How to Hew a Log with a Hatchet

How to Hew a Log with a Hatchet

As time went on and people needed ways to construct buildings, innovations were made. One of which is the ability to hew logs.

Now, there are many ways to do it with a multitude of tools. One tool is the hatchet. Although best known for preparing firewood and doing general bushcraft, hatchets are versatile. This is why they can be used to hew logs. The key to doing this is knowing the steps and techniques to do so. That is what we will be talking about today. Here is how to hew a log with a hatchet!

What is hewing a log?

Before we can dive into the steps, it is important to know what hewing a log is. Hewing is the act of taking a round log or chunk of wood and turning it into lumber. This is done by flattening the surfaces and making timber that can be used for construction in a number of different ways.

This technique has been around for hundreds of years and still remains relatively the same to this day. The key difference is the tools that can be used.

Steps for hewing a log with a hatchet

1. Set up your dimensions

The entire point of hewing is to transform logs into wood that you can use. The first step in achieving this is to measure and set up your dimensions for clean cutting. At the end of the day, you need to hew in a way that will benefit the uses you have. Setting your dimensions right away will help guide you to cut in the best ways possible.

This is best achieved with chalk line, rulers, any anything else that you may need to measure and distinguish your dimensions.

2. Score and clean one side

Once you know the dimensions of the hew, it is time to actually do some work. With a hatchet specifically, scoring is very important. Scoring is the act of cutting lines straight into the wood to create a ladder-type pattern. This creates areas of compromise so you can shed off good chunks of wood.

Start with one side and score it all the way down. The scores should be fairly close together, but an exact measurement will depend on the size of the log. Keeping those notches a couple of inches apart is usually best. Ideally, chainsaws are fantastic tools to get this done, but it can be done with a hatchet for smaller logs. Chainsaws will have even scores, and you can do it very quickly.

The entire point of this is to prepare for the big cuts that will take off substantial amounts of wood. After scoring, do any other quick cleaning to make the next step easier. 

3. Finish and move on to the next

Once all of the scoring is done, it is finally time to hew the log fully. For really big endeavors, broad axes will do the job really well, but hatchets can also get the job done in many cases. Because the scores are in place, you are in prime position to get some serious work done.

To be ready for hewing, position the log in a very steady, solid position. Ideally, it should be about waist high. This allows you to get the best possible leverage over the log. Then, you chop down on various angles to cut out the blocks of wood between the scores. Once you cut out all of the bigger chunks, you simply clean up all of the little bits that are still attached. This can get tedious at times, but it is super important.

Once you finish a side, the next step is to flip it over and to it all over again! You repeat these three main steps until all four sides (or however many you feel like doing) are done. If you have more time, there are tools out there to really smooth out those faces. That can come in handy if you have access to it.

Are hatchets the best tool for hewing a log?

Traditionally, hatchets are not used for hewing, but that does not mean they can’t get the job done. The key is the size of the project you are trying to do. Obviously, super big logs will take forever with a ton of effort. On the flip side, smaller timber can be handled by a hatchet with ease.

So, it comes down to weighing your options and figuring out a project that will work for you and your tools.

What are hewed logs used for?

Knowing how to hew a log with a hatchet is an awesome skill set to own, but it is completely useless if you do not have any reason for a hewed log itself. Knowing what they are used for is very important.

Historically, hewing was to process timber into lumber, but there are more contemporary uses that could apply to you. First, there is bushcraft that requires shelter building. Having smaller, hewed logs allows you to build structures that are sound and can be reliable. In long-term survival or wilderness situations, this could come in really handy.

You can also hew logs with a hatchet to make benches, tables, or anything else that would encompass flat surfaces. Because the entire process is to take a rounded object and make it a square, there are a number of fantastic uses.

Closing thoughts

Hopefully, you now have the background knowledge to hew a log with a hatchet. As you can see, there is a good amount of thought and strategy that goes into it. Having the proper tools and knowledge is necessary for getting the job done, whatever that job may be.

This technique will take some practice. It may not click overnight, so be patient, stick with it, and see if you can find a new passion that encompasses this type of work.

John Sunder

John Sunder, an outdoors and bushcraft enthusiast, is the founder and operator of A collector of axes and hatchets, he enjoys writing and educating people about these amazing and ancient tools while also writing about other outdoor experiences.

Recent Posts