Letters from Paul Schobernd


Froe, Hammer and Related Old Tool Stuff


Darrell and Galoots, That tool may take the prize for being butt ugly, but it appears very utilitarian.  I have a soft spot in my heart for home-made tools.

I have an old two-faced froe hammer that I imagine used vertical grain white oak.  The faces were worn down to the metal so I popped out the the old ones and turned some green Osage Orange to replace them.  They were just about as purty as anything you ever did see.  And, they would whop that froe right down with barely a dent in the face.

But, then I was laid up for a period of time and the froe hammer was left to age for a long period without any adult supervision.  That was something of an error.

When I next got around to using the old tools and started banging the froe through some recalcitrant wood of dubious grain and character I found out why the original faces were made of Oak instead of Hedge.

The beautiful orange-brown hedgewood had hardened into something akin to glass. When I'd hit the froe sometimes I'd get shards of sharp wood flying off the face.  A smarter person would have no doubt used safety glasses at this point, but I was fascinated with wood that behaved like glass and kept banging away long after I'd split what I needed.

So I learned that hard and tough are different characteristics and shouldn't be confused - think lignum vitae!  Since I haven't gotten the faces changed out again I simply went to using a very old froe club that I bought in the early 70s in southern Mississippi.  It is big, heavy and hard and I think it is swamp Oak, but I do remember it cost me $7 at a flea market.  It is a mud fence of a tool, but we've grown old together!

My only advice would be not to let that copper tool out of your sight.  Copper is disappearing in these parts at an alarming rate if it can be got at without getting shot! A few folks seem to have just traded lead for copper and a few can't tell when the electric power is on, which mostly goes to show that you shouldn't try to plug in hand tools.

Paul in Normal
June, 2008




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