Joining Sill Timbers and Hewing Marathon

There is a memory and a learning which occurs in the muscles and mind of the hewer. It surpasses any academic understanding of the craft, flowing deep into the marrow and tendons. To learn how to hew a cabin is distinctly separate from to KNOW how to hew, to FEEL the hewing, the hours of sweat and pain and soreness, of waking with hands curled around an absent axe helve, or the knowledge of the tree, how it will split, how it will run out. Each timber becomes an old friend, covered in the marks of a long acquaintance and many conversations. This is a knowledge held by our forefathers, a language spoken deep in forests and sheltered dales, a felt and smelt language more than a spoken one. I feel indescribably fortunate to learn its dialogue and nuances, and incredibly humbled and fatigued by its repetitious drill.

Its amazing how heavy green oak timbers are, or logs for that matter. We could not move timbers large or long enough to frame the sills unbroken on our frame, and so our modest 12X24 foot frame required 6 timbers, the long sides joined mid span with scarf joints. These timbers were joined at the corners with a simple housed blind mortise and tenon joint, age tested in most every barn for the last 500 years.

The timbers sitting on our rough rock work in the dappled summer light was a joyful first step, soon we would have a roof over our head instead of the canvas of a tent.


The snap lines simple efficiency combines with its grace. The fast developing patina of sweat, blood, and charcoal adds a wizened expression to the tough hickory face.


One month of hewing, our frame ready to be joined and raised…


One of the two 27 foot top plates…


A bent being assembled and a happy wife, what more can a man ask?


Here a video shows putting together our Sill timbers.

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6 Responses to Joining Sill Timbers and Hewing Marathon

  1. msjoy1234 says:

    You are such a good writer,josh. Maio you are a great photographer!


  2. Adrienne Wimbush says:

    How did you make your chalk line reel? I’m trying to find one similar to make my own, with little success.


  3. mrchickadee says:

    Its titled “the woodwrights companion”


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