Has anyone out there ever saw or used wood shingles? I have a bandmill and a plot of land with cherry, hickory, maple and hemlock. I've always heard of cedar being used or some other tropical hardwood. It would be used as siding on a new house that I'm building, but just as an accent on two large dormers. What do you think?
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor S:
Sure, you could make your own shingles but on a new house and just for an accent I'd use commercially made western red cedar shingles. Before everyone could go to the store and buy what they wanted shingles were made out of whatever wood was at hand. Oak, cedar or other long lasting wood would be used on important buildings with lower grade shingles used on outbuildings and barns.
Wood shingles may also have special requirements before the home can be insured against fire. This might affect you if you have a mortgage, and will certainly affect the resale of the home. You also need to check with the building inspector about what he/she will require.
Cedars, chestnut, white oak, black locust, osage, redwood, rock elm, yellow poplar and one old house I repaired had walnut shakes. Would not use hickory or maple for sure and I do not know about hemlock. Cherry is rot resistant but would seem like it would cup a lot and I could find better uses for it. Have sawn lots of shingles on my WM with the attachment they have and have split a many shake with a froe.
So, someone had the idea of making a thick shake and then re-sawing it at an angle so that it tapers and also so that the one side was smooth. Certainly, if this product is called a shake, it would have more appeal than if it were called a shingle. As the shingle or the sawn shake use less wood, they are financially preferred for large areas such as roofs today.
Of course, since only the heartwood has any decay resistance of note, and sapwood is more prevalent today with smaller logs, most shingles or shakes used for roofing are treated to resist decay and may be fire retardant treated as well.
I am curious what color that they cherry siding on Contributor I's house is as the cherry ages. Is it as elegant as I think it might be? Did you use only cherry heartwood? Did you have variable widths?
I'm curious, were the boards that you cut 1/2" all the way though, or were they tapered? Did you dry the wood at all, or put it up wet? I've built Adriondack chairs out of cherry, so I can attest to the rot resistance (the galvanized screws rotted first). I've also used black locust for a small wooden bridge that I've made. It's about 20' long and uses 3 12" larch (Larix laricina) logs for the beams. It's weathered to a beautiful grey, versus the cherry which didn't have as uniform of a color (it has black splotches).
One more thing – Contributor I, did you have any problems with the cherry touching the housewrap? I've heard that surfactants in cedar can destroy Tyvek's moisture resistance. Gene, do hardwoods have surfactants?
My father in law and I sawed every stick in this house, except the roof deck and trusses. For the siding we would saw entire logs into a wagon load of 1/2" by mostly 6" and 8" boards. No taper. We cut the boards to 12" length and set the string for a 5" reveal. Under the starter row there is a 1/2 x 4 at the bottom to kick it back. We put them up just as fast we could and then sawed some more. The picture below is of the south side after two years. I plan on putting a sealer on as well.
Go buy a few bundles of 18 inch No. 1 grade red cedar shingles for the dormers. You can also purchase these as sidewall products in a variety of styles with mill run faces or grooved or sanded faces. These come in rebutted and resquared with a regular straight butt or with a variety of other butt shapes such as round and etc.
Comment from contributor A:
As far as the old-fashioned way of making shingles or shakes, you split them with a froe. Those that have a taper to them are called "shingles" or as some call "shakes". Those that do not have a taper are known as "boards". I've made many of them and splitting with a froe you will end up with a large percentage having a natural taper, but it all has to do with having knowledge on how to use the froe. Anyone can drive a froe in a "bolt" (the piece of wood that you split in two to make the shingle) and split it in two, but after making several thousand of them you will learn to twist the froe just right to get the taper, and it takes a lot of experience with it to keep them from "running out" or splitting out short of the bottom. Those that do end up the same thickness all the way through (boards) were commonly used for out building roofs where beauty is not as important, as they will not lay down flat. You can take a drawknife and trim them down to have a taper.
Shingles are most often used on houses where beauty is more important. At any rate a split shingle has a much better look to it than a sawn shingle. Where I live, oak has always been the standby for shingles - red, white, and chestnut oak being the most widely used. A few people have used ash from time to time along with hemlock. I have never tried splitting hemlock but it is a very long lasting wood. I know of a few oak roofs in my area that are well over 100 years old, all with a steep pitch of course, but 50 years would be average. Make sure to split off the thin strip of sapwood on the edge because it rapidly rots away and in a few years causes leaks.