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How to split shakes.

Living beyond the sidewalks frequently leaves one short on cash yet endlessly in need of building materials. It was in such a state that I experimented several years ago with splitting pine shingles (shakes) and to this day I'm still splitting them. I have come to love making them.

The beauty of splitting one's own shingles is how few tools are needed. The only tools needed are the froe, the froe club and a hatchet. Shingles can be split from trees down to six inches in diameter, though ideally the diameter should be from 8" to 14". Greater than 14" the bolt should be quartered with a maul and wedge before attempting to split out shingles. The work is physical, requires considerable time, but is enjoyable and one receives immediate gratification of work well done from the newly made stack of shingles.

After felling a pine, cut out sections 18" to 20" long between the whorls of knots. Only clear, knot free wood can be split into shingles. Simply stand the log length up on a stump or chopping block. Align the froe across the center of the log. Drive the blade in with the club as deeply as possible. (Fig. 1). Holding the log steady, pull on the froe handle until the log snaps into two halves.

Take each half and halve again. Continue halving until the thickness is about an inch. To assist the splitting, I push against the bolt with my knee as I pull the froe handle towards me. (Fig. 2).

When the bolt is only one inch thick, I make the final split. The froe is carefully centered and driven in. (Fig. 3) Hold the top of the bolt tightly together with the left hand while the knee is pressed against the bolt. Carefully split into two shingles. This is done by pushing and/or pulling the handle. The split tends to run in the direction the force is applied. (Fig. 4). If the split is worked properly and the force is applied correctly, you should be rewarded with two shingles. If not, the grain will run out ruining one of the two shingles. With practice this gets easier.

Trim off the bark with a hatchet and stack them to dry. (Fig. 5).

If you prefer fat shingles, you can dispense with the last split altogether.

I've roofed an outbuilding and covered my house with split shingles. I've included a photo of the house. The shingles shine a beautiful silver in the moonlight.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Beaudry, Mike
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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