Richard of Jamestown - James Otis
There is far greater labor required in the making of clapboards, and it is of a wearisome kind; but Captain Newport declares that clapboards made of our Virginia cedar are far better in quality than any to be found in England. Therefore it is Captain Smith keeps as many men as he may, employed in this work, which is more tiring than difficult.
The trunks of the trees are cut into lengths of four feet, and trimmed both as to branches and bark. An iron tool called a frow, which is not unlike a butcher's cleaver, is then used to split the log into thin strips, one edge of which is four or five times thicker than the other.
You will understand better the method by picturing to yourself the end of a round log which has been stood upright for convenience of the workmen. Now, if you place a frow in such a position that it will split the thicknesses of an inch or less from the outer side, you will find that the point of the instrument, which is at the heart of the tree, must come in such manner as to make the splint very thin on the inner edge. The frow is driven through the wood by a wooden mallet, to the end that the sides of the clapboard may be fairly smooth.
Master Hunt has told me that if we were to put on board a ship the size of the John and Francis, as many clapboards as she could swim under, the value of the cargo would be no less than five hundred pounds, and they would have a ready sale in London, or in other English ports.