Page 1 of 122 1 2 3 ... 121 122 >
Topic Options
Rate This Topic
#13058 - 10/13/07 07:41 PM historic hewing questionnaire *****
northern hewer Offline
Member

Registered: 03/17/02
Posts: 1098
this topic deals with my favorite topic "HEWING".

To that end I am asking those that can square timber by hand the "old" way drop by for a chat.

I welcome those that might like to learn to join in

Please sign in and tell everyone some of your experiences, and if you like ask a question and I will try and answer it to the best of my ability. If I can't I am sure that someone will jump in to help out.

It would be interesting to hear from people on other continents and in other countries that may be tuned in, don't worry about your English or spelling.



NH


Top
#13059 - 10/14/07 07:25 PM Re: historic hewing questionnaire [Re: northern hewer]
northern hewer Offline
Member

Registered: 03/17/02
Posts: 1098
Hi all would be hewers and those with the calloused hands:

Due to no posts yet I have a question concerning the type of broadaxe that was used in the UK prior to British North America's colonization, I always wondered if the North American hewing axe was similar in shape and style to the British axe or did it develop along its own line? anyone out there like to comment.

NH

Top
#13060 - 10/15/07 02:10 AM Re: historic hewing questionnaire [Re: northern hewer]
Ken Hume Offline
Member

Registered: 03/22/02
Posts: 934
Hi NH,
Probably the best person on our side of the pond to answer this question is Joe Thompson but until he happens along I will do my best to get the ball rolling.

One of the major differences between the UK / mainland Europe / USA and Scandinavia is that traditionally most framing in the UK was done using hardwoods (oak, elm) as opposed to softwoods (pine, larch) and this has a significant effect on the design of the axe blade employed. The cast steel softwood axes employed in North America have large wide blades (12") whereas UK blades were forged and would appear to have been much smaller (6 - 8") but this might not allways have been the case. The Bayeux tapestry shows hewing axes being used by the Normans to build ships for the invasion of England in 1066 and these axes were "Tee" shaped. One of these axe heads can be seen in the Winchester city museum with the blade being about 1.5 - 2" wide and 8 - 10" long with a curve in the blade at both ends presumably to prevent "digging in". Care needs to be exercised with drawing wide spread conclusions about the use of this type of axe throught England. Despite its name The Bayeux tapestry was thought to have been made in England and not France as one might expect. If the tapestry had been made in France then the axe illustrated would be more likely French in design than English.

Examination of hewing signatures left on older timber frame buildings (1300 - 1500's) seems to show that fairly narrow scoops are removed 2 - 4" wide and so axe heads are likley to be narrower than the old "Norman" or Saxon style. Some of the early hewing work examined is done so finely that it can be very difficult to see how this was done using the naked eye alone and so one has to resort to making crayon rubbings to pick up signatures. The idea that hewing produces deep score marks and quite obvious scoops as can be seen in North America is not particularly evident here in England though occasionally "accidents" happen.

If you check out :- http://www.kfhume.freeserve.co.uk/pages/publicationspages/finland2001pages/finland2001frame.htm you will see a picture of a Finnish hewer proudly displaying his favorite axe that he used to square the logs for building a church.

Regards

Ken Hume
_________________________
Looking back to see the way ahead !

Top
#13061 - 10/15/07 06:54 AM Re: historic hewing questionnaire [Re: Ken Hume]
Mark Davidson Offline
Member

Registered: 11/12/03
Posts: 1116
Loc: Keene,Ontario, Canada
The last time I did any amount of hewing was at the International Plowing match in 2006. I had a lot of fun and managed to attract a lot of attention there. Did my best to explain the process and talk about timberframing and log building in general. I am an oddball in that I hew with the log at hip hieght, not on the ground as was done in early ontario, so I had to explain that as well.
I think the broadaxe is an awesome tool, and I think that the broadaxe finish suits timber better than any other.

Top
#13073 - 10/15/07 02:04 PM Re: historic hewing questionnaire [Re: Mark Davidson]
Bruce Chrustie Offline
Member

Registered: 09/08/03
Posts: 120
you know I started out hewing on the ground and my back told me it did not make any sense to do it that way. Just finished reading "Lumber Kings and Shantymen: Logging and Lumbering in the Ottawa Valley" and it had some pics of old timers hewing at the hip level simply because the trees where so big!

Top
#13076 - 10/15/07 06:54 PM Re: historic hewing questionnaire [Re: Bruce Chrustie]
northern hewer Offline
Member

Registered: 03/17/02
Posts: 1098
Hi everyone
Thanks Ken for your very knowledgeable insite into hewing techniques in your neck of the woods, and also the lovely picture of a Swedish Hewer, the axe is very different--from the picture it is hard to see if there is much sweep in the handle. I would really like to take it in my hands and experience the feel and balance of that type of tool, and maybe (try) and use it

Hello to you Mark I remember the pictures that you posted awhile back, and they were great, I know from experience that however you portray an historic subject or object to the general public it is wise to really do your homework otherwise you can really get sidwinded by someone that has some knowledge on the subject. If you can feel confident that what you are doing or portraying is as correct as possible, then you can feel more at ease and maybe learn from a good exchange of information. The International plowing match is visited by many from all over the world and probably posed a formidable stumbling block that you probably encountered manytimes. I would have loved to have been with you at that time.

You are correct the trees then were quite large, and that is why I have said many times before that it was impossible to elevate even logs that could square say 12" in 60 feet, these were pretty large trees.
Please be careful hewingwith a elevated log, in my opinion the ark of the axe could continue down towards your legs or feet. Mark above I know hews with the log elevated but I believe he uses a short handle to keep control, please correct me if I am wrong Mark

Well thanks for the interesting info guys

NH


Top
#13078 - 10/15/07 07:25 PM Re: historic hewing questionnaire [Re: northern hewer]
Mark Davidson Offline
Member

Registered: 11/12/03
Posts: 1116
Loc: Keene,Ontario, Canada
OMG, I don't portray much... I hew at hip level with a short handle(and knee pads!!), for fun and rarely even for wages, but I don't know much about historic re-creation, just about squaring logs.
And yes, it would have been sweet to have you at the plowing match, maybe another time???
By the way, try a goosewing sometime, if you get the chance (-:

Top
#13086 - 10/16/07 08:45 PM Re: historic hewing questionnaire [Re: northern hewer]
Housewright Offline
Member

Registered: 02/16/06
Posts: 332
Loc: Waldoboro, Maine
Hello all;

I have little experience hewing so I have some questions.

1. Were adzs actually used to smooth timbers? I occasionally read books which refer to how timbers were converted using a broad ax and then smoothed with an adz. However, all hewing marks I have ever looked at have an arc to the signature. I do not know how to swing an adz with a sideways arc so I presume all smoothing of the timbers was done with an axe. Here is a nice example from about 200 years ago in Maine.

http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o223/jimderby/IMG_2967.jpg

2. What are large bladed broad axes used for. In most of the signatures I have seen the cutting edge of the axe was around six inches long. I have seen much larger axes.

3. Hewing marks are always scalloped telling me the cutting edge was beveled. What are the axes with one flat side used for?

I reciently learned that just one axe company in the early 20th century was producing 300 different types of axe heads. There were certainly a large number of very specialized uses of axes.

Just for fun, below is a a photo of an elegant square rule joint. In my thinking the post was hewn with an axe and the joint relieved with an adz. The girt was cut out decades ago.

http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o223/jimderby/IMG_2838.jpg

Just one more photo. Here is a double gunstock post. I cheated by starting with a 10 x 14 and hewed the lower gunstock just to carry the girt in a barn repair. I am not aware of double gunstock posts being used in barns but there is precident in house frames in Connecticut.

http://i121.photobucket.com/albums/o223/jimderby/IMG_2985.jpg

Thanks;
Jim
_________________________
The closer you look the more you see.
"Heavy timber framing is not a lost art" Fred Hodgson, 1909

Top
#13092 - 10/17/07 07:38 PM Re: historic hewing questionnaire [Re: Housewright]
northern hewer Offline
Member

Registered: 03/17/02
Posts: 1098
HI JIm:

thanks for joining the conversation, and the series of pictures that you took time to add to your post.

I will give it my best shot--
Q#1--By all means timbers were hewn by hand to a square dimension, that is close to what was needed, for most purposes that is the way they were used, but in some cases for example exposed timbers in a home, or in many old country dutch barns the special beams like the anchors and their posts were adze finished. the surfaces will show the unmistaken marks of the adze blade, and should if done properly be undulating in appearance, and no hewing marks will remain.

In exposed ceiling timbers, say in a early log, or timberframe home, after the adze has did its job, the lower edges would be beaded by hand to round out the appearance, when good workmanship was the name of the game.

In some swing beam barns the swing beams only were adze finished because I suppose they were the main focus of attention.

As far as your photo I would say that the timber was a bit off square, and with the timber laying on the ground and standing on top of it, an adze was employed to remove the excess wood on the lower corner. You will notice that not much was removed on the upper corner, and the tell tale rough scoring marks (2) remain slightly visible, and some of the regular scoring marks. The tradesman who did the adzing used an overlapping type of repititious swings and created an unusual appearance, in my opinion it is definitely an adze that did the final work, what do others think?

Q#2--In my opinion axes with less than 9 or 10" in width would not qualify to be called hewing axes but rather hatchets, what you may have seen was timbers squared with a regular felling axe.
All the hewing axes in this area would have been 10 to 14" wide on the cutting edge and have only one bevel, the side towards the timber would have been flat, now just a minute--nearly flat, and I think that this may answer another of your questions, the flat side of a hewing axe is not flat but slightly rounded and will be only noticeable if placed on a flat surface, this is for a reason the centre if the blade will take wood nicely, and not bite in at the edge. A broadaxe in an experienced hand will produce a surface very near an adzed surface, and will have an undulating surface texture, and be hard to tell the difference. I have pondered over many timber finishes to try and acertain what historic tool in fact created the final finish, not an easy call sometimes. this type of scrutiny only comes into play when doing an exact restoration and having to put on new timbers an original finish.
Q#3--the company that produced so many axes no doubt was shipping internationally, and knew what type of axe the population was using in that country, so it required a great variety of styles to be welcomed as an import.

#4--You are right on the money I would say the joint was formed by all means using and adze, if I was doing that joint it would have appeared very similar, and I would have used an adze rather than chisels and slicks

#5--I am not familiar with gunstock joints so I will leave this up to others to comment on but nice pictures

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and if there are other examples out there that need to be commented on please lets see them.

Please don't be afraid to comment on my best shot at an explanation it is by friendly chatter that we can learn, and I am always willing to learn, and I want others to also.

NH


Top
#13099 - 10/18/07 07:35 PM Re: historic hewing questionnaire [Re: northern hewer]
northern hewer Offline
Member

Registered: 03/17/02
Posts: 1098
Hi Ken

I would be interested in passing a few words with Joe Thompson, and comparing notes on his hewing technique, and in particular what type of axe he uses, and how he props up, and what height his log is, prior to hewing. Does he have an Email address?.

It is interesting what you said about axe size compared to type of wood specie being used. Over here the wider hewing axes were also used for hardwood hewing, I had never thought or heard of smaller axes specifically for oak or elm.

One thing that I have noticed though is that the heavy head will bite into and split hard wood quite easily.

I will admit though that white pine was used where it was plentiful, but on farms that had no pine, then ash or elm was used to produce the frameworks.

One other thing that is interesting is that Britain was the main supplier of axes (and axe styles) to the New World prior to industry here in North America catching up. Even well after and into the late 1800's Sheffield Steel produced some of the finest chisels, axes, augers and many other products, and was ranked equal to the Swedish manufacturers in this regard.



It would be nice to hear from historic tradesmen in other areas that have also researched the craft of hewing timber, and the type and design of the tools.

I wonder Ken if during your training, you had access to any old hardware catalogues that date to the early 1800's that would show the various axe styles exported from Britain during that period?

I expect that the forgeries in this country as they became established, copied styles of the imported axe heads, but from what I can make out never really were able to copy the quality of the inset toolsteel cutting edge

anyway thanks for the input

NH

Top
Page 1 of 122 1 2 3 ... 121 122 >

Moderator:  Jim Rogers, mdfinc 
Newest Members
mike_wood, Airspoon, paulf, Willlisak, Alecson
4755 Registered Users