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.


Ken Hume

Looking back to see the way ahead !