1971.22.154 | Axe
1850, 19th century
22.5 x 25 x 86.25 cm
New Brunswick Museum
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Keys to History
After the poll axe felled the white pine, its crown and limbs were cut off. Then two long strips of bark were removed on either side using a rossing iron. Chalk lines were snapped just behind and along the debarked strips. The log was then scored to the chalk lines every four feet and the slabs of wood cut away roughly. The broadaxe-men now came into play. Standing on either side, the axemen moved backwards with each stroke, hewing the timber to plane-edged smoothness. This process left a great deal of waste wood in the forest.
Favoured more for finishing operations than the main cut, a double-bitted axe had both a thin edge for chopping and thicker bevel for limbing the trunk. It was also used in "swamping," or making a trail from the cut, to get the timber out. The blunt bevel was well-suited for grubbing up tree roots.
Square timber took up less shipping space than round logs and was ready to be sawn into lumber.
Square timber was shipped to British sawmills, where it was sold as "yellow pine."
In 1860 British merchants addressed the problem of waste, allowing cutters to leave some of the natural curve on the corners of the timber.
Broadaxe-men were extremely skilled; the masters hewed 35 cm with each stroke.