On Joints and Joining

A quiet elegance beams from a Timber Frame building, penetrating those near with a warm glowing awe. The simplicity and raw efficiency of the squared timbers as they reach jointed fingers outward to embrace and shield a space with the least amount of wood required seems to define sustainability, beauty, and permanence. It was this efficiency which first led me to favor a Timber Frame over a log cabin as was normally used in our area in times past. A log cabin (though lovely) the same size as our building would use at least 100 logs of the size we have available to us. Our Timer Frame needed less than 20.

The trade off of course is complexity of design, a log cabin is simply notched at the ends in some local fashion, and doors and windows cut out. Easy peasy! A Timber Frame is an adventure into the realm of joinery which must fit together quite well and accurately.

Throw into the mix the perfect imperfection of rough hand hewn beams and the challenge is accepted once you begin!

Our basic design grew from necessity, of what we truly needed at the moment, and would need in the future. Having spent nearly one year in our canvas wall tent, a workshop would provide us with a space more comfortable to live, and more practical to work at the same time, until a more permanent home could be fashioned.

This being my first ever building of anything larger than a rabbit cage, I went with the most simple design I could find, a three bent “tie below plate” frame with common rafters. The size was dictated by our location, a lovely nearly level spot on a south facing slope nestled amongst many shade trees and a stones throw from an old hand dug well.


One long side laid out


Post stub tenon


Most joints receive a Roman numeral to help keep track


All the joints were cut with a few very simple hand tools, auger, hand saw, chisel, mallet and framing square


Most joints are “housed”, this keeps them tight when they shrink or expand or otherwise move around, (or when you just didn’t cut the tightest joint!)


The top plates crowned badly enough in several directions that layout was don’t off a snap  line instead of the actual Timbers edge. At least they didn’t twist though!

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11 Responses to On Joints and Joining

  1. msjoy1234 says:

    A quiet elegance indeed! Mom


  2. jlough8788 says:

    You’re quite elegant in your speech and your craftsmanship. I find myself drooling at the antiquity of your techniques and wish that I had done the same in my cabin. I’ve yet to begin construction on my future woodshop, so you have given me hope that it can be done. Very interested to see the rest of the details on this beautiful structure. I’ll be avidly following you on YouTube as well.


  3. jess thorpe says:

    grate work I would like to see the actual work shop if possible , you can find me at thorpes_boxers.
    I noted that you spoke of east ky .


  4. I ran across the “raising” video yesterday on Youtube. I’ve watched all of them now, and have also read all of the Blog pages. I would love if you did a blog post or a video on the use of the block and tackle, and capstan or if you could point me in the right direction for setting it up. Oddly, I’m striking out finding valuable information on the subject. Good luck! I’ll be looking for updates.


  5. Chuck says:

    Mr. Chickadee,

    Your hard work and determination inspire me. I am a handyman, hopelessly addicted to the new power tools – and I can now see why. The skill you exhibit is masterful. I suspect many hours are spent off camera as well sharpening, caring for, and making the beautiful tools. I loved the wedges that held the sash tight!

    The brick flooring finale – when the dog and the cat played together – was so much like my experience when I did my daughter’s bathroom assisted by her dog and cat, that I texted them the link (my daughter and her husband, not the animals). Margo the cat never held down the end of a board I sawed, though. Another advantage of the old ways, I guess – more pet friendly.

    Enjoying the documentation of your work,
    Chuck Rhea


    • mrchickadee says:

      Yes tools are addictive, and I spend many hours restoring those I have. I do enjoy more the sounds of hand tools, and other reasons I will use a power tool only under the more dire need.


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