Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 5
   May 2012
   The Reconstruction of a National Historic Site

Port-Royal jobsite, circa 1939
A photo of the Port-Royal Habitation jobsite, circa 1939

In order to square the pine logs and shape them to the required sizes, workers set two short log pieces, each cut with a v-notch at midpoint, 12' apart. Using a peavey (a logging tool similar to a cant hook), they positioned the log to be hewn onto these two supports and then secured it with iron log dogs. A chalk line was drawn along the length of the log, and cuts were made at 10" to 12" intervals along this line. Using horizontal axe cuts, workers removed huge chips. Additional axing along the face gave a flat, even surface.

After the first face was completed, workers rotated the log 90° and repeated the process. Once they had finished two faces, they rotated the log again and marked it with a chalk line to give the required width of one of the faces. They cut and rotated the log and then marked and cut it one last time to achieve the final dimensions of the timber required. This painstaking process was used to create all of the timber for each structure. Interior timbers requiring finer finishes went through the additional process of adzing to create smoothly surfaced planks. Mr. Peck refers to Captain Danny Robinson as one of the notable craftsman who wielded his adze with impressive results.

An amusing anecdote from the student's project notes follows. The first beam completed was for the Hall of Good Cheer and was worked on by a Captain Tupper, whose skill with his broad axe was so refined, it was said the timber looked as though it had been planed. Mr. Harris, the project architect, had to stipulate that the French settlers would have been racing against time to finish the framing and make the structure weather-tight before winter; thus, the captain's work needed to be much rougher than the finely finished beam he had produced. In the interest of historic authenticity, Mr. Harris asked him to roughen the beam's surface using his broad axe. He hastened to add that the captain would be able to display his fine workmanship on the interior walls and floor finishes.
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