A froe is a traditional hand tool used for splitting wood in a controlled
way along the length of the log/beam.
It is a great tool for preparing a log/beam into smaller pieces which do not need to be of a precise measurement. A prime example is using the froe on a large log that needs converting into firewood.
A froe consists of a wooden handle and a metal blade (as shown in the photos). The metal blade is attached to the handle at one end with the blade usually being set at about 90 degrees to the handle. The handle and blade can be of any length, often the handle and the blade are of similar lengths with the handle being just slightly longer. The most common sized blades are in the region of 8-14 inches long. There are also some small mini froes on the market with blade lengths of 5-6 inches.
One end of the blade has a metal eye (loop) where the handle is secured to the blade. The metal eye can either be a welded eye or a rolled eye. A welded eye is a loop which has been welded onto the end of the blade. A rolled eye is made by rolling the end of the blade into a loop. Technically the rolled eye is a stronger design because there is no obvious weak point, however as long as the welded eye has been welded well there is no reason the tool wouldn't last for decades.
The blade is typically tapered from a thicker portion at the top of the blade through to a thinner piece of metal at the bottom of the blade. The thinnest portion is made by placing a bevel on both sides of the blade. It is this tapering from thin to thick that will help create the splitting action. The edge on the blade is a dull edge opposed to a sharp edge; the reason being a sharp edge would stick into the wood whereas a dull edge allows the tool to split the wood.
The handle is usually slightly tapered and is usually made of an easily available hardwood. The handle is attached to the froe usually by feeding the handle through the blade eye until the thicker piece of the handle locks into place.
The froe has a long history of use, no doubt due to the tool being simple to make and very effective at it's job. From what we have observed, there are very few old froes which bear a maker's mark, especially the marks of high volume, well known manufacturers. The maker's marks we have observed tend to be a local blacksmiths' mark.
A typical froe consists of the following parts:
The wood the froe is usually used to split logs/beams of wood.
How do you use a froe?
It is important the blade of the froe should have a dull edge opposed
to a sharp edge; the reason being a sharp edge would stick into the
wood whereas a dull edge allows the tool to split the wood.
The piece of wood for splitting should be smaller in diameter/width than the length of the blade of the froe being used. This can be checked by lining-up the froe blade against the end of the wood. If the froe blade is shorter or only just a bit longer than the piece of woods diameter/width then the piece of wood is too large for the froe.
Once it has been established the froe and the piece of wood are compatible, the piece of wood for splitting is positioned vertically. The froe blade is pushed firmly into the end/top of the piece of vertically positioned wood, ready to split the wood down its length. The amount of wood that will be split depends on where the blade is positioned. If you wish to split the piece of wood in to two similar halves then the blade would be positioned in the centre of the end/top of the piece of wood.
Once the froe is in position, knock the back of the blade a couple of times (a lump of wood is often the preferred implement) to force the blade into the wood. Once the blade takes hold the piece of wood will start to split down its length. Once the froe has caused a split, the froe is then levered by pulling and pushing the handle. The levering action will cause the split to move further down through the piece of wood.
The froe should slide down as far as it can after each levering action and the process is repeated until the piece of wood is successfully split into two.
If the froe gets stuck and the levering action happens not to be having the desired effect, it can sometimes be helpful to knock in a downwards direction the piece of the blade sticking out.
Below are a list of a few well known froe makers:
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