Joiners, green-woodworkers, chairmakers, et al: Your “where-can-I-get-a-good-froe” problems are solved.
Some people like old tools, some like new tools. Some use both. For years, I have used old blacksmith-made froes. It requires some good luck to find old examples that aren’t massive and heavy. The froe really is a finesse tool, not a brute-force tool. That’s a deceptive concept for something that you hit with a large wooden club.
Many years ago, Drew Langsner needed a number of froes for his students at his green woodworking school, Country Workshops. Getting frustrated trying to line up a bunch of antique froes that would all work about the same, Drew set about to make a new froe. Having split and rived stock for decades, Drew analyzed what really happens with the leverage forces when using a froe. He then designed a tool that looks a little funny at first, but it works like a charm. There is a reason for its appearance.
Drew has studied exactly what happens when you twist the froe blade in the split, and based on his research, he developed a froe with a smaller blade than many antique examples. And this is really a situation in which bigger is not really better. His froe has a blade that is even in thickness, (not wedge-shaped) has convex bevels and is narrower from top to bottom than many old froes. In addition, the eye is not tapered like most, but cylindrical. This allows a tight-fitting turned handle, now fastened in place with a washer and lag bolt. Jennie Alexander adopted this froe as soon as Drew began making them, and never used another.
After years of making these froes himself, Drew has teamed up with the folks at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks and now the Langsner froe is in production in Maine. What you get is a tool that is designed by a world-class master of riving, and produced by a company known for its attention to detail and high standards of production. The larger froe show in the video is $85. The small basketmakers’ froe is $75. The tools should be available on the lie-nielsen.com website soon. Or call them to order one.
I’ve been using one for 2-1/2 months now, and I am a convert. Because of its relatively thin blade, this froe enters the stock with a minimum of force. Thus you can begin levering sooner, before the tool has really split the stock way ahead of itself. The smaller blade also helps in this regard, putting you in control of the split more readily. It is also very lightweight, another plus. Don’t worry that it doesn’t look old-timey, this froe is ready to make halves of halves of halves… .
Here’s the horse’s mouth: Drew’s text in the CW website http://countryworkshops.org/rivingtools.html
And a “froe story” in the CW newsletter: http://www.countryworkshops.org/newsletter34/
— Peter Follansbee, one of the authors of “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree.”