This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
A convenient roofing material when wood is cheap and abundant consists of a kind of " wooden slates," split pieces of wood measuring about 9 in. long, 5 in. wide, and 1 in. thick at one end but tapering to a sharp edge at the other.
Shingles, or wooden slates, are made from hard wood, either of oak, larch, or cedar, or any material that will split easily. Their dimensions are usually 6 in. wide by 12 or 18 in. long, and about 1/4 in. thick. They are laid in horizontal courses of 4 or 5 in. gauge, nailed upon boards, the joints broken, commencing with the eaves' course. The ridge is secured by what is called a ridge-board, or a triangle of inch stuff of 6 or 8 in. each side In America, where this roof is common, the mechanics have a special tool for shingling, called a shingle-axe, with a hammer at the back.