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I've never used a froe before but I'm enamored with the idea of making my own boards.

Right now, I use splitting wedges to make quarters small enough to feed through my bandsaw. This results in a lot of waste as the wood never splits cleanly. 5" is usually the best board width I can manage once I'm done cutting.

I've looked at videos of wood being riven with a froe (not making individual planks, just squaring off the sides) but the wood being split is never identified. It always looks clean and smooth and I think that would fit through a bandsaw much better.

Can I use a froe to rive woods like mesquite and ponderosa pine?

  • I believe you can rive any wood with long straight grain. Oak happens to be one of the old standbys – bowlturner Mar 18 '15 at 1:15
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I may be off a little on this, but from my experience of looking up antique tools, a froe was primarily use to spit roof shakes (shingles). Back in the day when to homes were made with the local trees, whether cut by pit saw, adz or other means, shakes where cut with a froe after the logs where cut to a specific length, somewhere in the 20"-24" range. The wood was a straight grained wood as mentioned before, depending on what was available in the area. Some areas had cedar, others had douglas fir and oak. There may be other species out there, but I man not familiar with them. If I remember right, there is still a company that sells hand split shakes, well there was a few years ago.

Regarding longer logs, I don't think it was made to split anything much longer than a shake. I guess it is worth a try...

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You can really rive almost any wood. That statement is flawed as there are wood species, particularly those with long straight grain, that rive easier than others. It is important to know that species alone is not the key. You want your wood to be straight and relatively free of defects like knots and branches.

The size of the froe can also help determine what it is capable of. Smaller ones would be great for shingles. Larger ones can be better suited for logs. Wedges help if the blade is not as long as the work piece.

Walnut, and more specifically black walnut, is known for splitting very easily and very straight. You will see Roy Underhill praising this wood on occasion if you follow The Woodwright's Shop.

On top of wood species and log selection there are two other tools that are essential when riving (The next more so than the one that follows). If the wood is large or wider than your fore then splitting chisels are your best friend to make sure that the split does not turn as you work.

If you are doing longer logs or feel more conformable with the wood secured then a riving brake is very desirable.

The trick with riving larger wood is to, gently if possible, twist the fore as you go to push the split down the wood. This can speed up the process and it is harder to push the fore when you can hit it dead on with the mallet.

Riving with a riving brake

Image from pfollansbee.wordpress.com

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A froe splits wood along the grain, so it works best on wood with long straight grain. Anything with a complex figure is likely to fight being split this way.

I haven't worked with the woods you mention, so I can't offer any more specific advice.

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