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Many hewers and a presidential ping

by on 3 Jun 2011

This is week three for leadership on the ground in Sanok, week two for the timber framers and Friday marks one week for the first crew of students. So, the days begin to run together a bit. The soundtrack is still filled the crisp chunk of axes on wood, but some new notes can now be heard in the mix. The hiss of spud and drawknife skinning bark from the logs, the gnawing of the pitsaw halving and quartering large balks into scantlings (small timbers), and the ring of the anvil as Daniel, our blacksmith,and his student apprentices hammer out log dogs to steady the timbers for hewing, along with the occasional wrought iron tool.

HEWING continues to be our prime activity.  With the passage of time and accumulation of axe strokes, both our novice and experienced hewers are becoming more confident and capable. And we are seeing both perfecting of traditional techniques and development of some innovative new ones.

The photo above shows the after and the video below the before of Jacob’s expert wielding of his favorite large goose wing axe. By carefully scoring a few millimeters shy of the line, the axe peels the wood away in a long continuous shaving, providing a lead – a narrow V between the hewn timber surface and the waste peeling away – which guides the broad axe into the work. Following the lead does not in any way diminish the skill of the axe man in hewing to the line, but rather shows how best to take advantage of the mechanics of wood removal.

Meanwhile, Phil gave us another very different take on hewing technique. Working with short, large diameter logs up on horses, Phil begins by scoring first with a saw, a common technique when there is a large amount of wood to be removed. But then he diverges from the norm by chopping down along the grain of the block to be removed, sectioning it into three pieces which either fall off or are easily removed by chopping in along the grain with the blade of the axe laid horizontally. A bit of cleanup and the process is repeated. Two points stand out: once Phil is done with scoring and joggling, there is no need for further hewing, as you can see from the photos which follow. And the entire process is accomplished with a felling axe, without ever picking up a broad axe.


Daniel turned 21 yesterday.

Not to be outdone  Judith (60) and Emma (20) followed for a combined total of 80 years, the numeral on their joint birthday cake.

Daniel spent his birthday working in the forge (more about this later), Judith spent hers swinging the adze, her new favorite tool.  I found Emma celebrating her natal day sharing pitsaw duty with Barbara.


In Warsaw last Friday (May 27) President Obama visited the building site of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, future home to our Synagogue frame replica. The President laid flowers at the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes Memorial next door, met with museum officials and inspected the work in progress. MHPJ director Agnieszka Rudzińska reported that

“The President promised the he will come to the opening of the Museum in 2013 with his daughters. He said that the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is an important project not only for Poles and Jews, but for the whole world.” 

The English version of the MHPJ website can be found at

One Comment
  1. Higgs Murphy permalink

    I’m enjoying the scenery and all of the young folks hewing. It would be nice to be there with you. Barb, looks like you’re just given ‘er on the pitsaw.

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