How to Make Cedar Shakes by Hand


A photo of Victoria GazeleyThere’s something about rustic shakes or more refined shingles that just screams ‘country charm’.  

From old New England cottages to sprawling West Coast estates and tiny rural cabins and outbuildings in the Rockies, wood shakes and shingles have a look and feel that simply can’t be beat by man-made materials.  But buying them pre-made can be expensive.

So what do you do if you’re on a budget and want that classic look for your home or other buildings?  Or just want the satisfaction of doing it yourself?

I’m here to tell you that splitting your own cedar shakes could not be easier.  Shingles are little more complicated, as they are generally sawn and not split, so I’ll focus on shakes for the purposes of this demonstration.

Here’s a how-to video we filmed to show you the process.  Trust me, if I can do it, you can too.


All you need are some rounds of wood that can be turned into shakes (cedar is ideal, but shakes can be split from other woods as well, such as pine [common in Europe]), a froe and a mallet.

Need a froe and mallet? Lehman’s carries both!

Bottom line?  You can split your own shakes – it’s easy, and actually pretty fast.  Why pay someone else for hand split shakes when it’s so easy to do it yourself?

Have you ever split your own shakes?  Do you have tips to share? Please do in the comments below!
5/15/2018 10:42:30 PM

I used the plans at WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG to build my own – I highly recommend you visit that website and check their plans out too. They are detailed and super easy to read and understand unlike several others I found online. The amount of plans there is mind-boggling… there’s like 16,000 plans or something like that for tons of different projects. Definitely enough to keep me busy with projects for many more years to come haha Go to WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG if you want some additional plans :)

Victoria Gazeley
1/28/2012 8:25:59 PM

I'm with you on the axe!! Not my favorite (or most skilled) skill... :) Would love to spend some time learning how to use a chainsaw. Just have to find someone willing to train me - I asked my Dad (they live nearby), but I have a sneaking suspicion he thinks I might damage something!

Nebraska Dave
8/30/2011 7:59:49 PM

Victoria, you make the splitting of a chunk of wood into shakes so easy. I never seem to be able to hit the spot I'm trying to hit with hand tools. That's why the best tool ever invented was the power nailer. I just can't hit a nail straight. When I build things and don't have a nailer, then I use screws and a power screw driver. I would not have made a good pioneer. Heaven help me if I ever have to use an axe. The chainsaw is my tree tool. I absolutely know I was born at the right time. I hope that you have shaked the coop by now and the chics are all dry and safe in their newly roofed coop. Have a great pioneer day.

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