When I made my hazel gate a few weeks back I was reminded that I didn’t have a small froe anymore. As often happens I must have sold it when running low on stock. I find it quite amusing that when I offer to sell a customer one of my personal tools their eyes light up thinking that these are in some way special.
In a way they are. If I forge a tool and some fault become apparent that means it won’t be fit for purpose then it will be scrapped, I won’t spend time finishing such a tool. However sometimes when I make a batch of tools something may come to light that means it won’t be sold on this site, sometimes it is just a matter of sizing. I make a bath of 80mm blades and one measures up at 75. These will be sold at shows, that way a customer can be sure of what they are buying.
Other times though an issue will come to light that makes me question a tools strength. It may be forged too thin, I do like my tools to not carry excess bulk but there are limits. I often handle these tools myself and try them out, to see if I can find these limits. I actually have yet to break one, which is pleasing. Other issues include de-laminations in a forge welded tool. I prefer not to sell these, if I do it will only be face to face so I can point out any issues. Regardless everything is guaranteed.
So, back to the Froes. For me there is no doubt that the most efficient way to make a froe is to weld a laser cut blank to a piece of tapered tube. But, this is not a way I prefer to work and wanted to forge myself one in a traditional style, mainly to see if I could. One issue that can effect all froes is the eye join. In machine welded ones they can break, in forge welded ones they can split where the eye is wrapped and the two sides meet, wrought iron resists this splitting a lot better but not completely and is not a material I work in so the weld was potentially more vulnerable.
I have wanted to forge a blade with a socketed eye for quite some time, but I wanted to avoid the likelihood of the eye opening so tried a new (to me anyway) weld, it was tricky partly due to the shape, but also because when I did decorative work I used to forge weld everyday, now it is very uncommon for me. But I did fairly well I think. Made a pair, then had another go and did another couple.
I will as ever keep the one with the dodgiest weld and sell the others. They won’t be on the site as it is not worth listing something I am unlikely to make again- I can’t see me being able to forge these at a rate that would make them viable. I could arc weld and grind some up that would look very similar and function the same much quicker. Still it was fun to try something new.
First two forged in the end they went a lot easier than I expected.
Final forms for them; I was talking to Alex Yerks about these and sagely proclaimed that a froe should be sharp enough to bite into a log but not cut you.
I decided to put handles on, and in the process cut myself deeper than I have in a long time! I used hazel in the round and stained it; this is a favourite for me, lots of variables but if you get it right the results are really good. They ended up looking very much like the tool I envisaged, rough forged and handled but with a bit of delicacy.
Years back I used to help out at a forest school, children learning cleaving used to work in pairs, one holding the froe the other the maul, even with gloves it was dicey at times. I tend now to either forge the eye slightly offset, or if I am still not happy fit a curved handle to give a little bit more clearance on very short froes.