Hand-hewn beams are beautiful structural remnants of very old buildings and barns. They often date back centuries and can add warmth, character, and ambiance to any space.
These beams have many uses too. They can be used for shelving, fireplace mantels, ceiling beams, and posts, both indoors and outdoors. In addition, the outside hand-hewn part is saved when cutting into a beam. These pieces are called “skins,” and they can be applied on interior or exterior walls to give the appearance of a log structure. They can also be used to wrap existing structural beams in a home or to make decorative box beams when the weight of a solid beam would be a concern.
Preparing a centuries-old hand-hewn beam for use in your home is hard work and best left to the experts. When you place an order for a hand-hewn beam with a shop like Vintage Wood and Forged Iron, your beam is first selected according to wood type and sizing and pulled from the lumberyard. It is then put into a dehumidification kiln. Heat and fans are used to properly dry the beam and to eliminate any larvae that may be living inside and could become active when brought inside. This process takes anywhere from one to two weeks depending on the size and moisture content of the hand-hewn beam.
Next, a hand-held nylon brush wheel is used to remove any dirt and loose wood. The result is a polished look that does not remove any of the original character. The beam is then cut to the proper size, and the cut ends (if they will be exposed) are singed with a torch to give them a weathered look.
During this process, you will often find mortise pockets, wooden pins, deep axe or hatchet cut marks, and remnants of joinery. One hand-hewn beam can have many of these features on one or all sides of it depending on the original use of the beam or where it was utilized in a structure. For example, if it was a center beam, there could be evidence of where several joists came out of it. These marks can be left open or rough filled with end grain wood. The intention is not to cover them up but to give the beam an authentic period look.
When your hand-hewn beam is prepared in this manner and cut to the proper size, you will still see the original marks that make it so desirable for use in your home. Most people prefer to leave their decorative beams unfinished like this, but fine-tuning them even more is also an option. The surface can be further smoothed out, and a finish can be added to turn your beam into a fireplace mantel or other accent with a more refined look. Your hand-hewn beam is then ready to be installed anywhere you want to add character to your home!
If you would love to add the look and feel of old-world hand-hewn beams to your home, contact the team at Vintage Wood and Forged Iron a call. We’re here to help make your dreams a reality!