How to Square a Log

Illustration by Joel Kimmel

1. Secure the Log
To square up a log to make a beam, first cut both ends cleanly and remove the bark. Support it at both ends on wood blocks or logs.

Secure the log to be squared with a dog or spike to keep it from rotating during the process.

2. Draw Squares
With chalk or a scribe and a ruler, make a square on one face, with the four corners drawn to the edge of the log. Repeat on the opposite face.

Run a chalk or scribe line from a corner of one square along the length of the log to the corresponding corner at the opposite end.

3. Make Cross Cuts
Using a felling ax, make a series of gashes across the grain below the line that you drew down the length of the log.The depth of each gash should stop just shy of the line of your cross-section square.

4. Hew to the Line
Now, use a broadax to "hew to the line," with successive, steeply angled cuts taking the roundness out of the log just under the chalk line.

Each cut should slightly overlap with the previous one. Done properly, the surface will be square and even, almost as bump-free as if it had been whipsawed.