Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make Do, Or Do Without – Making A Petite Froe From A Planer Knife

The aphorism that begins this post’s title was a familiar saying especially during the series of Great Depressions that lasted from 1929 to about 1950 and remains part of the undercurrent in most of the rural world.  In its most extreme cases it can contribute to a psychopathology of “hoarding.”  For most woodworkers or putterers of almost any kind this tendency becomes manifest in our loathing to throw out anything that might be useful.  Some time.  Some day.  Even if that day is decades away.

But sure enough, with enough time that day will come.

Such a momentous day happened to me this week.  I’m up to my eyeballs in Gragg chairs, and that requires transforming honking big pieces of oak trees into long thin pieces to be worked by edge and steam and bent into chair parts.

My long-time old-as-dirt hand made froe works fine on the honkin’ big pieces of trees, with its trailing edge thickness of almost a half inch.  But for making long, thin pieces of about 5/8″ x 1-1/4″?  Not so much success there.

I did a browse of the interwebz and found several acceptable options for a small froe, generally in the size range of something that would be called a basketmaker’s froe, and I was sorely tempted by this sweet little one from the Gramercy folks who have already parted me from much lucre over the years.  But I pondered the froe iterations possible from my collection of repurposable raw materials in the barn.

Window shopping my way through the “hardware store” portion of the joint I found just the answer I had been searching for; a used planer knife from my 10″ lunch box portable planer.  Darned.  Near.  Perfect.  It was good quality tool steel, hard and very sharpen-able.  Shoot, it already had a bunch of holes in it.

Quick as a bunny I pulled one out of the “metal scrap” drawer(s) and set to work.  With my Dremel-ish Craftsman tool I cut the 10-inch knife in half.  I was making a very petite froe so five inches was plenty.  Grabbing a chunk of white ash from underneath one of the benches where that is stored I was set with all my raw materials.

I put the ash piece in the vise and ripped a kerf with a slotting saw (thanks reader Jack for clarifying the tool as being in the Starrett catalog in ages past) followed by a few seconds with the Iwasaki fine float.

Viola’ at all fit together perfectly!