Making Oak Shakes

When I was on holiday I visited Coyle Timber in Bath, Somerset, to order the shakes for the teahouse roof and to see how the hand-made shakes were made. I was shown around the workshop by the owner, Joe Coyle, and he demonstrated the process to me.

The photograph below shows the heavy 13" sections of oak log that represent the start of the process together with the tools used, non of which I gather have changed over the centuries. The first task is to split the sections into quarters...

The raw material and tools used to create the shakes

The quarters are then placed in a hydraulic log splitter (the only accommodation of 21st century - or should it be 19th? technology I was assured) and split - with a bang - into 1/2" (1 cm) thick tiles. The edges of the tiles are then hand shaped to make them more square as shown by Joe in the foreground. This is obviously a time consuming process but one I imagine to be most enjoyable (easy to say as a 'towny'!).

Splitting the quarters of oak and shaping to square them off

The finished Oak Shakes

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