Rustic Homemade Hand Tools

Instead of paying for expensive garden and woodworking implements, use homemade hand tools

| May/June 1981

  • 069 homemade hand tools - bark spud
    The bark spud makes skinning a raw log a simple task.
  • 069 homemade hand tools - froe
    The froe is one of three homemade hand tools you can fashion from a car's leaf spring. A properly wielded froe will enable you to make fine splits.
  • 069 homemade hand tools - mattock
    A home-wrought mattock—the second of our repurposed leaf spring tools—is as good as the store-bought version.
  • 069 homemade hand tools - drawknife
    The drawknife, our final leaf spring tool, can shave a timber's "skin" or its "meat" with ease

  • 069 homemade hand tools - bark spud
  • 069 homemade hand tools - froe
  • 069 homemade hand tools - mattock
  • 069 homemade hand tools - drawknife

Nowadays, it seems that there's power equipment available for every imaginable task ... and for a few that are difficult to imagine. But it's still a real pleasure to stroll through the aisles of your local hardware store and catch sight of an honest-to-goodness manual tool. All too often, though, the price tags on the quality implements are enough to discourage many do-it-yourselfers.

Well, having found that their equipment needs and budget just don't seem to want to get together, MOTHER EARTH NEWS' shop folks hunkered down and came up with four basic hand tools that are not only simplicity itself to construct, but can be assembled for next to nothing. And the homemade hand tools will perform every bit as well as their dearer store-bought cousins.

Three of the utensils—the bark spud, the froe, and the drawknife—are designed to be used when working with wood. The fourth—a mattock—is a general-purpose tool for loosening soil, cutting roots, and digging. All were fashioned from common junk pile scrap, and—with the exception of the draw "shaver"—use either hand-hewn logs or "reborn" wooden shafts for handles.

Bark Spud

All it takes to make this timber skinner is a 1/4" piece of 4" X 8" steel plate, a 5" length of 1 1/4" Schedule 40 pipe, and an old shovel handle that's long enough to reach from the ground to your chin. First, carefully grind one end of the metal slab into a single-sided cutting edge with an angle of about 15° from level. Then weld your pipe collar to the rectangular blade so its forward end is about 4 1/2 inches behind the cleaving lip (be sure that the ground surface is toward the bottom), and the tubular shank itself meets the tool's head at an angle of about 5°. (Some folks may prefer to modify this union by increasing the angle to 20° and filling the space with triangular metal gussets, thus making it easier to use the spud to strip the uppermost surface—rather than the side—of the log.)

With this done, merely fit the handle securely into its receptacle (using a small wedge, if necessary), and have at your to-be-stripped timber in "shuffleboard" fashion. By scraping horizontally at the surface of the offending log, you can have it peeled in jig time. You'll find that your new "chisel" will make short work of stubborn knots, too!

The Froe

A froe is used to split logs into billets, or to cleave blocks into thin sections (as when making shingles). The heart of this device is an old automobile leaf spring, which provides not only the sturdy steel necessary to guarantee a durable tool but also the shank to which a handle can be fastened. Select a spring with a width of about 2 1/2" and torch it to a 16" overall length (Include the suspension unit's shackle mounting hole in your measurement). Now grind both sides of one long edge to form a double-faced cutting surface with a 15° angle (in relation to the blade's flat "loins") on each side.

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