Systems for labeling the timbers and adjusting the joinery keep the frame plumb and true despite variations in dimensions.
Synopsis: A timber-framed building has hundreds of individual parts, many of which look much the same. In this article, Tedd Benson, an influential timber framer from New Hampshire, shares his methods for labeling parts of a frame to avoid confusion and to accommodate slight irregularities in the wood.
The mystique that surrounds the craft of timber framing often clouds a full understanding of the kind of work that goes into cutting, assembling and raising a frame. It’s easy to imagine yourself paring off fine shavings with a razor-edged chisel and raising timbers in communal euphoria. There’s real satisfaction in pushing a tenon home into its perfectly mated mortise, or in driving the pegs to lock the joint. All these things contribute to the pleasures of framing with timbers.
But precise joinery is only a small part of the process. Many of the frames we build contain well over 200 timbers and 350 connected joints. The frame shown in this article was raised in one dramatic day by a crew of five and a crane. But this day was merely the culmination of all the work that preceded it. There were five days of sanding timbers and assembling bents, and before that, many hours of work in the shop.
In order to work with speed and efficiency, there can’t be any mystery whatsoever about what timber goes where. And all the timbers must fit exactly — a single misaligned joint stops a raising dead in its tracks.
We lay out, cut, and finally truck a completed frame to the site without test-fitting the joints. We’re able to do this only because every frame evolves with a great deal of planning, some applied geometry, and an organized approach to layout and cutting.
With an organized system and good preparation, a beginner…