Making Roof Shingles With Hand Tools


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Categories: Construction Methods, Handmade

In a pinch, a froe can be made from a section of a leaf-type automobile spring. Cut the metal, heat it and curl one end in a circle 1" - 1 1/2" in diameter to take the handle. Sharpen the edge and you have a shake-making tool.

To start the froe into the bolt, pound the back of the blade several times with the mallet. The thickness of your shingle is determined at this point. If you find that the shingles are splitting a little too thin—less than 1/4"—make your next start a bit further from the edge.

When the back of thefroe has been driven in level with the end of the bolt, the handle of the tool is either pulled toward you or pushed away (whichever you find works best). This twisting of the blade opens the split wider and thefroe is then pushed down about three to six inches. Twist again in the same way, and the shingle should pop off the bolt.

The technique is really much simpler than it sounds in print. After no more than an hour of practice you'll feel that you're getting the hang of it, and if you keep at the job about two hours a day for three or four days you'll realize that the shingles are stacking up with very little effort. You can usually split one to two squares in two hours, and a roof 30' X 40' takes about twelve squares. This means, at most, two hours of work a day for six to ten days.

Applying the shakes to the roof isn't hard either. Most basic carpentry books will tell you how to lay wooden shingles, and the method is the same for the homemade kind.

I've found it rewarding to cover our goat barn and our home with the product of froe, mallet, and my own hands. Once you've mastered this old-time skill, I'm sure you'll find it just as satisfying as I do.

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