-- Stevo

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8 posts in 1601 days

#3 posted 02-05-2014 03:25 PM

Thanks Stevo. I will look up more about riving. Ultimately I want to make 8/4 boards as long as I can manage. The largest tree is about 18” wide. Does anyone know where to get a froe large enought for a task like this?

View dhazelton's profile


2771 posts in 2326 days

#4 posted 02-05-2014 04:04 PM

You would need a two man saw, one man down in a pit to do what you’re talking about. Even then you would have no control as it’s not something you do every day. Better start eating your Wheaties. Find someone with a bandsaw mill if you actually want to have useable lumber.

View mahdee's profile


3898 posts in 1796 days

#5 posted 02-05-2014 04:41 PM

I have a large fro I used to make shingles. It has been sitting on a shelf for more than 20 years now. You might want to do that with it instead of making boards. To make boards, use a saw to cut about 3-4” in the middle of the tree. Then use wedges to split the tree through its natural grain line. Then split the halves in half. From there, you should get some nice pieces of board. Off course only the first 6-8’ will produce good shingle/lumber (if the tree is straight).


View Kelly's profile


2039 posts in 2973 days

#6 posted 02-05-2014 06:37 PM

Fros are common in the cedar shake and shingle industry. They make quick work of, say, twenty-four inch cedar blocks.

The mallets for fros are several pound chunks of aluminum, about six inches in diameter, with a handle through a hole in the center.

Cedar spits well, but it’d be a task taking on a log with a fro. However, with wedges to hold it open, it may be possible. That said, the fros I’ve used are for splitting shorter blocks. Spitting logs would put a lot of pressure on the tempered blade. I used to have a couple fros that had been broken off, but were handy for working small pieces of cedar. If I were making spit rails, as for fences, I’d probably use wedges and a mall.

Using a fro on other than cedar or redwood would be a hit and miss thing, I suspect. For fruit or nut wood, you’d probably be inclined to abandon the project quickly. Especially if you are hitting knots and changes in grain direction. Other woods may lend themselves better to the process. In the end, the wood grain is kind of the boss.

View hydro's profile


208 posts in 1781 days

#7 posted 02-05-2014 07:36 PM

I hear that a Froe makes quick work of riving boards out of elm logs.

-- Minnesota Woodworkers Guild, Past President, Lifetime member.

View jdh122's profile


1018 posts in 2847 days

#8 posted 02-05-2014 08:22 PM

For a great demonstration on what Stevo is referring to, check out this video of Peter Galbert:
It is certainly do-able, although you’ll also need two steel wedges and a glut (wooden wedge) to get the log down from huge to manageable.
Red oak is a relatively easy to split (I haven’t tried with elm, but unlike hydro, I hear that it’s extremely difficult to split because the grain is interlocked). The splitting itself won’t be that much work, but since you split radially you end up with wedge-shaped pieces which you’ll then have to work down with a scrubplane or hewing hatchet. This is a lot of work. People working in the seventeenth-century style work this way, but with white instead of read oak (slightly easier to split). You can check out Peter Follansbee’s blog. You will notice that the boards he works with are fairly short, although as long as the log is straight-grained you should be able to do it for longer pieces.
My advice would be that, instead of trying to make it into boards, you try your hand at green wood chair making – it’s a pile of fun.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View BJODay's profile


526 posts in 1972 days

#9 posted 02-05-2014 08:29 PM

Here is a link to a youtube video. It is a film about a Native American, (Canadian), wood worker. Very interesting and informative. He splits planks from a tree using chisels and wedges.


View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3077 days

#10 posted 02-05-2014 08:49 PM

View dhazelton's profile


2771 posts in 2326 days

#11 posted 02-05-2014 09:39 PM

I would suggest that if you try something like that and have no experience with an adze that you wear shin guards, steel toed boots, and have the phone with 911 on speed dial right there – one slip and it’ll get ugly. I stand by what I said earlier – if you really want ‘quality lumber’ with a minimum of waste that you find a band saw mill somewhere. An awful lot of wood will end up as kindling if you go the hand route. If it’s just the experience you want then by all means go for it. You can also investigate building your own band saw mill from an engine, car wheels and tires etc. A lot of folks do it.

View bvak123's profile


8 posts in 1601 days

#12 posted 02-07-2014 12:41 AM

Good info all. Can anyone make an experienced suggestion on where I might look for a froe that is up to this kind of task? I see several by doing a search but some are described as a shingle froe and others are not. I would guess I am mot looking for a shingle froe…

View Randy_ATX's profile


879 posts in 2471 days

#13 posted 02-07-2014 01:03 AM

Not to discourage you but I just don’t see using a froe on a log longer than 24” or so. I’ve had luck searching craigslist for local bandsaw mills (even portable ones) that are very reasonable. I had 10 logs about 8’ long slabbed up for $100 total. 2hrs with my help and we were done.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View MalcolmLaurel's profile


298 posts in 1652 days

#14 posted 02-07-2014 01:06 AM

I have a tiny (6”) froe that I made myself for specialized uses, but I plan to buy this 8 inch one from Lie-Neilsen. (They also have a 12” one.)

-- Malcolm Laurel -

View bvak123's profile


8 posts in 1601 days

#15 posted 02-07-2014 02:01 AM

Seems like my best course of action would be to split the logs into quarters with wedges then rive boards from there with a froe. I will et yall know if I have any success.

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