The term 'hew' means "to make or shape with, or as if with an axe", so a hand hewn beam is a round tree log that has been hewn into dimensional lumber using an axe.
Hewing wood is using a sharp instrument such as a broad hewing axe and adze to shape a log from an uneven cylinder, into a box or square shape.
Simply put, it is using a hand tool to make a round log beam of wood suitable for framing structures by hewing the log into a dimensional beam. Hand hewing is the process of doing this by hand, without machinery.
When a log is hand hewn into a beam, it has unique tool marks, slices and scores ensuring no two beams look the same. Once the most common but labor-intensive methods of creating sturdy beams for building frames and structures, machinery replaced most hand hewing by the early 1900s. Hand hewing is a painstakingly long process and has been all but abandoned with the exception of some craftsmen dedicated to the artistic nature of it. Now that heavy machinery can create a solid wood beam in a manner of minutes, the hand-hewn process is almost strictly a thing of the past.
Similar to a scavenger hunt, we search for old structures that contain the highest quality of original craftsmanship. Many of the unique vintage structures that we carefully collect and reclaim the wood from often include time worn, hand hewn beams. These treasures were handmade with such skilled craftsmanship that we keep them in their truest form possible and use them in custom projects such as beams, support structures and accent pieces like fireplace mantels and more. Our goal is to create the most precise reuse of the beam while wasting not one part of it. Reclaimed hand-hewn beams create warmth and extraordinary character in any project.
Here's a great and short article with tool images to learn more about the hewing process by going here.
You can learn more about our hand hewn beams from The Vintage Wood Floor Company by going here.