The froe has made a bit of a comeback in recent years after fading into total obscurity.
It is a curios looking tool, “L” shaped with a sturdy eye, sharp edge and a long stick handle. Froes and froe-like tools have a heritage going back at least a thousand years as a pivotal tools for working greenwood, (a method that principally deals with split, not sawn timber).
Traditionally used in the production of wooden roof shingles or lathes for traditional lime plaster work, the Froe has been recently been rediscovered as an alternative to the axe as a log splitting tool.
Placed on the log, and struck on the back of the steel blade with a heavy wooden maul, a sturdy Froe can make short work of even twisted or bent timber as all of the energy of the strike will go between the natural grain.
If the timber doesn’t split cleanly, the tool is sharp enough to sever any lingering fibres.
The froes I have made were hand forged from my own laminated carbon steel with mild steel core and mild steel outer layers. This composite structure imparts a very high level of toughness and tolerance to the kind of twisting and percussive force that goes with this kind of tool. It is very similar in composition to a well-made sword!
These have been made using what is known as an “asymmetric wrapped eye”, forged from the same piece of steel as the body and then forge welded back onto itself. This forms one of the strongest eyes, but also is one of most elegant methods in blacksmithing and is more often seen in ancient axes as it causes the material to “flow” around the eye.