Monday 7 August 2023

Making Cedar Shakes

    The Western Red Cedar is BC’s Provincial Tree and has long been my favorite tree for many reasons.  It usually grows in moist, dark, primal-looking areas, which are my favorite type of ecosystem, and it is such a useful tree because it’s wood is so rot-resistant and splits easily.  Because of these two traits, it was used for making boats, fence posts, and also for making shakes for roofing.  

    One of the pioneer skills I learned since moving to McBride was how to make cedar shakes.  Above is a photo of a tool called a “Froe” sticking into the top a block of cedar.  While holding the wooden handle, you pound the top of the froe blade into the block a bit with a wooden mallet, then by pulling the handle toward you, the shake will split off of the block.  In the photo below you can see that the shakes are flat, thin, and plank-like, ready to be used as roofing or siding.  

    I have been tearing down an old fence which is falling apart.  I am using the old cedar fence posts that are still firm, to split into shakes.  I am then splitting the shakes into strips which I will use for for kindling.  That is another characteristic of cedar wood;  it burns quickly and hot, excellent for starting a fire in the wood stove.

    Below is an early photo of my neighbors house.  It was both roofed and sided with cedar shakes. 

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