Hewing is not much practiced nowadays: a little bit for fun and the occasional piece of restoration work, I guess. Certainly, although I do a lot of axeing and a bit of adzing, it’s something I’d not turned my hand to before.
So the opportunity to be involved in hewing five of the longest clear-span beams in the country was one that was too good to miss.
There has been a lot of work going on in the Arboretum at Westonbirt, recently as part of their re-development program. A late part of this is the construction of a new building to house the Tree Team and all their equipment, from chainsaws to tractors. And, largely because it could be done, I suspect, this was going to incorporate five beams spanning sixty clear feet. Now that is a span! Pace it out and see how long it is in comparison to your house.
The timber all came from within the Arboretum, part of a small plantation of pines made back in it’s early days by the Holfords in the 1870’s. The trees were moved, with some difficulty, set up together side-by-side and squared on the two side faces with a chainsaw mill. They were then levelled across this face (no need to do it along their length)and were ready to go
A group of twelve hewers of varying abilities then spent two days working on, what would be, the top and bottom faces.
Here, some of the team are busy notching in to the chalk lines and then splitting off the blocks of wood in between the notches:
This photo shows me in action on this phase of the work, working with a standard pattern felling axe:
And Joel Hendry at work with the broad axe. Note both the angle of the ‘cut’ he is working and its length:
People tend to assume that axe work will be rather crude. In fact, it can be as good (some would argue better) than adzed work and it is actually the former, rather than the latter, that one usually sees on old timbers.