In the fall of 2014 we were lucky enough to head for the Maine coast, to raise a frame we had cut in our shop. The very remote location made timber delivery interesting, and precluded the possibility of a crane raising, so we did everything by hand. The stunning site is surrounded by 500 acres of conserved waterfront land, and fronts on the “Reversing Falls,” where the 25-foot tides create whitewater both coming and going. We finished a day early, and the client even lent us kayaks to explore the bay, with seals popping up around us. What a dream.
Summer of 2013, I teamed up with my friend Dave Johnson of Grafted Branch Timber Frames to co-lead the cutting and raising of a very large barn for a new retreat and permaculture education site in Rochester, VT. All the timbers were felled and milled on site, a mix of white and red pine, spruce and hemlock.
In the spring of 2014 I taught a one-week timber framing course to Estonian carpenters, which was hosted at the workshop of Vanaajama, an Estonian non-profit dedicated to traditional building techniques and historic preservation. We laid out, cut and raised a small pavilion for a local residential school.
In the fall of 2013 I worked with a local general contractor to renovate a house in my hometown of Lincoln. The house had an 1860s-era schoolhouse at its core, and some unfortunate additions from the 1960s. We opened everything up, and I restored and extended the schoolhouse timber frame, before adding a timber frame roof and loft system to the existing 1960s footprint.
In June 2012 I did a stint in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont as a lead instructor for the Timber Framers Guild of North America. With two others, I led a crew of 20+ volunteers from all around the country as we hewed, cut, and raised a gallows-frame English barn in Brownington, VT. The project was done for the Old Stone House Museum, a fantastic museum of 19th-century history, including many fine buildings. Our barn replicated the original, which had been demolished in 1910. Check out the archive of daily blogs from the ground here.
During the fall of 2011, we renovated a beautiful mid-nineteenth century timber-framed barn in South Deerfield, MA. The barn had weathered decades of neglect, as well as two rather unsuccessful ‘restorations’ in the past 60 years. Work included lifting the barn to replace post-bottoms and sills and install new foundation piers, repairing a tie beam, adding ridge posts, replacing several sections of rotten top plate, adding a loft floor, and various other repairs.
Due to a limited scope of work and budget, true timber-framed repairs weren’t always possible, and I occasionally used some custom steel brackets to reinforce some joints, a first for me. I prefer true wood-to-wood timber repair, but in some rare cases, brackets can be appropriate.
In June 2011, I took vacation from my job in Paris to spend three weeks working as a volunteer on a very special project in southeast Poland. The Timber Framers Guild of North America was in charge of running this all-volunteer jobsite, which lasted from mid-May to July 1, 2011. To quote the Guild’s press release about the project:
“We are commissioned to build a replica of the complex timberframe and log framing of the roof of Gwoździec synagogue, a remarkable wooden synagogue built in the Polish Lithuanian Empire in 1731. (The town of Gwoździec is now in Ukraine.) What we build will become the centerpiece of the exhibit space at the The Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which will open in 2013 on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. We are assembling an international team of traditional carpenters from the Timber Framers Guild, and our allied organizations in Europe to mount the reconstruction of this unique timber framed roof structure, using period-appropriate (and contemporary) tools and techniques. We anticipate that this building project will produce, in addition to the roof itself, quality technical data on the regional timber and log traditions, and a documentary film.”
The project involved a team of over 30 professional carpenters from numerous countries, as well as over one hundred art and architecture students from Poland and the USA. Nearly everything on site was done by hand in the manner of the 18th century, from hewing beams to sawing, chopping and chiseling joinery. During world war 2, every last wooden synagogueof this type (a well-defined architectural form) was destroyed, giving the Gwoździec reconstruction poignant relevance. There is deep documentation of the project, including a blog, and award-winning documentary, and the websites to the three partner organizations: Timber Framers Guild, Handshouse Studio, and The Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
I worked in France for a year in 2010-11, hosted by the centuries-old trades guild, Les Compagnons du Devoir. My first stint was with Ateliers Ferignac, a company specializing in historic restoration based in Hautefort, in the Dordogne region of southwest France. As a member of their structural carpentry crew, I travelled all over southern France to work on national historic monuments – chateaux, churches, houses – as well as to build new structures. I wrote an article about the experience, which appeared in the fall 2010 issue of TIMBER FRAMING, the magazine of the North American Timber Framers Guild. You can read the article here.
I then spent 9 months working for Paris Charpente, a 50-person carpentry and structural metalwork company that works in Paris and the immediate environs. My stay in Paris included several months at the Paris chapter house of the Compagnons guild. There, I continued my studies in the drafting and layout technique that they teach, called le trait de charpente, a type of developed drawing using descriptive geometry. At Paris Charpente, I worked on diverse jobsites, from Le Moulin Rouge to La Musée D’Orsay to private residences, large apartment buildings and government buildings. The work was in steel, in glue-lam wood, in true timber. An introduction to urban, industrial construction for this artisan-timber-framing country boy.
In 2010 I designed and built a small studio cabin in a beautiful setting in Hawley, MA. The frame is made entirely of black cherry and white oak, both of which are highly rot-resistant. The frame was a joy to design and cut, with its relatively complex joinery – the hipped roof features an octagonal kingpin that catches the rafters at the peak, and a dragon-tie and dragon-beam assembly that catches the feet of the hip rafters at the corners. The cabin sits within earshot of one of the cleanest rivers in Massachusetts, surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of protected state forest. The walls have a lime plaster exterior infill and basswood wainscoting on the interior.