Hand Hewn Beam Questions

My house was built in 1820 and the beams (floor joists) in the basement below the first floor are "and hewn" beams where the two verticle sides of the beam still show the shape of the tree and some still have bark on them whereas the upper and lower surfaces of the beam show the marks where the beam was cut amd leveled out by hand. I'm not real familiar with exactly how they cut beams back then by hand and was just curious about it. Does anyone know of a website that shows the tools and methods used?
Also, there are a few of these beams that have been damaged over the years by water and such and I was interested in replacing them with beams that fit in with the rest of the construction. Is this something that is done often, or would replacing the beam with a beam from the lumber yard be the wisest move? The beams vary in size but most are probably around 10" square or thereabouts.
Rob NE PA
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This basically sums it up!
http://www.trp.dundee.ac.uk/research/glossary/adzepic.html
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The work was probably done with a broadaxe or adze. I've been a remodeling carpenter since the 80's and have not seen a restoration job in your instance. Consider oversizing the replacement members, as modern homes typically have greater loads on them due to more finished space and furnishings (plus that old growth timber is no mo).
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Were it me, I'd contact the Timber Framers Guild at (hold on, let's see here...Ah! There it is!) http://www.tfguild.org/ and find out about replacing the floor joists with like timbers. At a minimum, I would think that using engineered lumber would lower the resale value of the house.
Just my $.02
-Phil Crow
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There are still people that do this sort of work. If you can't find one, contact your local historic society as they usually know the restoration experts. I've seen the work being done at Sturbridge Village and Hancock Shaker Village. The guy giving the talk at Sturbridge told how they found the best way to cut the beams. They tried different methods and some were better than others. Then they decided to just try to duplicate the cut marks on the original beams and that showed them the best way to swing the axes.
--
Ed
http://pages.cthome.net/edhome/



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There are some hand hewn beam and post listings on eBay at the moment...
Colonial Williamsburg, VA is another living history museum where they make hand hewn posts and beams, and pit sawn lumber. A couple of the former carpenters at CW were making new hand hewn posts and beams as a commercial venture--unfortunately I lost track of them over the years. Perhaps contacting the carpenters at CW might give you a lead to some new beams.
CW's contact information: http://www.history.org/ or 1-804-229-1000 -- ask for the carpenters in the crafts department.
John
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I took enough of this stuff out of a house of mine (RI, 1680) to ring a large garden. DON"T leave the bark...BUG CITY.
IF you can find some nice trees, have one side straightened by a sawmill and do as you like with the rest. If you want to stay round, strip the bark, otherwise just square them up with the mill. Or maybe cut to 4-5X10 and beat them up with an axe if you like. Unless the house has real historic character, I think most buyers will be indifferent to your concern. I've sold a few houses and NO ONE has shown any sensitivity to their structural details. They want a clean inspection, good kitchen, and clean bathrooms!
If this is like my old ones, it would benefit from more joists closer together. The floor structure was usually marginal. Don't forget, it's the strongest houses that have survived. MANY old houses were built very lightly and have fallen down. Wood was very dear in the not so good old days and people were prone to skimp. Not to mention that real engineering was not generally available. I've seen 4X4 rafters that had sagged several inches in the middle. Many attics had no collar ties.
Wilson

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Thanks for the response. My house is not a frame house, but just has wood in the interior floors and floor joists. The outer walls are all stone (about 2.5 feet thick). A stone house is interesting because the outer walls don't change position much at all but the interior wood structures do sag somewhat.
Rob
Wilson Lamb wrote:

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Sometimes referred to as 'adztec'
*ducking*...somebody had to say it....
r
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Robatoy wrote:

Sorry, I don't "get" it.....
Rob
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wrote:

Adze tech any better?
Though if memory serves, and the old boys down the road are any measure, broadaxing is the way to go.
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Yahbut, can they hold .0002 tolerance?
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.0002 furlongs? Probably.
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Aztec, Mayan...mmm Peruvian?
nebber mind...
*g*
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