Creating a Hand-Hewn Look on Cabinet Doors

Depending on exactly what you want, there are several ways to get a scooped-out, scalloped, rippled look on a wood surface. October 11, 2007

We are fabricating a raised panel door and the client wants the face to look rippled as if it had been hewn with an adz. Scraping tools don't take a big enough bite and are too slow. We have had some success with pressing the front roller of a portable belt sander into the surface, but this is also slow. We are going to look at Dynabrade's Dynisher hand held drum sanders next week in Vegas to see if they might speed up the process. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
How many do you need? You could use anything from a scrub plane to a chair seat style draw knife, or if you have a lot to do, Festool has a planer and head that are made just for the job.

From the original questioner:
Probably 200 doors and drawer fronts. I will check out Festool if they're in Vegas.

From contributor J:
Take a power plane, set the cut light, and pull it backward across the panel. This will give you the look you want without a lot of tear-out. May need to ease the edges of the planer blades so you don't get sharp lines. Sounds crazy, but works well. The pattern planer blades like the Festool work real well, but they need to be pulled backward, not forward.

From contributor S:
I'll go against the grain on this one. Looks to me like the best way to get a "hand hewn with an adz" look is to hand hew the pieces with an adz. I know it sounds primitive, and it is. But I'm bettin' if you do this with a machine, it will always look as though you did it with a machine. Some things simply can't be rushed - this may be one of those things.

From contributor J:
I definitely agree with contributor S. We make hand hewn box beams from white oak and hickory and we hew by hand green, then dry our stock. You can not hew dried material and make it look authentic. But I also have many customers who are looking for something different. They may call it a hand hewn look, but what they are looking for is not actually hewn, but more of a wavy texture. If you can give them what they want with a power plane, go for it. Production timeline and budget may call for it. Hand work is expensive and not in everyone's budget.

From the original questioner:
You are absolutely right about the look my client wants. It is really not a hand hewn look with an adz, which would be too rustic. It is more of a rippled effect that is toned down with an orbital afterward. It may not be authentic tool work, but it is the look she wants and the client is always right!

From contributor N:
We have done a few things hand hewn like you are talking about doing now. I would get a Makita power plane and go to work. We did a full set of stairs in hickory this way, including risers, treads, and skirts. I think it took the guy doing the work about an hour and a half to get all of this done. The trick is to make very short strokes and vary the direction of the tool a lot.

From the original questioner:
My plant supervisor is at the Vegas show. He is looking at the hand held power tool manufactured by Festool that is considered the one for creating a rippled look. It has been suggested the Festool planer with the rounded blade should be run backward to create a hand hewn look. Although this is not a genuine look, it achieves a look that a lot of homeowners are looking for.

From contributor N:
I like to use the Makita with the straight blade. It is very easy to adjust the depth of cut while you cut and that really makes a difference in the overall look of things. Also take short choppy strokes, not long even strokes.