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Adze and axe on hand hewn beamHewing a Tree to a Timber beam by Hand

Why? Well you might have seen, the BIG Idostuff project "Whitby Cottage Renovation" this is an old property (possibly pre 1650) that we're restoring / renovating using many old craft techniques. We discovered the bathroom floor was in danger of a serious collapse as only one beam supported it (more about that on the blog).So after a bit thought we decided the most appropriate way of supporting the floor was with an additional joist.

You can see how I retrofitted fitted the Beam here.

Hand Hewn Timber

The original beams are all waney edge softwood (most likely pine). So essentially whole lengths of tree squared of a bit and most of them show some taper so they are thinner at one end. In areas that haven't been sanded and cleaned up we can see the tool marks of the Adze that was used hundreds of years ago to square off the edges.

As the new joist is going to visible from underneath it would be good to have a similar finish. I also have a bit of urge to try out traditional craft skills. All this and also having trees available made up my mind what needed doing.

Video of hand hewing using Froe, Axe and Adze

The video shows the process of converting a tree in to timber beam from start to finish. The only non-traditional equipment used is the chainsaw for felling.

It's not the same as many demonstrations I've seen but it is quite efficient.

The hewing steps are described below with details on additional pages.

Any comments or suggestions will be gratefully received over on the blog


Tree Selection and Felling - Chainsaw

For this beam it was important to pick a tree of the right diameter and with a length that was straight enough. The tree chosen presented a problem for felling.

More about the Tree selection and Felling


Rough Hewing timber with a with a Froe

OR splitting a Cant from a Log. (Yes, you might have noticed I said "two cants" a bit previous, I was think ahead of myself. Technically they should be called logs until they are squared off)

I've not seen this process used before so it was an experiment. It certainly worked as a good start to the hewing process.

Details about squaring of a Log with a Froe


Hewing a tree with an Axe

It would have been great to try this with a specialist Broad Axe (I'm on the look out for one at the right price). But I found the Felling Axe to be quite efficient at rough cutting and splitting the sides off the log.

More about Axe Hewing


Final Hewing, Flattening and Smoothing with an Adze.

The Adze is used as a tool for selectively removing timber from a surface so irregularities from the initial hewing can be flattened out. It can be used quite aggressively, removing a lot of the timber or gently to give a reasonable finish.

Details on Adze use for finishing the beam