we don’t really have a plan/drawing

A few people have asked about the timber frame we have underway here, specifically about the design. First thing to know, if you want to tackle a project like this, find someone who knows how. That could be a class/workshop sort of thing, or an individual who has experience at it. I took a class way back when at Heartwood School out in Washington, Massachusetts; http://www.heartwoodschool.com/ then worked on timber frames at three other classes at Country Workshops. But all of those were long ago…so long ago it was in black & white. 

PF at Heartwood

There are also several books on the subject of course. Jack Sobon’s book’s Timber Frame Construction and Building a Classic Timber Framed House are both excellent. http://www.storey.com/author.php?ID=501199  The first one includes as a framing project a garden shed 12’ x 16′. Exactly the size building I can have here at home, due to watershed conservation and zoning issues. But also a size building that works fine for what I need; a hand-tool workshop.

But….my friend Pret Woodburn has built many timber frames, and that experience is worth more than money. Jack’s plan in his book calls for 8”x 8” timbers, but we scored a nice collection of 6”x 6” white pine timbers. So that’s what we’re using. That size is plenty strong enough for these spans…but it takes some adjusting here and there.

We don’t really have a drawing. We’re starting with Jack Sobon’s plan, and then changing it here & there. Our rafters are mostly 3” x 6” – so too thin for joints at the peak. So we’re adding a ridge beam, in this case a full-dimension 2” x 8” sixteen-foot plank. The rafters will be nailed to it. The two pairs of end rafters are 4”x6” – so these have enough thickness for some joinery for a collar tie across them. This collar tie is mostly a nailer for the siding on the gable ends.

There are also girts, horizontal timbers running around the whole building somewhere around waist height. These are also nailers, for board-and batten siding. There’s two braces at each corner post, one heading each way. In one direction the brace connects the post to the tie-beam, in the other, it connects the post to the higher plate.

We’re skipping the braces on the middle posts, I don’t want them to interfere with any window placement on the long walls where there will be workbenches.

One end of the shop will have a loft for storage. So we’ re going to cut in pockets in two tie-beams for joists to lay this loft on. The other end will be open to the rafters, one benefit – there is space for the lathe’s springpole. And perhaps some room for shelving or who knows what…

My blog is not the place for a bibliography about framed houses, but there are a couple other books not necessarily about how to build a timber frame, but about old houses that I have always enjoyed. I’m from New England, specifically Massachusetts, so if I can only have one it’s Abbott Lowell Cummings’ Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay 1625-1725.

timber 003

timber 004

I was many times lucky enough to tag along when Pret and several of our old co-workers used to tour through and study old buildings with Abbott. It was priceless.

There’s a little English book that I like because it’s so handy, and has nice detailed drawings. Its size is both a plus & a minus, my eyes are not getting younger. Richard Harris’ Discovering Timber-Framed Buildings…

timber 001

Here’s a spread from it, nice details.

timber 002

Little by little I’m getting the hang of some of it. I’m no carpenter, so it’s a new venue for me. It’s a long-held dream of mine to build my own building. Once, it was going to be a house, but this is better. No electricity, no plumbing. All woodworking. Something I can understand, after some practice.

6 thoughts on “we don’t really have a plan/drawing

  1. Hi Peter,

    I am impressed with the progress being made on your Sobon style timber frame. I have cut one of these myself and agree that the center braces are not really needed and in fact lead to an unnecessary weakening of the center posts.

    The first picture really is from the archives as I can see a very young Dr. Ben Brungrabber (bottom left) and is that Chris Madigan (upper left with bushy beard)?

    I have met and possess a copy of Abott Lowell Cummings’ book and agree that this provides an excellent insight into early (1600’s) timber-framed building in New England however the method used to construct those buildings was “scribe rule” and not the much later (1800’s) “square rule” that you are using to make the Sobon shed. I have visited Jack Sobon in Windsor Western Mass. and know Will Beemer at Heartwood and can thoroughly recommend both to timber-frame beginners and more advanced framers as well.

    Richard Harris was my teacher and tutor on the Masters in Timber Building Conservation course held at The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, West Sussex, England and his little book is probably the most affordable and best value for money book that can be purchased on timber-framing however even this too has it’s limitations especially for a North American audience as it covers the design and construction of timber-framed buildings on a UK nationwide basis whereas in reality in England (as in New England) timber-frame design is very much driven by locally based building traditions.

    I am currently working on hewing out and building a 2 bay cruck barn in our woodland and our exploits on same can be seen on The Oxfordshire Woodland Group web forum starting at :-


    Ken Hume M.Sc (timber building conservation)
    Exec Trustee – The Oxfordshire Woodland Group

  2. Thank you for your daily inspiration. I will be building a small home in the spring/summer, and I would love to take some ideas from that book and put them to use in my little home.

    I like it better when you post near weekly or every couple of days. It helps keep my motivation to try my hand a new things.

  3. No plan? Be proud! this is good historic method, If measurement is the enemy of precision, then a plan is the mother of measurement

  4. Then I look forward even more to seeing how it progresses. It’s always great to see how people take an idea/plan and adapt it to their circumstances.
    I was once involved (as a lackey) in building a suspension bridge (40m span) for which the carpenter was provided with a pile of materials and handed plans sketched on the inside of a cigarette packet – interesting times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s