Bandsaw alternatives (axe/froe, etc)

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Forum topic by DustyCellist posted 04-27-2014 03:50 AM 1968 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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71 posts in 2012 days

04-27-2014 03:50 AM

Topic tags/keywords: bandsaw axe adz adze froe frow lathe

I am getting started with some hand tools mainly to keep from producing much dust, and so far have a japanese hand saw, #4 plane, spokeshave, chisels, and turning chisels. I am looking at getting a lathe (I know, dust, maybe I’ll use it outside on dry days) for turning small-medium bowls, drinking cups, pens, etc.

I am looking for a way to cut turning blanks (and blanks for other work such as spoon carving) without a power saw (dust + $$) so I am thinking an axe and froe could get me there.

Do I even need a froe? Could I do it just with a decent axe? At some point I’d probably get a froe and adze for larger carved objects like bowls and chairs, etc, but I can’t find much information about them.

Where is a good place to start learning about different types of axes and adzes? Are there even different types of froes? And where can these things be bought? I live a few hours from Lancaster, and in my mind that makes sense as a place one might find such hand tools….

Any help is appreciated, and thanks in advance!

7 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117713 posts in 4060 days

#1 posted 04-27-2014 04:00 AM

Bow saws and frame saws can do much of what a band saw does.

Many folks make their own froe out of old car springs. They can make quick work of splitting out wood.

Check out Roy underhillon PBS

This might help too.

View DustyCellist's profile


71 posts in 2012 days

#2 posted 04-27-2014 04:06 AM

Bow/frame saw has the dust I’m looking to avoid, though. If I can split it to size, I’d rather. Or cut fibers when able instead of shredding (kerf), but I do love Roy Underhill. It seems the DVDs aren’t quite available yet, but I plan to buy and watch all of them (talk about an investment…)

When thinking of making tools, it does seem relatively simple (the tools I’m after, anyway) but learning metallurgy and smithing just to get into woodworking isn’t what I had in mind (though I might do it eventually!)

I’ll read up on that for now, thanks for the link!

View Tim's profile


3851 posts in 2444 days

#3 posted 04-27-2014 05:50 PM

A froe is useful for riving (splitting) longer pieces along the grain lines. You use the handle as a lever and you can direct the split either to the thinner or thicker side to some extent. Without a froe your split is going to run out to the thinner side because it’s weaker.

But if you don’t need longer thinner pieces then an axe and maybe a maul and some wedges could do fine. Depends on what you have. You can use an axe head as a wedge with a large wooden or even rubber mallet or wooden club and drive it into the end of a piece you want to split. Then you can use gluts (wooden stakes you use as wider wedges) to further widen the split if needed.
Curtis Buchannan does a lot of riving and splitting with wedges and gluts in his series, but be aware he doesn’t really follow safety recommendations.

Or if you’re preparing bowl blanks you can definitely chop them with an axe. Watch Ben Orford talk about it here:
But you see even he cut out the blank on a saw.

Oh and lastly even the Lie Nielsen froe is only $85. Depends on what’s in your budget, but at least it’s not $400 like a new plane.

View GeBeWubya's profile


56 posts in 2518 days

#4 posted 04-27-2014 06:16 PM


A good sharp handsaw with a low tooth per inch count would allow you to cut closer to the desired blank size without too much dust. The sawdust from the handsaw is much coarser than that from a bandsaw or a fine toothed frame or bow saw.

Popular Woodworking has at least the first 24 seasons of Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s Shop on DVD. More seasons are coming out every few months.

-- (- |: \,/

View hairy's profile


2909 posts in 4015 days

#5 posted 04-27-2014 09:32 PM

I use a froe and maul.

-- Genghis Khan and his brother Don, couldn't keep on keeping on...

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2970 days

#6 posted 04-27-2014 10:43 PM

If you are looking for blanks, a froe/smacker are overkill.
A froe or an axe or a maul or a wedge split at the grain and actually separate the wood along the grain. That means that any deviation in the grain will also be followed, making the next cut thinner. If you are looking for patterns in blanks you’ll need to do some sawing or lose some figure.

There isn’t much figure in straight grained wood.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View DustyCellist's profile


71 posts in 2012 days

#7 posted 04-28-2014 03:42 PM

If I am looking for blanks for spindles, do I want figure? Wouldn’t I rather have straighter grain for strength in legs for chairs/tables?

Also, I’m now looking into more portable solutions, maybe if I could find a bandsaw that is light enough for me to take from my basement to the outdoors for use, it would be far less of a problem.

My house is pre-civil war and the floors/ceilings do not seal at all, so any dust (or smoke, etc) from the basement is very strong in the first floor and often noticeable on the second or even the third floor, and I do not have a garage or auxiliary structure to use as a shop.

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