July 21, 2015

Signs That a Wooden Beam is Hand Hewn

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Hand hewn wood beams give a home beautiful, natural ambiance. Knowing if a beam is hand hewn is done by examining its straightness, weight, and wood patterns.

Wood beams can give your home an amazing look. They’re strong, elegant, and even though wood has been used for centuries to build homes, it has never gone out of style. Today, timber is often cut by machine, which gives it a different look than wood that has been hand hewn. However, authentic and finest hewn beams are often preferred.

Why would you want to use hand hewn timber instead of machine cut timber? It has a different, rough quality to it that looks great. Many of them are also antique, meaning they are over 100 years old, and they’ve been reclaimed from older buildings and reused over and over.

How can you tell what wood is hand hewn and which has been cut with mechanical log cutters? Here are a few different ways of determining whether a beam is hand hewn.

Examine the Beam in Good Light

First, put the beam in full, natural light so you can see all of the patterns of the grain. Wood that’s been hand hewn won’t have the same patterns on it. If you’re buying wood, look at some of the stock before picking out your beams. For originals, the patterns and markings on it will be unique. Other things to look for include close grained patterns. Wood cut by machine or by chainsaw will have an open grain. The presence of detailed carvings also indicates that the wood was hand hewn. If the wood is a part of a structure, you may have to bring in other lights or climb a ladder to get close enough to the beam to examine it.

Look for Marks of an Ax or Adz

An adz is a type of tool that was traditionally used to create timbers and beams. If a timber is hand hewn, you’ll be able to see the gouge marks from where this tool was used. You’ll also be able to tell where an axe was used to cut the limb. The marks from a mechanical log cutter are very different and can be easily identified by someone who knows exactly what to look for.

Test the Weight

If you can, try to pick up the beam. Hand hewn timbers are much heavier than modern ones. Of course, this method only works if the beams are free.

Check the Edges of the Timber

Another difference between timber cut by hand and timber cut by machine is that machines leave sharp edges. Feel the edges to see if they’re sharp. Genuine wood will also not be perfectly straight, while machine cut ones will. If the beam has straight corners at perfect right angles, it wasn’t cut by hand.

Checking Reclaimed Wood

This form of wood is often reclaimed from older buildings and reused. This wood, especially if it’s really old, may look and feel a little different. It will be very smooth to the touch after years of use, and even the marks from the axe and adz may have disappeared. The best way to check if reclaimed wood was hand hewn is to examine the straightness of the beam and its corners or to test its weight. Of course, if you know when the building the wood came from was built, you can often determine if a machine was used since machine logging has only been used in felling trees since the 1970s.

Using Hand Hewn Wood in Your Home

They are a good choice if you want your home to have a historical or natural feel to it. Their unique characteristics give your home a classic look, and if you ever want to sell, they will add a lot to the value, as well. In addition to using such beams in the construction of your home, you may also want to purchase furniture made out of them. Tables, chairs, bookshelves, bed frames, and many other items can be made from this type of wood. Naturally, expect to pay more for this type of furniture; especially furniture that’s in excellent condition.

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