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Charpentiers d'Europe et d'ailleurs
Squaring off Using an axe

For their wood to remain in good condition, logs must be stripped of their bark and sapwood. In addition, so that they can trace the wood and create assemblies, carpenters generally need pieces of wood that are squared off, i.e. that have flat, perpendicularly-cut sides. The exception to this is log construction –a building technique practiced in Turkey, Scandinavia and Alpine countries – in which carpenters use unsquared pine logs that have had only their bark removed.

The name of this tool varies a great deal, as does its shape. But its purpose is clear – to make a flat surface.

In most parts of Europe, squaring off is done directly after the tree is felled. This is because it is very strenuous work that is made easier when the wood is green. Squaring a log means transforming a cylindrical shape into a rectangular one. Carpenters sometimes work by eye (see the video A Japanese squaring-off method), but most often they use a chalk line to lay down guidelines. The bark may have already been removed (see video Debarking a tree trunk). Depending on the region and the size of the log, work is carried out at the worksite either on the ground or on waist-high trestles. The tools used and the techniques employed vary greatly depending on the context. Generally, the sapwood is split by making evenly-spaced notches on one face, using a straight-bladed tool that often resembles a felling axe. When the workers work in two-person teams, they can take turns striking the log on the trestles (see video A German method of squaring off).
The next step involves using a large axe to remove the bits of sapwood remaining between the notch marks. This axe is fitted either with a long handle, if the carpenter is standing on the log, or with a short one. The blade may be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. The name of this tool varies a great deal, as does its shape. But its purpose is clear – to make a flat surface. For certain purposes, squaring-off can be completed with an adze, whose blade is perpendicular to its handle.

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Germany, Croatia, Finland, France, Japan, Sweden, Romania, Czech Republic
Germany, Croatia, Finland, France, Japan, Sweden, Romania, Czech Republic