Make Your Own Wooden Shakes

With just a mallet, a froe and a few other tools, you can craft wooden shakes for your roof.

| February/March 2005

  • Shakes
    Shakes (long shingles split from logs) are cut from bolts of straight-grained timber, such as cedar or redwood. They are easy to make and will give your building a rustic, handcrafted look.
    Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
  • Shingles
    Wooden shakes are a relatively easy endeavor.
    Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
  • Froe
    A froe is pictured cutting a shake.
    Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors

  • Shakes
  • Shingles
  • Froe

Have you ever admired an old house covered with weathered shakes — those long shingles old-timers split from logs? Well, if you’re reasonably good with tools, you can make the same kind of roofing for your own buildings.

Turning out handmade shakes isn’t difficult — the hard part is finding the right material. As the illustrations show, shakes are cut from blocks of wood (shake bolts) split out of a whole trunk of cedar, sugar pine, redwood, fir or other straight-grained timber.

Not all trees that look straight from the outside actually prove to be so when they’re opened up, however, and you may have to test chunks sawed off a number of trees before you find a trunk that splits well.

Obviously, you should limit this potentially wasteful search to timber that is already down or dead.



When my wife and I need shake material, we go around to areas that have just been logged and ask the crews if we can clean up a little of the mess they’ve left. Usually, the answer is an enthusiastic “yes.” Alternatively, a permit to cut wood in a national forest will get you all the bolts you need.

The tools needed to get shake bolts out of a whole tree are a chain saw (or a two-person crosscut saw), two to three wedges, a small sledgehammer and an axe. After you’ve cut off a 24- to 36-inch length of timber, you stand it on end, tap a straight line across the diameter with a wedge and hammer, and split the chunk in half. Then split off a narrow triangular section from one of the halves and remove the center of the section so the remaining piece — measured at right angles to the rings — matches the width you want for your shingles.

ekone
7/9/2013 10:40:13 PM

I've been trying to make my own shingles for a while now.  I know how it's done... I have all the tools I'll need.  I can't find any cedar bolts for sale.  I've called the east coast, the west coast, and Canada.  Any ideas where I can get the wood?


ekone
7/9/2013 10:39:20 PM

I've been trying to make my own shingles for a while now.  I know how it's done... I have all the tools I'll need.  I can't find any cedar bolts for sale.  I've called the east coast, the west coast, and Canada.  Any ideas where I can get the wood?


ekone
7/9/2013 10:38:27 PM

I've been trying to make my own shingles for a while now.  I know how it's done... I have all the tools I'll need.  I can't find any cedar bolts for sale.  I've called the east coast, the west coast, and Canada.  Any ideas where I can get the wood?







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