The Wabi-sabi Timber Framing Workshop Weekend

by ziggy on May 17, 2011 -- 0 comments -- Follow


Dave works the chisel and mallet


This past weekend, my sub-community at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage hosted a timber framing workshop weekend. The savvy Tom Cundiff of Edgeworks came out and instructed us how to design, lay out, and join roundwood timbers. It was a lot of fun, exhausting, inspiring, and definitely educational.

Before the workshop, Thomas and I have been doing a lot of trial and error style framing — lots of head scratching, especially with laying out our posts and figuring out where the hell we should make that cut, tenon, etc. Working with round wood is no small trick. When you have a piece of wood that is far from square, it is difficult to grasp how to mate things accurately.

Roundwood timber framing layout

Tom taught us a lot of tricks to determine where our joinery should fall. Most important is the chalk line — defining a theoretical straight plane by snapping a straight chalk line across four faces of any post or beam. This begins with making a crosshair on either end of the timber — making level and plumb lines that are roughly (but not necessarily perfectly) down the middle of the butt and tip of the log. Using those lines, one can then get out the chalk line and run it across the pole, snapping the theoretical straight line from which are measurements are then made. Smart!

Working with hand tools

We used chisels, adzes, slicks, planes, and other hand tools to shape the wood. Tom broke out a super classy boring machine for making mortises. I’m sad we passed up one at the local flea market last year because we thought we might not be able to use it on round wood…


Tom saws a kerf for the scarf joint

We focused our efforts on designing one of the bents, composed of a long sycamore beam scarfed into an oak beam, supported by an oak middle post with a tenon that slides through the scarf. The two ends posts did not get much work done on them as part of the workshop, as making a scarf joint is complicated and takes time, especially with hand tools.

Timber framing into the future

The workshop gave us a big boost in our knowledge of how to approach working with round wood, and I think our kitchen construction will greatly benefit. Now to put what we learned to the test! Thanks to Tom for a great weekend!

Check out a slideshow of the weekend workshop below. In the next week I’ll post some more tidbits from the event.


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