Splitting Shingles

Well, there is a lot to do around here now that the snow is just about melted away and we have pulled the taps on the Maple trees.  Cleaning up the sugar bush and what was left on the ground for the snow to cover up.  Slab wood from my fall board sawing/milling operation, that will get cut up and burned for heat. I found that hand saw I was looking for.....it's a little rusty but will still work just fine. I found those deer legs I was going to skin and put on the bottom of my Siberian skis I made this past winter. I might let those go to the critters and wait til next year.  The list goes on.

Now that we have our evaporator we must build a "sugar shack" to house it in, along with the 150 and growing, buckets, taps and misc articles for tapping trees.  I've drawn up a rough sketch and we will be building a 10x20 building.  This will be timber framed and build with all local materials, with the exception of some tar paper and some iron nails and such.  The building will be shingled with hand split Basswood shingles.  I know what your thinking...."Basswood?" well, it's not known for it's rot resistance, but i don't have the money or the desire for cedar shingles, plus I really like the idea of using what we have around here. Cedar does grow around here, but with the high deer populations with in the last 10 years they have eaten all the young trees. There is pretty much no regeneration. So local Cedar is out of the question, for me. Besides, I've run an experiment.  About 5 years ago I split out some planks from some Basswood and left them close to the ground.  This past winter I cut them up and to my suprise, the wood is still good. I think that these shingles will last at least 20 years, and when they go I'll split some more.  It's easy enough. Plus, not all the shingles will fail at the same time, so I can split and  replace as the time goes on.

Basswood is a very straight grained wood and very easy to split, so it's a good material for shingles. We have a lot of Basswood, so cutting a few down and using the lower sections for shingles and the upper pieces for posts will work out good.  We will be using most of the tree in this way.

So pictured below....the process....

 Cut down a nice big Basswood, with straight, clear grain.
 Tools of the trade....the froe, both of these I forged.
 Using wooden wedges to help the froe along on the bigger pieces. Basswood is not as "snappy" as Cedar.
 Using the froe to size up the blanks for Joe. These blanks are about two shingles thick.
 Close up of the blank popping off
 Joe splitting down the blank into two or three shingles. We made a "brake" out of the stump - you can put the shingle in the brake thick side toward you and control the split by putting pressure on the shingle while working the split with the froe. When control splitting, always pull on the thicker side if the split goes to one side or the other to force the split back into the center.
 We got a good start-about a 100 square feet coverage in about seven to eight hours. 

I'll be posting more as the project moves along.....