What is Timber Framing and why learn it?

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What is Timber Framing?

Balmer Timber FrameTimber Framing is a traditional method of building houses using large timbers (posts and beams) held together with hand-cut joinery to create the structure of the house.  It has a long history in both Europe and America, but fell out of favor as virgin forests declined and standardized methods of building out of smaller framing members became popular.  Stick framing, the typical way houses are built today, uses smaller pieces of wood and requires less specialized knowledge.  However, in the last 30 or so years, timber framing has been undergoing a revival, as people decide to celebrate the beauty of wood and the craftspersonship required to create a timber frame.  In the past, the frame was considered utilitarian structure, and was usually hidden behind siding and wall coverings.  In modern timber frames, the frame itself is celebrated and left exposed.Tiny Timber Frame Bracket

Timber framing is a beautiful way to build a house, and it’s also a great way to build exposed outdoor structures like gazebos and porches.  The Trumansburg Farmer’s Market is an excellent example of timber frames being used for outdoor covered space.  It was built entirely by volunteers!  Timber framing techniques can also be used for small decorative elements on a conventional house. 

Is Timber Framing for Me?

Hand Plane on Timber FrameWhile timber framing is an advanced technique, all of our classes are designed for absolute beginners. Anyone who has completed one of our two-day skills-building workshops can participate in our timber framing class.  We aim to make all classes, even those teaching advanced skills, accessible to students of any experience level.  The skills that you learn in our timber framing class are a wonderful balance of large scale rough framing techniques and detailed precision hand tool skills.  You will learn to wield an axe, a chisel, a hand saw, an electric chainsaw, a hand and powered mortising machine, and much more.  We spend a lot of time talking about how to use simple mechanical principles to facilitate moving large timbers.  This class is a lot of fun, and teaches skills that can be transferred to stick framing or fine woodworking.

Namaste Timber Frame Sketchup DrawingIn Hammerstone School’s Timber Framing course (register here), we will be building a small garden structure.  The final results of our class will be donated to the Namaste Montessori School in Trumansburg, to be raffled off as a fundraiser for their 4H program.  This project is small enough to be accessible, yet interesting enough to cover a variety of techniques and theory.

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