PS is it crucial to season the wood a whole lot before using it?
It's also really facinating that these actions have their own specialized vocabulary.
Not hugely helpful on the wood question, but something I stumbled across today that might be of interest are these instructions for how to use a froe to rive shakes.
You can also use the froe to initiate the split when making shakes from dimension stock of straight-grained wood like cedar but only after you have squared the block to get rid of juvenile wood. In such a case you push or pull the handle toward the material you are splitting off the block. This causes the shake to taper as the split advances. You then turn the block over to start the second shake from the opposite end.
If you are splitting shakes from straight grain hardwood (like oak) you will usually find that it tapers very little and you will have to use a draw knife to create the taper you want. In this case you would usually not have to invert the block for subsequent splits. In most other uses of the froe, you are controlling the advancing split by pushing the froe handle toward the thicker part of the wood being split in order to get consistent thickness of the piece being split off the blocks.
1) The Denaina, a local native tribe used birch bark for shingles. That's not shakes, but it might be useful information. The would take 1/2 the diameter of the tree's bark and use it like half-round ceramic roofing tiles, alternating concave and convex. Birch bark is waterproof (think of birch bark canoes), that's why the tree can be rotten, but the bark holds it's shape.
2) On our property there was the collapsed remains of a 100-year old house. Both for recycling purposes, and for preserving the history of the land, we are recycling everything we can. One of the things we managed to salvage was a large number of cedar shingles. We brushed them with a wire brush (manual, not electric -- that would have chewed through them) to get the old dirt and moss off (if any). Then, we coated them with boiled linseed oil, and put them on our roof (where it is not earthen), and on some walls. The message here is that many of the shingles were still good after about 100 years of exposure to Alaskan winters.
Hope that gives you some ideas...
In areas where a dry season regularly makes fire risks, combustible roofing is a bad idea, but in wet areas cob of any kind that is not protected by a wide roof overhang is quickly doomed.
Mentioning relevant facts about your climate (or having your general location in your signature or your "Location" tag below your name) will help avoid confusion and incorrect advice many times.
nancy sutton wrote:What about that Japanese process of 'charring, toasting, singeing... " ? Maybe it only works on cedar? ? Too lazy to dig it out, but there's a thread here somewhere
That would work very well with spruce. When I read the title, spruce was the first tree that came to mind.
Shakes need to breathe because, during rain, some water will wick up between them by capillary action. If you use hardwood, between the shakes will take forever to dry after a rain. best to use softwood.
As for seasoning them, they will shrink. best to let them dry to an average humidity, I would think. maybe air dry for 2-3 months?
I've never worked with shakes, I'm just extrapolating from other knowledge
Dale Gi wrote:One of the things we managed to salvage was a large number of cedar shingles. ... The message here is that many of the shingles were still good after about 100 years of exposure to Alaskan winters.
Where in Alaska are you, and what kind of cedar are you talking about? I grew up in the interior, where we don't have any cedar species at all. It was black spruce, white spruce, birch, cottonwood, or nothing. I'm not challenging you, I'm just really curious what cedar species you're talking about and where it might have come from.
"Very little is known regarding the use of aspen shingles. A small barn
built near Swatara, Minnesota, in 1938, was covered with aspen shingles.
The roof was still in good condition in 1944. Another barn, built in
1944, was covered with aspen shingles. The owner, basing his statement
on previous experience, said that he expected these shingles to last at
least 15 years » It should be possible to treat aspen shingles with a
wood preservative which would probably double their service life. On
roofs with considerable pitch, untreated aspen shingles may perform
reasonably well, but they should never be used on low pitch roofs unless
first treated with a wood preservative."
There was also a study done on the feasibility of aspen shingles in Alberta: http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/bookstore_pdfs/19464.pdf . and there's a video of a guy roofing with them at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILh5wgu0vnI .
For a roof, white pine would work. It is clear of knots, has really wide shingles/shakes, straight grain and is a stable wood. My next choice would be hemlock. Spruce rots incredibly quick.
But since getting white pine or even hemlock would mean obtaining it from neighbors, you might as well see if you can obtain some cedar. Commercially it is not a very sought after wood so I would think you could get it really reasonable.