A froe is a very useful tool, and very simple tool. It is used to rive wood, which is basically splitting wood, but with a froe it is possible to rive boards, shingles, rough out bucket and barrel staves. You can also use a froe to safely split kindling. I have been wanting a froe to call my own for years, but I've balked at the $60 price for cheaper ones, also I knew I could make my own, maybe you can to!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Steel, I've got a few lawnmower blades lying around,
A way to heat the metal, I used my Dirt Cheap Forge and it served me decently
A hammer, a ball peen, cross peen, or small sledge hammer, don't use a carpenter's hammer, they aren't made for this
an anvil, I used a section of railroad track, if I'd had a horn to help with the bend my froe would be a lot better
something to make a handle out of, I recommend hickory or ash, I used a hickory sledge handle off cut I had.
files or a grinder, I used an angle grinder
borax if you are forge welding
steel rod, corresponding drill bit , hacksaw, ball peen hammer, oil, and drill or drill press if riveting.
I had to use a blowtorch because I ran out of fuel for my forge, sad days.
something to shape the wood, I used a plane, a drawknife or spokeshave, or lathe would work too.
sandpaper, various grits up to 220
boiled linseed oil, or your prefered tool handle finish.
Step 2: Forging
I was unable to get any good pictures of my forging, so I drew you a picture!
Remember to wear natural fiber clothes and leather boots or shoes when forging, I didn't need tongs because the piece was long.
The first step is making sure your metal is flat, I was using a lawnmower blade so I had to flatten a U shaped middle section, and flatten the twist of the blade ends. this part is easy, the only reason I'm using an 8 pound hammer is because I really like it.
I took a shortcut as I was forging, I flattened half the body, quenched that half and then flattened the other end, the main problem with this is that by quenching it I may have introduced micro fractures into the steel.
The next step is creating the eye, my eye turned out misshapen because A. I ran out of charcoal and B. I don't have a horn. If I hadn't run short on fuel I could have redone the bend and it would have been about right.
The trick with the eye, is you need to leave material to either rivet or forgeweld, so as you bend it around you need to make the extra flat section lay down on top of the main body.
Now, at this point I ran out of charcoal but I'll explain the process of a forge weld in case you want to try it. First, forge welds are not magic, you can do it! With the metal as close together as you can get it, touching is best, bring the steel in that area up to a red heat, then sprinkle borax on and in the joint. it'll foam up and melt a bit and work it's way into the joint, the closer the two pieces are the better, this step is called fluxing. After fluxing, put the steel back in the fire and heat it to white hot, if you start getting sparks you've gone too far and are actually burning off the metal. As soon as it hits white hot, pull it out and start tapping the joint, not too hard, start in the middle and work your way to the edges, that way all the slag and oxides are pushed out. this will create a lot of sparks and hot stuff flying around.
after that, quench it, pull it out, if there is a visible seam, re-apply the borax and try again.
after the forge weld you may need to clean up the eye, use the horn of the anvil, light taps, and a red heat to get the desired shape. the shape of my eye is NOT a good example.
Step 3: Rivetting
If, like me, you had some difficulty with the forge weld, rivets are an option. But forge welding is just about the perfect joint, the two pieces of metal are as one. My rivets will eventually fail, time will tell how long.
Anyway, I used 3/8" steel rod to make my rivets, and therefor I used a 3/8" drill bit. But! I'd quenched the froe and the metal is HARD, I took my trusty blow torch and heated up the area where I was going to drill the holes to a light cherry color, checking by turning off the lights. While I waited for the blade to cool, I took the steel rod, the only part I actually paid for, and heated about and inch and a half of it to a cherry red. I suspect it was cold rolled, and by annealing it I am making it less likely to crack and easier to cut.
I then waited a bit, the blade was still hot, but the rod was cool enough to cut, so I used my file to start two cuts, then cut off two pieces about half an inch long each.
By the time I was done cutting the rivets, I could handle the blade so I clamped it to a sacrificial drilling board and drilled two holes, making sure to keep them oiled to pull of the heat so I wouldn't ruin my drill bit. with the first hole drilled I used a piece of rod to make sure it fit, and then drilled the second hole.
I then took the froe off my bench, re-clamped it, and took it to my machinist vice because it has a small light duty anvil on the back. Using the round side of a ball peen hammer I started in the middle of the rod and worked my way around the rod to create a mushroom, this is called peening. I then repositioned the clamp so I could hammer on the other side and mushroomed that. Now that both sides were mushroomed I took off the clamp and started peening the rod some more until I had it drawn as tight as possible. I then did the same thing to the next rivet. After all that peening I used the flat side to flatten down the rivets a bit more.
I could have used smaller rivets, but the 3/8" just seemed right, also I hope to make a makers stamp out of some of the extra rod.
Step 4: Grind!
I may be wrong, but when I made a pocket knife I ground off all the extra rivet material, I'm hoping that by doing this I haven't inadvertently weakened the joint. I used my angle grinder to clean the rivets up, as you can probably tell from the pictures, once ground you can't even see where the rivets are, I think that looks pretty neat!
The edge of the blade is a bit wonky shaped, so I ground it down a little. I left a bit of the low end in place, I figure that it might give me more riving space, and if it doesn't work out, I can either grind the entire blade down, or I can cut it off.
Next I put a slight edge on the what is going to be the splitting surface. Froes are splitting tools, as such it doesn't need to actually be sharp, just sharp enough to get started in the endgrain of a log.
optional, make it shiny!
I used an abrasive flap disk on my angle grinder to polish up as much of the froe as I could, no real reason other than I think it looks nicer.
Step 5: Handle Time!
Because I messed up the eye of the froe, the handle was a bit difficult to fit. Idealy the the handle would have been round with a slight taper, the taper is so the blade is jamb fitted to the handle.
You can make your handle with a variety of tools, I chose to go with a hand plane because my spokeshave has never worked right due to poor manufacturing, but it was a gift and I plan to fix it some day.
I used the eye of the froe and a sharpy to layout my minimum dimensions, as I was working I would be sure to always stay above that line. I had a knot that caused havoc with my plane, I actually planned across the grain there.
After planing a while, I test fit the handle and it went on about 4 inches. not ideal. So I kept planing and test fitting as I went along. The plane was pulling some rather large chunks out of the wood due to the knot, but that's where a four in one file/rasp comes in handy. Running my four in one at an angle I was able to clean up almost all of the tear out, then I used the file side and cleaned up the gouges from the rasp.
I drilled a 3/8" hole in the handle so that I can hang the handle and blade up together and waste less space.
Then it was a series of grits 100, 150, 220 to get it silky smooth.
It was then a simple matter of applying the boiled linseed oil and letting it dry.
Be careful with the boiled linseed rags, they can spontaneously combust.
Step 6: Finished Product and Thoughts
While the finish was drying I made a wooden maul to hit the froe with, NEVER hit a froe with a metal object.
After I finished the maul I put the froe together and gave it a test, the results of which are pictured above. I have no idea what type of wood that is, it split decently, except for the knots in it.
The froe performed really well, the rivets held strong the whole time I was using it, and the leverage was great. also, flat-ish rived boards!
As I mentioned before, I would much rather have forge welded the froe, and have re-forged the eye to a better shape, but despite that I am incredibly happy with this product.
I do apologize for not having photos of the forging process, I simply didn't have means to get decent pictures while forging, I needed to strike while the iron was hot, and if you have ever wondered where that saying comes from, it does indeed originate in blacksmithing.
Happy Forging y'all, my next instructable will likely feature the froe as a tool involved. Unless y'all would like me to make and instructable for a froe maul, in which case I took some pictures of my process and I can get that up in a week or so.