Introduction: How to Make a Froe - a Green Woodworking Tool

About: Professionally I have been a summer camp counselor, a Draftsman/designer, salesperson, bicycle mechanic, laminate flooring machine mechanic, teacher, and designer of the OP Loftbed. Personally I am a human tha…

I have always loved working with wood. Green woodworking, as the name implies, is working with wood that has recently been cut down or has fallen down. I had a few oak trees get blown over and thought I would make a few things with them. You might remember the Giant Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle:

I wanted a Froe which is a tool used to split green wood. You can use wedges and hammers, but a froe is more precise and can split wide thin pieces. Froes were used to make wood shingles, back in the day, and are sometimes called shingle froes.

It is a pretty basic tool. It is a blade attached to a handle at a right angle. The blade is struck with a wooden mallet or club and the handle is used to apply leverage to the blade and split the wood. Traditionally froes were forged in a blacksmith shop, but I decided to build a modern froe out of flat bar steel, a steel pipe, and a wooden handle.

Step 1: Be Careful

Safety is not the lack of risk, but the management of risks.

There are lots of things that could hurt you while making a froe; heat and light from welding and grinding, sharp edges that could cut you, loud noises that could damage your hearing, even gravity comes into play.

Be Careful.

Wear PPE

Ear plugs, safety glasses, gloves, welding mask, fire resistant clothing

Step 2: Materials

A simple tool like a froe only requires a few materials:

I used a 3/8" thick x 2" wide mild steel flat bar 36" long It cost about $20 and was enough to make two froes.

A 1-1/2" x 6" long black pipe nipple. I could have used pipe, but the pipe nipple was enough for two froes.

A 3/8" x 2" long lag bolt and a 3/8" fender washer and lock washer to go with the bolt.

The handle was made from a section of a freshly fallen white oak tree.

Step 3: Tools

This project did require a bunch of tools.

Some metal working tools: A vise, hacksaw, file, grinder and a welding machine. If you do not have access to a welding machine there may be someone local to you that would weld the pieces together for you relatively inexpensively.

Some general marking and measuring tools: Tape measure, combination square, and a sharpie.

And some woodworking tools: A saw, wedges, hammer, a carving ax, and a carving knife.

Step 4: Measure and Mark

Measure and mark your flat bar to guide you in grinding. I marked the middle of the edge to make sure my bevel was symmetrical. If your bevel is not in the middle, your froe might split crooked. I also measured and marked both sides to give me a guide mark for the angle of the bevel. I made one blade 18" long and another 24" long.

Step 5: Get You Nose to the Grindstone

There will be a lot of grinding. It may not look like much, but you will be grinding off a bunch of steel to make your blade sharp. Take your time and make sure you grind both sides symmetrically. A froe blade is only splitting, not carving, so it does not have to be heat treated. I also set up outside over grass to have fresh air and not have to clean up grinding dust from my shop.

Step 6: Cut to Length

I made one blade 18" long and another 24" long. Make sure your cut is a right angle to the blade.

Step 7: Measure and Cut Your Pipe

I used a 1-1/2" x 6" long pipe nipple, because it was cheaper than buying a piece of pipe. I cut off the threaded ends of the nipple and then cut the rest into two 3" long sections. (one for each of my two froes) I used a file to deburr the outsides and insides of the pipes.

Step 8: Prepare the Surfaces for Welding

I used a grinder to smooth and clean the two pieces, where they would be welded together.

Step 9: Weld

Using a welder, weld the blade to the pipe. Make sure the blade is centered and lined up with the pipe. MIG TIG or stick welding would work fine with mild steel. The froe is subject to lots of forces from impact to torque, so you want to make sure you have a strong joint between the pipe and the blade.

Step 10: Split the Wood for a Handle

You want your handle to be hardwood. I used oak. The handle should be about 1.5 times longer than the blade. I made the handle for my 18" long froe about 30" long.

Step 11: Rough Shape the Handle

Use a carving ax to get the split wood down to a rough cylindrical shape slightly larger than the pipe piece of the froe.

Step 12: Carve the Handle

Use a carving knife to smooth out the handle, keeping it slightly larger than the pipe piece of the froe.

Step 13: Cut and Carve the Tenon Joint on the Handle

Use the pipe piece of the froe as a gauge to mark for the tenon on the end of the handle. Use a saw to cut the shoulder of the tenon and then use a carving knife to carefully cut down to the shoulder. The finished tenon should fit snugly in the pipe piece of the froe. You could sand the handle, but I just carved it smooth and rounded off the handle end, for comfort.

Step 14: Fix the Handle to the Blade

Drill a hole slightly smaller than the lag bolt into the bottom of the handle. Then screw the lag bolt into the hole. The pressure of the lag bolt might be enough to hold the handle on, but I also used a fender and lock washer for added hold.

Step 15: Video

As always, I made a video. It is a bit longish, but I think it might make some of the steps a bit clearer.

Thank you for watching. I hope you enjoy.

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