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Blog entry by frank posted 01-07-2007 07:03 PM 828 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hand Hewn or Hand Planed life is realized in the swinging, singing forward motion of the broadaxe as i am hand hewn//hand planed from the timber of my beginning….

And who would think today of the broadaxe and hand plane as being analogously likened together as producing a common wood dressing effect upon the wood.

In my past days of experience as to the how shall I, of thinking through the project to the finish there was included in my thoughts the; hand plane, power planer, scraper before going on to other stages of finish. And these are all good and righteous acts of woodworking and so I used them, since they achieved a height of beauty in the wood I was stretching for. And that was my vocabulary of woodworking until I laid my eyes on the broadaxe and felt my heart leap within me for joy.

Timber framing and post and beam construction was my introduction into a world of woodworking where I found my roots going back to a time of place in China and Japan. And yes, there is a fine scribed line of separation between ‘timber framing’ and the ‘post and beam’ construction of today. Timber framing is ‘the way’ of doing the art of building, according to the ancient traditions of tools where ‘Dogu’ is the ‘instruments of the way’. I am not separated from my tools as these are what I am, just as in another sense I do not speak of my tools as ‘tools’ since we are together as ‘instruments of the way’. Another way of saying this might be to say; “I respect my tools with great honor just as my tools honor me with great respect” and so we are in this thing called ‘the way’ together. Post and beam construction does not have to be politically correct in the therefore and wherefore of how I build and only needs to fit the guide lines of your communities zoning board.

One side note here that has always intrigued me is the 80,000 hewers of wood and stone that were used in the constructing of Solomon’s Temple. All the work of hewing was done off site and away from the temple and then brought to the temple site where there was heard no ‘sound of axe or chisels’ in the assembly of the temple. Wow, talk about ‘measure three times, cut once’ and then all the ‘wood dressing’ done off site! It has been said that the ancient Japanese woodworkers had over four hundred hand cut woodworking joints passed down from master to student and yet the sadness is, that many of these are now lost. A life time could be spent or expired in just the study of properly cutting and execution of style and respect of the wood to complete these joints. While all the time remembering no glue and no nails of metal, and hearing the joint pop when put together.

The broadaxe introduced me to the timber framing slick, bark spudders, adzes, froes and draw knives where I learned the meaning of dangerously sharp and paying attention to the details of where my feet are standing. There was the time when I was much concerned with being able to count all my fingers and wearing eye protection, now I pay attention to my feet and toes. Ha, having split the log with wooden wedge and then only to watch that wedge pop out and get going on vertical trajectory I have also learned about head gear.

What the broardaxe has taught me and the timber slick has learned me, is that I can go after a finished taste of ‘wood dressing’ that is uncommon in today’s world of the power tool. This where I must split the hair of time and space as to where I am going, while not forgetting the reality of money economics. And so where I used to get excited about all the power tools I could collect, (and these do speed up the process) I now would much rather spend my time sitting and thinking the process through and then comes the moment I wait for, when I pick up broadaxe and start to ‘hew the line’ between my scores. From start to finish, I am now in ‘the process’ and loving every minute of it.

And yes, I suppose that only one who has timber framed could understand how the broadaxe has accompanied the pleasing nature of the hand plane and yet both are analogous to each other.

You all have a very good day!!!

-- --frank, NH,

2 comments so far

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4201 days

#1 posted 01-11-2007 07:39 AM

Frank, I understand when the railways were built in Australia at the turn of the nineteenth century, the lumber of choice for railway ties was Ironbark. In Australia, these are known as “sleepers”.

Ironbark is one of the toughest woods known. It is so sense that it quickly dulls the blade of any saw. I’m told that it was quicker and easier to mill the timber by splitting the giant logs and shape them with the adze. The problem was that unless the adze was kept sharp it would bounce along the surface of the wood without penetrating it. The splitters and shapers learned a technique of holding a long handled adze against the hip, using it as a pivot point. This would prevent the adze skidding along the surface into the woodman’s foot or ankle.

Here’s a couple of links you might enjoy. Link #1, Link #2, Link #3

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View frank's profile


1492 posts in 4230 days

#2 posted 01-11-2007 01:14 PM

Hi Don;
Thanks for those links and the poetry song. I am especially interested in the #2 link as they have some beautiful photo images of reclaimed and recycled timber. Ah the beauty and color of those past but not forgotten timber beams! I will spend some more time at that site.

Thank you.

-- --frank, NH,

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