How We Craft Hand Hewn Beams | Hand Hewing Styles
As you might guess, hand hewn beams are beams of timber that are crafted into their desired shape by a craftsman using manual tools rather than machine-operated tools.
Today, hand hewn beams are often used as beautiful accent pieces that give a home or space a more hand-crafted feel.
In the video below, Master woodworker Roy Watson joins Gary Campbell for a conversation regarding a unique log order featuring the ancient craft of hand hewing beams and wood. They discuss what differentiates the antique style from the scallop style and just what wood profiles you can apply hand hewing to.
Now that you’ve gotten a broad feel for hand hewn beams and have seen the difference between two types—antique and scalloped—let’s dive further into their history, uses, and how to tell an authentic hand hewn beam from a knock-off.
The Legacy of Hand Hewn Beams
Before modern electric tools came into the picture, craftsmen relied on tools like broad axes and adzes to chop and shape beams. This shaping technique resulted in a unique texture, far different from the uniform finish you might get with our modern tools. As we’ve learned, this method is known as hand hewing, and while it is no longer the only method we have available for shaping wood, it is a time-honored practice that yields beautiful wood pieces that stand out as beacons of craftsmanship.
When and Where to Use Hand Hewn Beams
Hand hewn beams are all about embracing the natural imperfections of wood. As a result, they can be impactful pieces of interior design. Often they’re used to warm up a space, such as a modern farmhouse-style kitchen or rustic living room. Vaulted or high ceilings are also excellent places to use hand hewn beams, giving a grand space more character.
Hand hewn beams also make for stunning focal points. Mantelpieces crafted from hand hewn beams bring both elegance and warmth to your coziest spaces. Hand hewn beam shelves can complement a hand hewn mantel.
Here’s an example of a hand hewn mantelpiece that livens up a living room.
Hand Hewn Dovetail Corners are a Reliance Timber speciality! The process includes cutting and shaping wood with hard blows using a heavy cutting instrument, such as an ax or chisel. At Reliance Timber, we have two experienced masters (Abel & Roy) who work with different hand hewn techniques to make unique, top-quality products for our clients.
Taking Hand Hewn Beams Outside
Hand hewn beams don’t have to be relegated to your home’s interior. If you’re looking for texture and an added element of interest for the exterior of your home, hand hewn siding is a great option.
Our Scalloped Hand Hewn Siding is a favorite among homeowners who want to add timeless curb appeal to their wood-sided homes.
Check out all the other products that Reliance Timber offers.
Hand Hewn Beams — How Do You Know the Real Deal?
Because there’s been such a rise in the popularity of reused beams, some unscrupulous dealers are selling knock-offs as the real thing. So how do you know you are being sold genuine hand hewn beams?
1. Examine the Beam in Good Light
A beam needs to be carefully inspected in natural light. All grain patterns need to be visible so you can confirm if it has unique markings that show it is a hand hewn beam.
Rough-sawn beams have a finer texture and a smoother, blended finish.
2. Look for the Marks of an Adze
The adze is about 10,000 years old and was initially made from elk antlers. This versatile tool leaves marks on hand hewn beams that are very distinct.
A genuine hand hewn beam will have adze or ax scoring cuts, with no two pieces being the same. The hewing adze cuts will be visible on the rough surface of hand hewn wood structural beams.
3. Test the Weight
A hand hewn beam is always heavier than a rough-sawn beam that a machine has cut, so make sure you pick it up and check the weight.
4. Check the Edge
The edges of a hand hewn beam will not be smooth or straight. They won’t have any right angles or sharp edges as they were cut by hand.
Timeless Beauty of Hand Hewn Beams
Hand hewn beams have made a comeback for good reason; they are beautiful, long-lasting, versatile, and highly individual.
At Reliance Timber, we are passionate about fine-crafted timber, and we spend our lives sourcing and producing the finest timber beams available. We use high-quality timber sourced in North America, much of it local to North Carolina.
We are the timber experts, and we have the perfect hand hewn beams for your home. Contact us today at Reliance Timber.