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Me and Mr. Froe

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#1 Canebrake

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 08:53 PM

Went to the workshop this evening and mounted the vise to the bench. I decided it was time to start into this even though everything isn't all together.

I selected a stick of cane that had already split in half and judging by the wall thickness and growers marks on the outside, decided it would make a good training stick for splitting. There's a lot better stuff left and I need to practice a lot before I start to build.

So get the mighty froe out and proceed to split each half into three. Get through the first cut and on to the second. Grab the froe close to the bottom and suddenly realize (like an idiot) there's not a handle on both sides. DUH!. Little finger on the right hand now has a one inch gash in it and the red stuff is coming out pretty good. My dog Buster looks at me with this "are we going in now?" look on his face and head back to the house for bandages and a 12 oz liquid pain killer.

After getting myself patched up and the mess cleaned up, I headed back to the workshop for some more splitting.

Now I have a question. I've read countless books and articles on splitting and seen how you can get 24 strips out of a culm. Or 18. And how you can direct the split back towards the center. Guess I have a lot to learn. The first couple small strips I tried to split tapered to nothing before the end of the culm. Took the froe out of the vise thinking it was too wide to direct a split and replaced it with a ground down Chesapeake style oyster knife. Worked a little better but the cane has a mind of its own. I don't want to modify the knife too much as we are coming into oyster season here, meaning a whole bunch of new opportunities to damage my hands even further...

Next was trying to plane down the pith side of the nodes more for a little more control. Swapped a plane for a carving gouge real fast and it worked very well, but still not having a lot of luck with directing the split back towards the center.

If I'm real careful and lucky, I might be able to get 10 or 12 strips out of the lower half of the culm. While I realize I am using this as a test piece, there is concern when I get to the upper half of the culm I won't be able to get a sufficient quantity of strips for 2 tips.

Any advice or encouragement is welcome here. whistling1.gif

#2 Fly1


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Posted 28 October 2005 - 09:21 PM

I usually let the cane split where it wants to and worry about straightening it later. That's why a lot people will just use a saw and cut it and not worry about splitting it. Others take a string or tape measure and mark the nodes so there in a straight line and put a split at each node then work from one node to the next one. Seems like too much work for me. I start a split with a knife then grab each side with my hands and pull then move on to the next one.

Ken cool.gif
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#3 Carlin


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Posted 28 October 2005 - 09:48 PM

Chalk this one up to the 'it works for me' board (from the FTOTY post):

Doing the actual splitting is quite easy. For the larger pieces you can simply use a froe and mallet. Once you get down to small enough chunks to split them in the vice, a bit more technique is required.

First, center the strip on the edge of the blade, being sure the enamel side of the cane is perpendicular to the froe, then gently tap the end of the strip with the mallet to start the split:
user posted image

As you push the strip into the blade, the split will wander. You'll need to correct this to keep each half the same size. To do this, simply push - or rather, twist - the wider half of the strip (the bottom half in the picture below) into the side of the froe while continuing to push the strip into the blade. Be sure to keep the enamel side of the cane perpendicular to the knife blade. It takes very little actual pressure, just the proper angle and motion.
user posted image

The split will quickly wander back to center and you can continue.
user posted image

Sometimes the nodes will resist the split. If this happens, gently tap the end of the strip with your mallet until the split clears the node.

This is surprisingly easy once you do it a few times and get the feel of how twisting the strip into the froe affects the split. Once you get the hang of it, your strips will be of even size, and nearly whatever width you want them to be.
user posted image



#4 canerodscom

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 09:53 PM


Welcome to the club!! You've just taken two major steps toward becoming a rod maker. You have actually split some cane, and you have managed to give yourself a nice gash in the process.


Fantastic post. I wish I had seen it ten years ago when I was getting started. That's probably the best description of splitting I've seen.

Learning to split without major anxiety simply takes a little practice. Usually the first culm is unbelievably ornery. Somewhere in the middle of splitting the second culm new makers have one of those "Aha!" moments, and it all comes together. I split differently than has been described, but it's the same basic process.

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#5 Canebrake

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 10:10 PM


Thanks for the words of encouragement. I am happy I got the christening blow out of the way this evening. Sort of like the first scratch on a new car. You know it's coming but don't want it. bugeyes.gif

Chris, I do notice you are using flamed cane, does that make a difference? Honestly, I just think I started with a bad piece.

Tomorrow's another day, there's shingles and leaks on the barn/shed roof to fix, maybe a little time to read and reflect some more, and get the terror out into the fields. He's missing the birds. For that matter so am I.

user posted image

#6 Sticky

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 10:14 PM

I vote for this to be pinned!

#7 Canebrake

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 10:40 PM

The one thing I'm trying to do is systematically understand what's going on with the cane, every step of the way. Probably an impossibility, after what I've seen this evening, which is really no big surprise.

I don't want to go running off in too many directions without knowing why I'm going that way. For instance, seeing the flamed cane Chris is splitting versus the blonde stuff I'm doing. The cane I'm using has been aged almost 20 years, given that, I would think it should split reasonably well. However, I do not have any idea of the moisture content of that particular piece of cane. However, I am reluctant to grab a torch and start flaming when I'm not sure I want the first rod I build to be flamed.

Thanks for all the comments so far.

#8 OSD

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Posted 29 October 2005 - 08:06 AM

You guys are good at splitting the cane by hand
“Myself “on the other hand have resorted to the band saw dunno.gif


#9 Carlin


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Posted 29 October 2005 - 08:20 AM

Chris, I do notice you are using flamed cane, does that make a difference?

I think flamed cane might be slightly easier to split than non-flamed cane, but it isn't a sizable difference. You'll notice the strips in the bottom picture aren't flamed nor heat treated in any way and they split just fine for me.

As Harry mentioned (thanks, BTW thumbsup.gif), keep working on splitting and very soon you'll reach that 'Aha!' moment where things will click. It took me the equivalent of a full culm (and it was indeed ornery!) before I got it and from then on it has been second nature. Besides, you've already made a blood sacrifice which is the first indoctrination. smile.gif

Beautiful dog Kurt!



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