Horseshoes, hand grenades, and hewing

We work between a highway-


and a graveyard-


Hewing stock for a little bridge.


Sometimes the gods favor us with fair grain and following knots.


But froward grain can take the romance out of hewing.


Those cars and the people inside them, doppler-effecting the very air around us as they go to Boston to fix bodies or solve equations or manage capital–they’re all traveling on straight lines. At least, they mean to.

We chase lines as well–blue and unimaginative lines–toward our next paycheck. It’s more than that, of course, but still the lines remain fixed and rigid.


And when we come away from the line, it’s ok, I suppose, in the larger scheme of things. We have existential mysteries to ponder and beards to snot.

We are musing while hewing:

Log post blog post

Debo run,

Lipstick on a chicken-

Flying Nun!

Somebody stop us.

It’s cold out. That slows us.


Carry on with your hoodied-self.


Two hewers making their axes chunk-chunk-chunk at the same time, keeping time, keeping lines between the highway and the graveyard.


The throaty winding gears of the school bus tell us it’s 3:30 and time for dads to meet their sons and daughters at the edge of the driveway-


And put down their tools for a little while to help with other things…


Lines yielding in that place between the highway and the graveyard.


Special thanks to Michael Burrey, Justin Keegan, and Dave Wheelock. 

3 more weeks to catch Debo Band (pronounced Deb-O) at Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA! They will play each Thursday night, January 30th, February 6th and 13th. Think Ethiopian pop, American soul & funk, and lots of brass creating an absolutely unique and wonderful sound. You will move your feet. And…Justin’s cousin Pj is the band’s bassist to boot! Maybe we’ll see you there.

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16 thoughts on “Horseshoes, hand grenades, and hewing

  1. Marie Pelletier says:

    artisan rap artist

  2. jackbaumgartner says:

    Plaid and long johns giving red oak the bird is awful funny. Maybe because I’ve done it so often myself. Thank you for the post, Rick. Stay warm when you can.

  3. John Wolf says:

    Nice work! Mine all come out looking like the one being gestured at.

  4. Jason says:

    That huge knot looks oh too familiar…those take all the fun out of hewing. Keep up the good work!

  5. j.h. white says:

    Don’t know about knots Rick but I sure like Ethiopian music. Stumbled on Mulatu Astatqe’s music and then took on the food…berbere and Yemesir W’et are staples. Nice post. Blue lines seem to keep coming up everywhere.

  6. Richard Law says:

    Hey Rick!

    I hate knots too, those dead ones just laying in wait (worst are the tiny ones buried in spoon handles & not appearing until just about done carving). Man, those brown dungarees/coveralls (of Justin’s) look pretty sturdy, where’d they come from? Mind you, I do like parentheses (brackets).

  7. Sean Torrez says:

    I keep asking around…you guys must know these kind of things:

    What is the bevel angle for those double-bevel hewing axes? I believe the one I’m referring to is the “Kent pattern” one you find in New England antique shops.

    • Rick says:

      Hi Sean. The double-beveled broad axe I’ve been using in the posts about hewing isn’t perfectly symmetrical. I’ve seen this on other hewing axes as well. Whether this is an accident of sharpening/honing, or whether it’s done intentionally isn’t clear. I’ve also seen symmetrical broad axes. If I’m reading my protractor correctly, the left side bevel of the axe (looking from the top downwards) is aprox. 15 degrees, maybe a little more. The right side bevel is a little blunter, about 20-odd degrees, maybe less. This makes sense to me, as the “flatter” bevel is against the timber. I like the lesser angles for hewing. I’d rather cut than blunt! (An aside: In my youth, I went for dead flat on the non-beveled side of a single bevel broad axe, as if I was sharpening a plane iron or chisel; the problem I found was the a dead flat axe tends to relentlessly dig into the timber’s face, making it likely you’ll hew in beyond the plane your working). A slight bevel, even on “single beveled” axes, is desired.

      This is all qualified by saying that over time, the bevel gets a wee-bit rounded and wants grinding. But that’s a lot of hewing to get to that point.

      I can’t remember if I’ve ever used a Kent-pattern axe, Sean. The one’s I’ve seen, if I remember, had bevels falling within that 15 to 20-something degree range. Are you using a Kent axe yourself?

      It took me a little while to get used to hewing double beveled. The whole angle of hands to timber changes. But the face of the timber looks and feels right for historic restoration.

      Thanks for asking, Sean.


      • Sean Torrez says:


        Just what I was looking for. “Using” would be a strong word for any of my axes—but I’m hoping to get into my backlot this spring and summer and start learning from Make a Chair From a Tree. The (what I think is a) Kent pattern hatchet is a new acquisition because I didn’t have any hewing hatchets. I’m still scoping the antique stores here in southern NH for a larger hewing axe if I see one.

        I’m not a NE native, but I think this is one of the cool things about it—all the residual gear and knowledge from the long history of hand-made objects here.

        Thanks for the help!


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