House corner post, Michael Korns, Sr. Farm, Somerset County, PA

Corner post from the house on the Michael Korns, Sr. farm.

This photo enlargement shows the southeast corner timber from the old house on the Michael Korns, Senior Farm in Southampton Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. It appears to be sawn, yet also shows clear marking from being hewn. It were merely sawn, it would not have hew marks. If it were merely hewn, it would have many more hewing marks, and would not be so square and smooth.

This suggests that they first hewed a log to create a timber, then sawed it to clean it up, which makes absolutely no sense from a labor standpoint. The only way that I can think of that this sequence of events makes sense is if they started construction before a sawmill was available, then when one did become available they cleaned up the hewn timber so that it would be nice and square.

The only other explanation that I can come up with is that the timber was first hewn, and then hand-planed to smooth it up. Even if this is true, it doesn't say much for the availability of sawmills at the onset of construction, since some of the core structural lumber was clearly sawn with a reciprocating saw, including the first story floor boards.

To further complicate the issue, click here to see an enlarged photo of the central vertical timber on the south side of the house, which is regular and relatively smooth in some locations, and rough in others.

The theory that the sawmill carriage track had length limitations is supported by the front sill plate timber, which appears to be a long single-piece beam in this frontal view of the house. Click here for a photo that appears to show that the front sill plate timber was sawn from from both ends.

For a further variation on the theme of hewn Vs. planed or sawn lumber; click here to see a photo of a hand-hewn corner brace that was apparently planed over part of its length to receive lath, yet the non-functional flank surface is smooth yet not flat. Judging from the wire nails that retain the lath, this smoothing of a rough hand-hewn timber via hand plane took place post-circa-1883, during remodeling.

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