axe hewn

Rare wood spotted

kaltimber tropical wood

In woodworking hewing is the process of converting a log from its rounded natural form into lumber (timber) with more or less flat surfaces using primarily an axe. It is an ancient method still used occasionally to square up beams for timber framing.



Hew is a general term meaning to strike or blow with a tool such as an axe or sword; to chop or gash, and is used in warfare, stone and wood cutting, and coal and salt mining in this sense. Hewing wood is to shape the wood with a sharp instrument such as an axe, specifically flattening one or more sides of a log.



As an ancient method of timber conversion, different methods of each step in hewing have developed in history.


Prepare log

After a tree is selected and felled, hewing can take place where the log landed or be skidded or twitched out of the woods to a work site. The log is placed across two other smaller logs near the ground or up on trestles about waist height; stabilized either by notching the support logs, or using a "timber dog" (also called a log dog, a long bar of iron with a tooth on either end that jams into the logs and prevents movement). The hewer measures and locates the timber within the log on both ends and marks lines along the length of a log, usually with a chalk line.



The next step is to chop notches every foot or two, almost as deep as the marked line using a chopping or scoring axe, called scoring.

At least three methods are used in scoring:

1) Standing on the log and swinging an axe to chop the score

2) In Germany a method of two carpenters standing on the ground with the log on trestles and swinging downward to slice the scores

3) A chainsaw is used to notch the log, the sections created by the notching are then split off using a felling axe.


Joggling or juggling

The pieces of wood between the notches are knocked off with an axe, this process called juggling or joggling. This results in a rough surface pared down just shy of the marked line. Scoring and juggling remove a fair amount of wood, make hewing easier and prevent long shreds of wood being torn off.



Hewing is the last step in this whole process, which is also collectively referred to as hewing. Hewing is done on the logs sides with a broadaxe. Hewing occurs from the bottom of the stem upwards towards what was the top of the standing tree, reducing the tendency of the broken fibers to migrate inwards towards the eventual beam.


Further smoothing can then be done using a hand plane, drawknife, yariganna (an ancient Japanese cutting tool) or any other established or improvised means.

Modern uses

Although still used in niche modern building, salvaged hand-hewn beams are now commonly recycled as architectural details popular in new construction and renovation of homes. They are also popular as decor in commercial and restaurant spaces.

Even in Kaltimber we rarely come upon axe hewn Ulin (Kalimantan's ironwood) boards or lumber such as our picture above. It makes extra exclusive and high standing decking, flooring or architectural beams.



Source: Wikipedia – Kaltimber documentation