Making Box Beams Look Hand-Hewed

It's hard to duplicate the look of an authentic hand-hewn beam, but here are some suggestions. August 24, 2005

I have to create boxed beams from yellow pine and make them look like hand hewn beams. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor F:
I have thought of doing this before and came to the conclusion that I would have to miter the long edges of the boards to avoid having it look the three individual boards. Someone could really get carried away and look at the grain on a real beam of that species and then select boards with the appropriate grain type for the sides and also the bottom of the faux beam.

From contributor J:
It is very hard to duplicate a hand hewn look with dry lumber. You can use an electric planer with a curved ground blade to sculpt the wood and then use a sharp adze to add chop marks every so often. This works, but I think it looks fake. We use a lot of rustic material and antique lumber.

I fabricate box beams from 1" boards we saw from antique beam face and use a miter joint to make it look like one solid beam. We also take new green cut lumber in 8/4 or 12/4 thickness and use an adze to hewn a 1/2" or so off the top, if the adze is of good quality and kept sharp it works well and goes fast.

This is done on both sides and then we re-saw the plank in half, to 6/4 or 5/4 thick then kiln dry it in our kiln. From there we miter the slabs and make a box beam. It’s a lot of work, but it looks good in hard to find woods like cherry and walnut, which are hard to find in real antique material. Also, we can make any length or width within reason, which is hard to find in real antique beams.

From contributor W:

Have you looked into reclaimed lumber? You can actually purchase rough, reclaimed lumber and lock miter the corners together to create a look so real no one but you will know it's not a timber. Do a search on the net for reclaimed lumber and you will come up with a number of companies that sell it and some will have it in yellow pine.

From contributor R:
You can buy a special knife for Festool's planer that gives a fairly realistic hand-hewn look.

From contributor C:
In the past I've used common white pine with a locked miter joint and used an ax and an in-shave to give the hand hewn effect. Common white pine has a lot of big knots and makes it harder to split and achieve an authentic appearance. That is why I am trying the yellow pine. It's clear and has a different texture.