Getting a Froe & Making a Mallet
I'm not sure exactly where I first saw a froe in use... probably in some video where they made old fashioned shingles by splitting a log like a cake in many pieces, positioning the long blade across the log and banging on it with a large mallet. The froe is an L-shaped tool, with a long metal blade attached to a wooden handle. The wood split quite easily, and the froe seemed like such a clever and simple tool. Unlike an axe or a hatchet, you're not actually swinging the froe, you keep it in place and excerpt force on it with a mallet instead.
In addition to seeing people make perfectly crafted shingles, I also came across videos where it was used to make kindling rather effortlessly. Now I placed this tool in my mental library of my future tool collection, and while I kept my eye open at garage sales and antique stores for an old froe to refinish, none ever appeared that seemed like a good option. Fast forward a couple of years, and for the first time in my life, I'm making fires regularly to heat my garage woodshop, and the kindling is always in demand. And while cutting up smaller pieces of wood to start fires with, the froe came back into my mind, and I figured I should get one right away.
I wasn't really in the mood to go look for something old anymore, so I purchased a new Lie Nielsen froe (and cleverly gave it to Matt for Christmas, good thing we like pretty much the same things!) When testing it out, I was a little surprised that the edge of the blade is rather blunt and not sharp like an axe, and after reading up on it, that seems to be by design.
Froes were traditionally used on site to make shingles for houses, and as the mallets got so beat up as you kept hitting the froe, rustic clubs or mallets were made. That way the club could be made quickly, then used until it became so disfigured it was time to make another one. Well I figured, I don't want to destroy any of my nice mallets when using the froe, so I should make a rustic club mallet as well! What I love about these kinds of projects is how they're rather quick and you have your finished product after an hour or two of work. It's also nice to be able to work outside for a change and sit in front of the fire and do some carving with the axe.