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Thread: Making a small froe

  1. #1
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    Making a small froe

    Hey all

    Im planning on making a froe in the coming days. I have 8 of 1/2 steel bar and a few inches of 1 1/4 steel tube that will get welded after I grind a cutting(riving?) edge on the bar. Mild steel will be used as Im not super worried about edge retention or hardness really on a froe and this will be for riving small parts, mainly spoon blanks and milking stool legs. Until now Ive gotten by using a hatchet and sledge or bandsaw. Freshly riven red maple will be used for the handle, still wet as it was harvested from the street in Flatbush Brooklyn less than a week ago.

    The blacksmith at my shop is urging me to use the forge and draw out some of the steel and make an eye for my turned handle to avoid any welding. That does sound fun but I assume hes just being a blacksmith.

    Anyone here made themselves a froe? Any advice? I know I could pick one up for a song at the flea market on any given Sunday but this sounds more fun until my dad gives me my granddads old froe. He thinks he just might use it one day. \_(ツ)_/

    I looked the Ashley Iles froe over today at Tools for Working Wood and its just an eye welded to a bar, although it was forged and likely with better steel.

    I believe I read here that mild steel could be advantageous in the manner that it transfers the blow whereas harden tends to deflect.

    Would love to hear from those experienced or just thoughtful enough to respond.

  2. #2
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    An automotive or truck leaf spring has been the DIY option for a froe for decades. Already has the eye on the main leaf.

  3. #3
    Not a metalworker or a blacksmith, but you're probably not going to get a usable tool with mild steel. There are apparently some weird quenching solutions that can give you some hardness, but mild steel isn't really for cutting edges.

    Wet wood shrinks. What you want, ideally, is very dry wood that will absorb some moisture and expand after it's seated. If you use freshly-cut green wood for a handle, it's going to shrink and come loose in short order.

  4. #4
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    I have a couple of froes but have never made one. These are old, obviously forged. I made a new handle for the smaller one from dry hickory. The eyes on both of these are slightly tapered inside so wooden wedges driven into a slit hold the handle extremely well. I've riven a bunch of hickory with the smaller one but never even put a handle on the larger one. (Years ago I was told to occasionally split straight hickory and put the pieces in the barn loft to dry to have an endless supply of dry handle stock. That was good advice.)

    froe.jpg

    When you say a small froe I hope you don't mean short or you might not have enough steel to smack if it gets stuck during the split.

    The smaller one is 1-3/4 to 2" wide, the larger more like 3" wide. Both are about 1/2" thick.

    I think the froe splits wood easier if the edge is not too sharp, sharpened like an axe.

    I didn't check the hardness of the steel and didn't check if it was mild, high carbon, or wrought iron. I could test them if you wanted to know.

    JKJ

  5. #5
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    After really having a great time with my full size froe a mini-froe seemed like a good idea.

    The end of the bevel was ground off of an old joiner blade. This was then held in a piece of apple for a handle. A screw and wingnut was used to hold it all together:

    Mini-Froe.jpg

    The joiner blade metal was too hard to drill with the bits in my kit at the time. The blade is held by friction in the slot.

    This is a great tool for riving from small pieces of stock when making dowels and other items.

    If you are going to rive chair and stool legs you want something bigger than a little froe. You would be much better off buying a decent large froe.

    A whacker was turned especially for this froe:

    Froe Whackers.jpg

    The bigger ones were made for driving my large froe. The one in the middle is used for the mini-froe.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 11-02-2021 at 2:11 AM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  6. #6
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    I have very very limited riving experience. I do not love my froe with a welded on perfectly cylindrical eye. For one thing, I have to loosen the lag bolt and fender washers holding the handle tight whenever I put it down so the female threads in the wood don't get wrecked next time I have a humidity swing. For the other, when I do use it with the lag bolt tight whacking it once with a club (I use a 2x2 of white oak about 24 inches long) loosens the works enough for the iron on the end of the handle to spin like a propeller. It is a dang nuisance.

    When I get a round to it I will get a hold of someone like Patrick Leach or Jim Bode to see if they can ship me a vintage froe iron that needs a handle made for it. I want, for my next froe, something with a bit of flare to the eye so I can use (as above already) a really dry handle, carve it to fit, and then drive a wedge in just like an axe or a hammer.

    A froe is technically not a striking tool, but it is a struck tool. The idea of a cylindrical eye looks good in theory, but I ain't got no time for no theoretical riving.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Coers View Post
    An automotive or truck leaf spring has been the DIY option for a froe for decades. Already has the eye on the main leaf.
    Hmm, I like that idea. I might investigate that source for the next one. There is no less than a dozen auto repair shops on Coney Island Ave a few blocks from my apt. Maybe they'll give me something.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tyler Bancroft View Post
    Not a metalworker or a blacksmith, but you're probably not going to get a usable tool with mild steel. There are apparently some weird quenching solutions that can give you some hardness, but mild steel isn't really for cutting edges.
    Wet wood shrinks. What you want, ideally, is very dry wood that will absorb some moisture and expand after it's seated. If you use freshly-cut green wood for a handle, it's going to shrink and come loose in short order.
    Hmm, I disagree regarding the steel, but we'll see! I'm not really looking for a cutting edge. I'm making a wedge. Good point regarding the green wood, prob a bad idea, I'm just anxious to use it. I have a ton of 8/4 kiln dried ash around, I'll make due with that I guess. Good call!

    Quote Originally Posted by John K Jordan View Post
    I have a couple of froes but have never made one. These are old, obviously forged. I made a new handle for the smaller one from dry hickory. The eyes on both of these are slightly tapered inside so wooden wedges driven into a slit hold the handle extremely well. I've riven a bunch of hickory with the smaller one but never even put a handle on the larger one. (Years ago I was told to occasionally split straight hickory and put the pieces in the barn loft to dry to have an endless supply of dry handle stock. That was good advice.)

    froe.jpg

    When you say a small froe I hope you don't mean short or you might not have enough steel to smack if it gets stuck during the split.

    The smaller one is 1-3/4 to 2" wide, the larger more like 3" wide. Both are about 1/2" thick.

    I think the froe splits wood easier if the edge is not too sharp, sharpened like an axe.

    I didn't check the hardness of the steel and didn't check if it was mild, high carbon, or wrought iron. I could test them if you wanted to know.

    JKJ
    That's my plan, to taper the eye on the anvil and drive a wedge in, like an axe. I was kinda thinking to make the end of the handle that mates with the eye taper out, so as it is struck it is always tightening and potential knockdown style, but have decided to go with the typical wedge type joint. Maybe on the next one. I think I'd need a larger eye.

    By small, I just meant not 14-15" like most the affordable options out there seem to be. Rachel Kedinger makes a real good looking one, but I haven't heard back since writing her. She's probably in the same boat as most makers at the moment--way over booked! The one I'm making will be 8" long, 2" wide, 1/2" thick with a 12" or so handle. Yes, I plan on just sharpening with a file or quick run over my grinder from time to time. That's about it. I'd love to know what your vintage ones are made of.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    After really having a great time with my full size froe a mini-froe seemed like a good idea.

    The end of the bevel was ground off of an old joiner blade. This was then held in a piece of apple for a handle. A screw and wingnut was used to hold it all together:

    Mini-Froe.jpg

    The joiner blade metal was too hard to drill with the bits in my kit at the time. The blade is held by friction in the slot.

    This is a great tool for riving from small pieces of stock when making dowels and other items.

    If you are going to rive chair and stool legs you want something bigger than a little froe. You would be much better off buying a decent large froe.

    A whacker was turned especially for this froe:

    Froe Whackers.jpg

    The bigger ones were made for driving my large froe. The one in the middle is used for the mini-froe.

    jtk
    That's cool! Thanks for sharing your build. I mainly plan on using it for the quarter sawn material around the pith that's left when cutting bowl blanks with a chainsaw. So only around 3-4" material for now. I guess I'll need to turn a whacker soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Winners View Post
    I have very very limited riving experience. I do not love my froe with a welded on perfectly cylindrical eye. For one thing, I have to loosen the lag bolt and fender washers holding the handle tight whenever I put it down so the female threads in the wood don't get wrecked next time I have a humidity swing. For the other, when I do use it with the lag bolt tight whacking it once with a club (I use a 2x2 of white oak about 24 inches long) loosens the works enough for the iron on the end of the handle to spin like a propeller. It is a dang nuisance.

    When I get a round to it I will get a hold of someone like Patrick Leach or Jim Bode to see if they can ship me a vintage froe iron that needs a handle made for it. I want, for my next froe, something with a bit of flare to the eye so I can use (as above already) a really dry handle, carve it to fit, and then drive a wedge in just like an axe or a hammer.

    A froe is technically not a striking tool, but it is a struck tool. The idea of a cylindrical eye looks good in theory, but I ain't got no time for no theoretical riving.
    Sounds like a drag man! Don't think I want anything being held in place by a lag bolt in that case!



    Here's what I've got so far. Don't judge my welds too harshly. I never claimed to be a good metal worker. Can't decide whether to forge the bevel or go straight to the grinder. Grinder might be slower, but swingin' that hammer can be taxing. I skipped a lot of things a competent metal worker would do, like tapering the eye on something actually round, but I think it's gonna work.

    IMG_1729.jpg
    Last edited by chuck van dyck; 11-02-2021 at 10:32 PM.

  8. #8
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    Can't decide whether to forge the bevel or go straight to the grinder. Grinder might be slower, but swingin' that hammer can be taxing.
    Would forging the bevel work harden the steel?

    My big froe has a tapered eye but my handle making at the time wasn't very good. The handle kept slipping so a large screw was driven into the handle just above the socket to keep the handle from falling out.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    Would forging the bevel work harden the steel?

    My big froe has a tapered eye but my handle making at the time wasn't very good. The handle kept slipping so a large screw was driven into the handle just above the socket to keep the handle from falling out.

    jtk
    My understanding is that mild steel just doesn't have enough carbon to harden, assuming the OP means something like 1018.

    Chuck, staked furniture builders sometimes put chair leg tenons in a pan of hot sand to drive out moisture before seating them in a wetter chair seat mortise. Then the tenon absorbs moisture and the expansion helps lock it into place. Not sure whether that'd work for freshly-cut wood, but it might be worth a try.

  10. #10
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    Just went out and took a picture of my froe:

    Froe on Bench.jpg

    The handle was made from a piece of alder on the firewood pile.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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