Wood shake/shingles--anyone made them? - Homesteading Today
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Old 02/05/12, 01:33 PM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 5,522
Wood shake/shingles--anyone made them?

I am looking for information on how to make wood shinlges and shakes.

Please, no YouTube or videos as I am on DIAL-UP and CANNOT view them.

I have googled and scroogled and can only find a handful of articles on how to make them. I tried the Mother Earth News archives but their site is apparently having problems and I can't view it either. There were a few other articles/sites but they were more for people who already knew how to make them or were making them with lumber mills and planers, etc.

I am looking for information on how to make them with hand tools.

This is for a small home improvement project as well as a hands-on homeschool lesson.

If you have ever split or sawn shakes and/or shingles with hand tools (froe, mallet, small saw like a chop saw, small table saw, etc) and can explain the process in detail, OR if you can direct me to sites or articles (again, please no videos) I would appreciate it very much. TIA.
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Old 02/05/12, 02:11 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: EastTN: Former State of Franklin
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Pretty simple process to handsplit.....you already know the tools, a froe and a mallet. I made a froe out of a pc of leaf spring from an old car.

The wood is the important thing. Unless you have access to a naturally rot resistant wood, such as white oak, or the cedars, then shingles won't last all that long, I'm thinking.

I use white oak, cutting 24" blocks of fairly large diameter trees ( like 18-24" ) that have no knots ( or knot maybe on one side you can work around ). Stand on end, bust the round block in half with a maul/wedges, then bust the halves into quarters. Then simply start cleaving the thickness of shingle you want ( 1/2" to 3/4" ) working your way across the block.
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Old 02/05/12, 02:23 PM
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We have access to white oak, red oak, and cypress.

Thanks for the help. I hadn't seen that anywhere else, thanks!

Last edited by JuliaAnn; 02/05/12 at 02:26 PM.
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Old 02/05/12, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by JuliaAnn View Post
We have access to white oak, red oak, and cypress.

Thanks for the help. I hadn't seen that anywhere else, thanks!
White oak is much more rot resistant than red oak. You can get some great details on splitting shakes complete with photos at your library. There is a good section in one of the early Foxfire books. If I am not mistaken its in volume one or three.
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Old 02/05/12, 02:40 PM
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White oak has a closed cell structure, known as tyloses, which makes it far more rot resistant than red oak. WO was used for barrels for that reason.

There was a local company here that attempted to get into making WO shingles, as there is a small market in old building restoration, and they sell for $500/square and up ( and last 100 years or more ), but they simply could not get enough quality white oak in to make it. The same white oak needed for shingles also goes for veneer logs ( knot free, butt logs ) and veneer logs bring HIGH dollar per board foot.

They actually sawed their shingles in a taper, and then ran them thru a special planer that looked like you'd fed nails into the planer blades, so the back of the shingle was sawn smooth, and the top was rough to simulate a hand split look.

I had an attachment on my Woodmizer bandmill to saw shingles, but never used it much, and later sold it.
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Old 02/05/12, 02:40 PM
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Cypress is best IF you can find it
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Old 02/05/12, 02:42 PM
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Ditto on the Foxfire book description!
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Old 02/05/12, 02:45 PM
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Cedar is also good shingle wood. I think you want red, not white.
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Old 02/05/12, 03:22 PM
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i get the idea that most members here might also read Backwoods Home Magazine.

They just did a nice article in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue, on how to make your own.
(with pixs)

Not sure if it would be available online?

Good Luck
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Old 02/05/12, 03:29 PM
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Western red cedar is the wood of choice out west. Easy to split. Shakes are split 3/8' to 1/2" thick, no taper. Rustic shingles are split with a froe same as shakes but then sawn on my bandsaw on a slight angle to make shingles. Shingles are shorter. I have a homemade fence jig that cuts the same angle each time. 1/8th" on each thin end, 3/8" thick on the thick end. Smooth shingles are ripped at a slight angle from 1/2" thick cedar boards with the same jig on my bandsaw....James
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Old 02/06/12, 02:49 PM
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I've thought about making some small ones for a small chicken coop.
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Old 02/06/12, 04:47 PM
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One detail that hasn't been mentioned, split top to bottom, so that it doesn't "run out" on you.
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Old 02/06/12, 05:30 PM
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Maybe you've seen this. He cuts his shakes from the cedar stumps that an old house sat on.

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Old 02/06/12, 09:19 PM
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+1 on the Foxfire books.

Are the Foxfire books available via free download?

FWIW, there was a Kentucky author named Janice Holt Giles. She wrote a number of very good books. IIRC, in her book, A Little Better Than Plumb, she writes about their story about using hand made shakes. She tells about how hard it was to find someone to make shakes, and how lore prevented them from laying those shakes except when the moon was right.

This book is not a how-to book, but a book, sometimes witty, about their trials of building a log cabin years ago, long before it became fashionable to do so. A good book that is well worth the read, if you can find it, and if you are into reading that sort of thing.

Last edited by clovis; 02/06/12 at 09:30 PM.
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Old 02/07/12, 09:56 PM
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It's all in the wrist.

Seriously. I never was very good at it, but grandpa was a master. Lord knows he rived enough shingles to get good at it. He used a mallet with a froe made from an old truck spring. Some guys say to flip the bolt as you rive, thus creating the taper on the shingles, but he could make his taper out just right with only varying the angle on his froe as he split. His shingles were about two feet long and about 6" wide.

If you don't get a decent taper, worry not. Just take a draw knife and taper however you need them.

As for wood choice...cypress if you can get, white oak if you can't. Red oak will leak.
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Old 02/07/12, 10:15 PM
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Originally Posted by tinknal View Post
Cedar is also good shingle wood. I think you want red, not white.
these do work well, we had cedar shingles on our barn that lasted 62 years. > Thanks Marc
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