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