Hewing is the ancient craft of using an axe or adze to shape timber. Traditionally adzes were a specialist hand tool used mainly in boat building, whereas axes were more widespread, and used by ordinary folk in the building of timber-framed houses, and other structures such as grain barns. With the introduction of handsaws, and, more recently, mechanised saws, hewing has become a rarity.

Hewn timber excels beyond sawn timber in appearance and strength. A saw will cut through timber regardless of any knots or twists and bends. A hewer has to work with the grain, and in doing so has a feel for the piece of timber. By working with the grain the timber remains stronger.

Oak would have been the main timber hewn in this country, as it is the most durable of our native tree species and would have been around in greater quality and quantity than it is today. It is the principal timber in all historic timber framed buildings.

The main use for hewn timbers today is in replacing failing timbers in, and adding extensions to, historic buildings.

In summer 2007 we helped build a reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon farmhouse at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, in Suffolk. We supplied axe hewn Oak cellar boards and floorboards, and supplied and fitted radially cleft Oak wallboards, many with axe cut rebates.

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Hewing oak planks.


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