-and gave the oak 3400 whacks…
That is to say, it takes about that many strokes/cuts/chops of a broad axe to hew a quarter inch from four faces of a 7×8″, 14′ 8″ length of red oak.
I love to count–
The pile (below) of hewn oak represents roughly 51,000 strokes of a broad axe. Your local box store probably has an economy stack of ’em back by the drywall. Don’t forget to re-stack the pile after you’ve picked through.
When we begin to make little motorboat sounds with our lips after a long day of hewing (we’re hewing stock for a little bridge) we naturally do things like count to keep our minds sharp, even as our axes begin to dull. It’s an exercise in extrapolation, exertion, and math for dummies. It also gives us a number to put towards the effort required to process timber with hand tools.
Some years ago, in another dimension, we timed and counted the number of pit-saw strokes it took to saw about 8 feet through a similarly dimensioned oak. In that spirit we thought it’d be groovy to do the same thing for hewing. So…I counted the number of strokes it took to hew one face of the oak. One thing led to another and Justin and I thought, why not figure out how many strokes it takes to hew an entire log. Yea, verily, let us use our human reasoning and opposable texting thumbs to reckon the total amount of strokes for ALL of the timbers!
Stoked for strokes
We started by scoring to the line. This takes a measly 50 strokes/face, give or take, using the felling axe. We did not include the number of scoring cuts made in our numbers. The oak is from our friends at Gurneys. None better.
Here is the finished face. It’s a little out of wind. Don’t judge me. This one face took 900 strokes of the broad axe to hew:
Here is the log at approximately 100 strokes-
300 strokes brought me to about 6 feet-
Getting there at 700 strokes–
Don’t forget to count…don’t forget to count…
So, 900 strokes with the broad axe to hew almost 15 feet of an 8″ face of oak. From this we can determine how many strokes per square foot of hewing.
Contents may settle upon chipping
Ere we continue, the following qualifications must be made:
This isn’t hewing from round logs. That count is for another day.
The grain of the particular side used for counting was mostly knot-free and had plenty of sapwood. This would presumably require fewer strokes than a knotty, mostly heart-grained face.
The count includes swings and misses and near misses.
The oak was green, though it was noticeably dryer than had we hewn it from a newly felled, round tree.
We hadn’t any obvious signs of scurvy on the day of our reckoning.
The hewing and count will be greatly influenced by the hewer’s axe. The axe I’m using is an old style model weighing a little more than 7 lbs. It’s beveled on 2 sides and helved with white oak.
I’ve added the letter “e” to the word “axe” so as to make my friends across the pond feel welcome and my stateside neighbors think I’m pretentious.
All numbers are rounded up or down and are approximate.
Every hewer hews with a unique style. Numbers may vary.
My math skills are that of a second grader. When we asked Siri for help, she said, wtf are you talking about?
So many words, so much math. Let’s take a quick break:
OK-thanks for coming back.
Y ahora, los cálculos!
Here’s a bunch of numbers for ya just in time for taxes. H&R chopping block! This is no stroke of genius. In fact, our figuring may be utterly wrong. We await feedback from you, gentle reader.
All of our calculations are based on this one little equation in my kitchen (thanks Kim):
90 strokes per square foot. That sounds like a lot, but it proves true in the doing. We multiplied the length in inches by the width of the face being hewn. The resulting number was divided by 144, rounded up and converted to square feet. The face which took 900 strokes to hew was approximately 10 square feet. That convenient number gave us the number of 90 strokes/sq.ft.
From there, it was all scribbles and beard tugging until we came up with the numbers for all of our hewing:
So, about 51,000 chops with the broad axe to remove a quarter inch from each face of 22 pieces of varying lengths of oak.
What does any of this mean? Is there a point? If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.
We just can’t know what any of this means. Arms are sore and there are motorboat sounds to make. In the meanwhile, we’ll keep hewin, figurin, and drinkin with Mary Lou.
When the job was nicely done
She gave another 3400 and one.