What Is A Hewing Axe – Complete Guide For Beginners

What Is A Hewing Axe

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I have seen people asking around on the internet about what is a hewing axe. Apparently, people are confused about this issue. That’s why I’m putting some light on the topic today. 

One very simple definition can make things clear for you. So let me tell you about the concept of hewing axes in detail. To understand the function of a hewing axe, you need to have a clearer idea of what hewing means.

What is a Hewing Axe?

Hewing refers to a method of cutting large trees to transform their shapes into lumber. Trees naturally have a round shape. Hewing allows you to reshape that round shape into a lumber shape, which has a flat surface.

One simple explanation of a hewing axe is a broad axe that you use for hewing. So, there is no particular axe that’s called a hewing axe. 

A broad hewing axe is created to shape large wood pieces. Most of the time, hewing axes are used to shape and cut unwieldy logs into more practical shapes. The structure of a hewing axe allows the user to make clean and deep cuts into logs. That’s why a hewing axe head needs to be broad and sharp enough to cut through rough wood. 

When sawmills weren’t a thing yet, an old hewing axe would come in handy in ancient times. Nowadays, fewer and fewer people are using axes for hewing logs. Most people prefer to buy finished lumbers instead of doing the hewing by themselves. 

The History of Hewing Axes

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Lumbermen used hewing Axes to square timbers. The timbers were used for rafting and stowage in vessels. Carpenters used hewing axes to smoothen rafters, beams, and planks.

To facilitate these uses, the axe’s left that came in touch with the timbers was level and straight. The axe handle would be bent outward to the right. It allowed the user’s knuckles to clear the logs.

Some hewing axes have straight right sides. These axes were created for left-handed users. Sometimes people would hire left-handed and right-handed workers to make the hewing procedure faster. They would work together from opposite sides so that the time required for hewing would be cut in half.  

Hewing Method

There are different ways of hewing. Experts like to follow their own methods for effectiveness and efficiency. A general hewing procedure includes the steps below. 

  • Preparing Log

The first step of hewing is felling a tree. After selecting a suitable tree, it’s felled, and the hewing process can start right there. Alternatively, you can relocate the log somewhere else. 

The next thing to do is to stabilize the log. You can do it either by using two smaller logs or using a timber dog. Next, locate and measure the lumber within the log and use a chalk line to mark the length of the log. 

  • Scoring

The next step will require you to use a scoring axe to chop notches every one or two feet. Again, there are different ways of doing it. You can either stand on the log or stand on the ground while keeping the log on trestles. You can also use a chainsaw for the notches. 

Then, use a felling axe to split off

  • Juggling

Knocking off the woods between the notches is called juggling. This step facilitates the final step of hewing by removing a fair amount of wood.

  • Hewing

The final step is to hew. It’s done on the sides of the logs. Hewing takes place from the bottom of the stem to the top of the standing tree. It limits the likelihood for damaged fibres to travel inwards towards the beam.


What is the best hewing axe?

Depending on what you’re comfortable with, the best hewing axe will vary. For instance, the handle length won’t be the same for all users. Similarly, left-handed people will need their axes to be right-beveled. On the contrary, right-handed people will need their axes to be left beveled.

Some people like hewing timber with an axe that is beveled on both sides.

What is a goosewing axe used for?

The first hewing axes used here were the goosewing broad axes brought to Pennsylvania by German settlers. This hewing axe was used to square up a log. It’s a tool with a precise edge that produces a finished product.

What should I consider before buying a hewing axe?

Usual features like durability, metal quality, and handle are mandatory to check. However, when selecting a hewing axe, you also need to ensure comfort, ergonomics, and the bevel of the axe. Double beveled axes are great for hewing.

However, you can also get a left-beveled axe if you’re right-handed and vice versa.

Final Verdict

To sum up the answer to ‘what is a hewing axe’- it’s a broad axe that’s used for hewing. Hewing axes can be of different shapes and sizes. As long as the blade and the handle are strong enough to do the rough job of reshaping logs, it can work as a hewing axe.

If you’re investing in a new axe, make sure it’s durable and comfortable because it’s not a piece of cake to hew, and getting a poor axe won’t help the procedure.

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